Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you.
Dr. Ira Byock, an expert on palliative care and end-of-life issues, offers these "four things that matter most" to patients and families in his clinical practice.
In an "On Being" interview with Krista Tippett, Byock noted that patients or family members often tell him that they don't know what to say to each other at the end of life or in the face of life-threatening challenges.
"If you're really stuck at any time, those four things are a nice way to start, whether you use them verbatim," he explains.
"No relationship is perfect and many relationships are troubled..." Tippett observed. "In a lot of families, there's going to be real work involved in being able to say those words and mean them..."
"I've wondered if there's something about being in that extreme moment of life, as you say, normal but ultimate, that creates an opening for some people to do that work, to say those words where it hasn't been possible in other points of the life span," she wondered.
"It shakes us free of the veneers, the layers of personality, of who we think we are, of protecting ourselves," Byock responded.
"You know when the times are that you can say those things most easily, when you've just slammed on the brakes and just narrowly missed getting killed and you're shaking like a leaf and you're in a cold sweat, and everything just almost ended. Pick up your cell phone. I'll tell you, it becomes really easy to call your spouse or your mother or father or your child and just say those things. You know, it just shakes us free."
To whom would you like to say one or more of the things "that matter most?" Resolve to do so sooner rather than later.
This blog post was written by Dennis Sparks, Arbor Hospice Volunteer. You may contact Dennis by commenting below or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.