156 How to treat the dyingMelanie Phillips, a British writer, writes about the recent death of her mother and the kindness of strangers.
"On the day before my widowed mother died, five weeks ago today, I was inexpressibly moved by an act of love towards her that went way beyond the call of duty in the Jewish Care nursing home where she lived. My mother had suffered much, and for long, although her passing was gentle. On that day, as her life ebbed away, she was in a partial coma, unresponsive to any stimulus.
To my surprise, the home’s aromatherapist suddenly arrived. Without further ado, she carefully uncovered my mother’s wasted limbs and with extreme tenderness applied her oils and unguents, all the while expressing endearments and loving encouragement. She sprinkled fragrant essences on her pillows, and put on the soft, soothing background music that my mother had come to love in the years in which she had drawn comfort from this treatment.
Nor was this all. The aromatherapist took a quick lunch and then came back and did it all over again. When eventually she tore herself away, she wept as she bade my mother goodbye. She understood, from her care of that body, that what was ending here was a monumental struggle. And what was so moving was that even though my mother could not respond, and for all we knew was quite unaware of what was going on, she was treated right to the end as a person with particular likes and desperate needs; and even more touchingly, as if she was still as alert and responsive as she had always been. It was a reaffirmation of humanity, both her own and that of the person who was giving so much of herself."
Melanie Phillips, August 30, 2004