Dying With Dignity

Many of us don't accept death as a part of life. Many people even work to stop the slightest signs of aging. However, some Wiregrass residents are forced to deal with the prospect of death, everyday.

Many of us are apprehensive about death because we don't know how or when we're going to die. Hospice patients are closer to death than most people and Hospice helps them learn to accept their fate with grace.

Valerie Cuthbert is a patient with Hospice, she said "It didn't really scare me, everyone has their cross to bear and mine is just this."

Valerie has been diagnosed with a terminal illness that is quickly progressing up her body. Just a few yers ago she ran 3.2 miles a day and played a mean game of softball, now she's confined to a bed day and night.

She said, "Whey they first told me I fought it, didn't want to accept the fact that I had a disease that was terminal and I called my Mom on the phone in tears."

Many patients struggle with accepting the fact that they are dying. Wiregrass Hospice offers services to help answer questions that most of us would be afraid to talk about.

William Frank is a chaplain with Wiregrass Hospice, he said "When a patient and the family has a fear of death they'll ask what is it like to die and the best I can tell them is we don't know but other patients seem to be peaceful and it's like a light switch, they just turn it off and they're gone, but it's very peaceful."

There's a stigma attached to death, most of us are afraid of dying; we're afraid of the unexpected. Hospice comes in and helps patients accept the inevitable and helps to educate them about what they need to know before they pass on.

Wiregrass Hospice volunteer Kenneth Davidson said, "People aren't afraid of dying, but rather they're afraid of the process. We try to enlighten the caregivers because they get scared when something happens to the patient and when it [death] comes, it makes it easier for them."

Gloria McLeod's sister recently died of cancer. Gloria said,"Because Hospice informed us about the dying process we knew when my sister was near the end and I was able to really walk her through her last steps."

Hospice workers encourage families to openly discuss death and come to terms with any unresolved issues in the patient's life.

Wiregrass Hospice Medical Director Dr. Edwin Morris said, "It's alright to talk about dying, we all have to die and the death bed isn't only the physicians finest hour but also with regard to health care providers with easing pain and offering hope for patients and those who will be left behind."

Valerie has accepted her fate. She worries about the pain she will face in the moments right before death:

"I think Jesus will maybe take me out of my body while I'm suffering."

But she looks forward to what awaits her in the afterlife, "I kinda look forward to seeing my dad, that's going to be neat."

Valerie lost her dad just five years ago to the same disease she's suffering with. She says she can't wait to cross over and stand next to him again, where she'll be able to walk for the first time in years and wait for her mother to join them.

Most of the patients in Hospice say it's their faith that pulls them through these times of tribulation. Valerie is no exception.

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