In days gone by, I have spoken to a number of people who, at some time of serious illness or accident, have undergone a “near death” experience. One ensuing characteristic, which they all appear to possess in common and which has never failed to intrigue and – yes – inspire me, has been that quite unassumingly (unknowingly, often it has rather seemed) they all appear to have thereafter lost any fear that they may have formerly possessed, of death. Of course, there are “borderlines” and consequently dangers here; chief of which is the risk of being intrusive in this letter in a way that I certainly have no wish or desire to be.
How (if at all) do you conceptualize life and death? Let me explain what I mean. In days gone by, I have sometimes shared a particular personal thought with patients, colleagues, friends and even family members. My wife Christine also adopted (and we both adapted) it many years ago now and I know she would agree with me that it has greatly aided that process of growth through which our marriage has day by day, year by year progressed, blossomed and matured. Indeed, for us, it constitutes a rich ingredient in that bond which, “No …man shall put asunder”. Not infrequently, patients and others with whom I have shared these thoughts have urged me, “If ever you come to write a book on patient care or that sort of thing, you simply must include it, somewhere”. Of course – and as with any analogy – great care is needed not to push it beyond the limits of its worth and meaning. But for what it is worth, here goes. (C)SB