One of my 25 tips for dealing with aging parents is to read the super-short book "Gone From My Sight". The book, which is really more of a booklet, is literally 13 easy-to-read pages. The subject within, however, is not an easy one. This book is about the realities of death and what to expect from our loved ones during their last few months and through their final hours.
When my father was battling cancer, one of the hardest parts of caring for him was not knowing what to expect or how to react to his changes. I had never cared for anyone with a terminal illness before, and I certainly had not read about the dying process. About three months prior to his death, it was pretty clear we would lose him to the disease. For the next few months, as my family watched my father slowly slip away, we would ask ourselves things like he hasn’t eaten for three days, should we call the hospice care team? He’s been asleep for a week, and his breathing just intensified and then slowed drastically, is this it? Should I take a shower and possibly miss being by his side during his last few moments?
A few days before he died, one of our dear friends gave us a copy of Barbara Karnes’ "Gone From My Sight". I read it in 10 minutes. I immediately wished I’d been introduced to the book during the earlier stages of my dad’s battle. So much agony, anxiety, fear, and frustration could have been lessened by knowing a basic timeline of what to expect from death and when.
"Gone From My Sight", often referenced as the “hospice book on dying”, breaks down the events that typically occur when a body is shutting down. A registered nurse and authority on hospice care, the author delicately explains the dying process she has observed for years as a caregiver. Beginning from three months prior to death and ending with the event itself, Karnes’ book details the physical, emotional, and personality changes that typically occur within each step of the dying process. In her explanations, she also teaches us how to help our loved ones peacefully transition from one stage to the next.
While nothing can prepare you for the emotional roller coaster of watching a loved one slip away, “Gone From My Sight” can provide some peace of mind. Do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with the wisdom on these pages, as I truly believe this is the one book every caregiver should read. And if you aren’t currently in a caregiving role but know someone facing a terminal situation with their loved one, I can confidently say this is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
PS. At the end of the book, you’ll find the popular “Gone From My Sight” poem often read during funerals or used in memorials for lost loved ones.
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