of voices or avoidance of sounds, by the tearful face of a relative

or ominous, unsmiling member of the family who cannot

hide his true feelings." 4

I have often found that people instinctively know they are

dying, but count on others—their doctor or loved ones—to

confirm it. If they don't, the dying person may think it is

because family members cannot cope with the news. And

then the dying person won't bring up the subject either. This

lack of honesty will make him or her feel only more isolated

and more anxious. I believe it is essential to tell the dying person

the truth; he or she at least deserves that much. If the

dying are not told the truth, how can they prepare themselves

for death? How can they carry the relationships of their lives

to a true conclusion? How can they take care of the many

practical issues they must resolve? How can they help those

who are left when they are gone to survive?

From my point of view as a spiritual practitioner, I believe

dying to be a great opportunity for people to come to terms

with their whole lives; and I have seen many, many individuals

take this opportunity, in the most inspiring way, to change

themselves and come closer to their own deepest truth. So by

kindly and sensitively telling people at the earliest opportunity

that they are dying, we are really giving them the chance to

prepare, and to find their own powers of strength, and the

meaning of their lives.

Let me tell you a story I was told by Sister Brigid, a

Catholic nurse working in an Irish hospice. Mr. Murphy was

in his sixties, and he and his wife were told by their doctor

that he did not have long to live. The following day Mrs.

Murphy visited her husband at the hospice, and they talked

and wept all day long. Sister Brigid watched as the old couple

talked and frequently broke down into tears, and when this

had gone on for three days, she wondered if she should intervene.

Yet the next day the Murphys seemed suddenly very

relaxed and peaceful, holding hands and showing each other

great tenderness.

Sister Brigid stopped Mrs. Murphy in the corridor and

asked her what had taken place between them to have made

such a great change on their behavior. Mrs. Murphy told her

that when they found out her husband was dying, they

looked back over their years together, and many memories

came back to them. They had been married almost forty

years, and naturally they felt enormous sorrow, thinking and

talking about all the things they would never be able to do

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