I do a lot of end-of-life care. This season has been hectic. Though I do not know for sure, I suspect the pandemic's strain is the tipping point for those already compromised. My education and experience are helping. I have been intentional in the past few years to help better those facing the end of life. "The Four Things That Matter" by Ira Byock has been particularly helpful. His book distills what matters into four phrases:
Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you.
Particularly in these difficult times, we who lead need to imbed these four phrases into our spirits until they roll easily off our tongue before facing the end of our lives.
The Power of Words
We often underestimate the power of words as a means of healing. We don't recognize the power that comes from talking with one another about our feelings and our most private, intimate fears.
We are complete in our relationships when we feel reconciled, whole, and at peace. People say they feel complete when, if they were to die tomorrow, with no regrets. They would feel there was left nothing undone or unsaid.[i]
I Forgive You
Forgiveness is a generous act (or process), but at its core, forgiveness is about yourself rather than the person we forgive.
Forgiveness is a courageous way of saying, "Enough is enough!" It requires us to confront the imperfections and pain of the past, not ignore or excuse them. Once we can see them and their origins with compassion, we can again experience the love that is our birthright. With love, we can embrace a future that is healthy and whole.[ii]
"There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread." - Mother Teresa
"Thank you." All of us need to express gratitude and to feel appreciated. People think it's not necessary to express thanks. They say, "She knows how much I appreciate all she has done for me."
In the act of saying thank you, we expand ourselves. Straightforwardly thanking people is an act of generosity. By naming what we've received, we remind ourselves of the surplus of our experiences, of how complete we are. We focus on what we have rather than what we lack. In most cases, we realize that we have what we need.[iii]
I love You
"What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure? I think it is the hope of loving or being loved." Meister Eckhart
"There were unspoken, but clear, rules. We never said, 'I love you' to one another. I might write 'I love you' on my mother's birthday card, but that's about it. In my family, hugs are perfunctory. We lean forward so that we barely touch."
There is no "right way" to say thank you; I love you and good-bye. Each of us has a style of communication that feels natural for us. How we express ourselves is influenced by our culture, upbringing, and gender. But say them we must.
Well-chosen words have the power to mend, tend, and celebrate our relationships.[iv]
[i] Byock, Ira. The Four Things That Matter Most - 10th Anniversary Edition: A Book About Living (p. 14, 15, 18). Atria Books. Kindle Edition. [ii] Byock, Ira. The Four Things That Matter Most - 10th Anniversary Edition: A Book About Living (p. 57, 135-139). Atria Books. Kindle Edition. [iii] Byock, Ira. The Four Things That Matter Most - 10th Anniversary Edition: A Book About Living (pp. 99, 105-106). Atria Books. Kindle Edition. [iv] Byock, Ira. The Four Things That Matter Most - 10th Anniversary Edition: A Book About Living (p. 136,140, 146, 174). Atria Books. Kindle Edition.