Will wrote: ↑
Wed Aug 21, 2019 1:59 pm
So far, I notice no interest, much less guidance, in helping the dying person who is not a Buddhist.
I worked as a hospice nurse for four years and attended many deaths. All our nurses were given a course on spiritual care of the dying, even though we had chaplains and social workers who mainly performed that function, because sometimes those team members were unavailable (attending another patient, etc.). We were taught to work with each patient's individual circumstance. So, for example, with Catholics we referenced the Blessed Virgin Mary, while with other Christian denominations we did not. We also offered general comforting words to those of no formal religious denomination, usually focused on being with loved ones again and emphasizing that their work here on earth was done. Many patients expressed great relief from getting to say goodbye and knowing that their survivors would miss them but would be okay. I don't recall having any Buddhist patients.
In my experience, people die the way they've lived. Some deaths are very difficult, others quite beautiful. Some people saw angels; seeing parents and grandparents was very common. A few people were convinced they were "going to hell," and their deaths tended to be long and arduous.
The most difficult death I remember is a young man in his 30's who had just attained sobriety and freedom from addiction, found a new job, bought a house, had a nice girlfriend. And then he developed an aggressive bone cancer. He was young, mostly strong, and he really wasn't ready to die, he struggled and fought for several days. It was very, very difficult to watch, but he had a wonderful support system, and the hospice team worked together to do what we could.
There were other, beautiful deaths as well. People who were ready and were convinced that a positive experience was awaiting them seemed to have more peaceful, quiet deaths, just slipping away.
Looking back, it was hospice that really brought me to Buddhism, I think. When "old age, sickness, and death" is no longer theoretical, somewhere in the future, but part of one's daily life, it becomes much more immediate, and the absolute certainty that one day "that will be me" changed my perspective and priorities radically.