Are you ready when it comes time to say goodbye? If life is a piece of music, there are bound to be ups and downs in it, and it is only when it reaches the final chapter that it returns to tranquility so that the movement of life comes to a perfect stop. Before the coming cessation, however, we will accompany you with love, and when life stops, we will also see you off with love.
The deepest pain in life is facing the passing of a loved one. The most profound learning is also the moment of facing death. The Hospice Foundation of Taiwan (“the Foundation”) held the first essay competition in 2013 and published in 2014 the first book of practicing farewell called If One Day We Say Goodbye. The book is a collection of thirty-seven real life stories and many famous people have been invited to contribute, such as Hsiao Yeh, Wang Shau-di, Tan Dun-ci, Lin Fang-yue, Zheng Hong-yi, and etc. Additionally, the general public and medical staff have been included to share their own awareness and reflections on life.
Six years later, the Foundation hosted another essay competition, and also assembled and published the second book of farewell focused on letting go called Sending You on a Long Journey With Love. This time we invited the Mother of Hospice and Palliative Care (also known as Ms. Co-Shi Chantal Chao), and celebrities such as Ms. Bowie Tsang, Big Brother (also known as Mr. Chih-Sheng Lin), Ms. YangYeh, and others to share how to let go of their reluctance and instead, honor and remember the deceased without regrets when sending loved ones on the last leg of the life journey. Their sincere words are captured in this book, passing on the most touching and blessed moments in life with love.
Dr. Yuh-Cheng Yang, the Chairman of the Hospice Foundation and previously the president of Mackay Memorial Hospital, had been known as the King of Baby Delivery until his changed his practice to focus instead on female cancer cases. As a result, he accompanied countless patients through their anxiety and helpless process of fighting cancer.
However, in 2014, he himself was diagnosed with lymphoma. In those days when he lied in the dying bed, Dr. Yang lost his self-confidence that he could empathize with patients. He quoted the famous words of German philosopher Martin Heidegger: "The self can only become what it truly is through the confrontation with death."
Through this process of facing his own journey toward death, Dr. Yang personally encountered the pain that critically ill patients, terminally ill patients, and even their family members have to go through. It helped him to later draw near people’s sad and breaking hearts in a softer and more considerate way. Plus, remembering the faint but firm words of a patient’s "thank you, goodbye" before the patient was discharged from the hospital many years ago urged him to continue and promote the mission of dignity at the end of life. Dr. Yang has always hoped that everyone can be treated with gentleness and kindness before reaching life’s finish line and be able to say goodbye with a smile.
Let Go of Fear and Sadness Seize the Moment
"I'm not afraid of death, but I'm afraid of pain; I'm not afraid of getting sick, but I'm afraid of struggling at death’s door; I'm not afraid of taking medicine or injection, but I'm afraid of losing my human form." This is a profound confession about the end of life by Ms. Co-Shi Chantal Chao, also known as the Mother of Hospice and Palliative Care in Taiwan. The breast cancer she was diagnosed with 16 years ago did not knock her down, but on the contrary, made her more active in promoting domestic hospice work. With selfless dedication and firm belief, she says confidently, "Live a few more days or a few years less; what does it matter?"
Are there only sorrows and regrets that accompany death? No, that's not always the case. Recalls senior media person Ms. Yi-Yi Chan, "Dad practiced calligraphy while pooping. He was so happy to receive royalties that he scattered the banknotes all over the living room. Dad imitated my sister singing vocal music." This is a small part of all the memories Ms. Chan has about her deceased father. In the very beginning, the resentment and grief of losing her father were intensely entangled, and it was not until the family remembered the hilarious behaviors of his father when he was alive that Ms. Chan realized that the reason why his father was still happily living with them was not due to the family letter he deliberately left behind, but rather, is based on each of the stories they share together. These important memories brought calm to the healing process, and made more complete the lasting presence of her father.
Accompanied by Love to Meet the End with Dignity
"Upon rushing into the house, I saw my mother lying on her side beside my father, her head close to his, one hand on his shoulder, and the other stroking his face," describes Ms. Yan-Xuan Bi, whose father was diagnosed with advanced stage colon cancer. Due to his old age, his wishes were followed and he coexisted peacefully with the tumor.
During this period of home rest, Ms. Bi’s father fulfilled many of his wishes. He passed the Chinese New Year of the Golden Rat, ate shou-tao (a peach-shaped birthday cake) for his 91st birthday, celebrated the 50th golden wedding anniversary, and etc. He even lived to see his grandson graduate from college. Regarding the arrival of the end of life, Ms. Bi's father said optimistically, “My wishes have been fulfilled, and I have no regrets in this life."
As the disease progressed, the day to say goodbye finally came. Ms. Bi describes that her father seemed to have fallen asleep. Without final infusion, injection, or feeding, his body had no unnecessary burden, and he walked towards the end of life with a clean and pure body, full of dignity.
A peaceful death is the result of the family's infinite love for the patient. It not only helps the terminally ill patient leave with dignity, but also helps the family overcome their grief much more quickly. Having experienced this, Ms. Bi realizes, "It turns out that not doing anything is also kind of considerate.” How much love it takes for that to happen!
In these deeply ruminative stories, we can see that saying goodbye with love and traveling with blessings means peaceful living and dying.