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On middle age, Facebook friends, and following your heart

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Catching up with old high school friends on Facebook and on Instagram has been a lot of fun for me over the last year, I started to get some likes on instagram and then I realized it was them. And it’s also brought home to me how very middle-aged I am as my friends talk about their children who are now in college or married and starting families of their own.

I am noticing, too, that friends are starting to lose parents and loved ones as time continues its resolute march onward. With that in mind, I want to revisit a story first printed in one of my newsletters from a few years ago. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to sit with a dying person so I love this story about following your heart when with a loved one in his or her last days.

The other day I was sitting at the counter of my favorite restaurant with my “counter buddy,” Tom. I hadn’t seen him for a few days and he told me he had been out of town to see his father who was receiving hospice care. Tom told me that his dad was lucid, but very tired and seemed to have problems forming the words he wanted to say. His dad had always been a virile, strong, active man, and Tom remarked how different it was to see his father in this weakened condition as he lay dying.

Tom’s sisters buzzed around the house and came in and out of their father’s room, chatting with Tom and their dad. “It was kind of noisy,” Tom told me with a smile.

At one point, Tom and his father were alone together for a few quiet moments. Tom started to sing a song his father had taught him when Tom was just five years old. As he sang, his father relaxed into his pillow.

“A look of peace came over his face,” Tom said, “and he began to mouth the words with me.”

Tom and I sat in silence for a moment.

“I wonder what made you think of doing that?” I mused softly.

“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” he replied.

He became thoughtful, remembering the precious time with his father. “The song goes like this:

“I see the moon and the moon sees me . . .”

He broke off, his eyes filling with tears as were mine. Sitting at the counter of our favorite restaurant, I put my arm around Tom and said, “I’m so glad you had that moment with your dad.”

Tom smiled. “Me, too.”

Takeaway points: It’s usually the small, simple things that are meaningful for both the dying person and the loved one who is with them. If you are a companion to a dying person sometime, just take a deep breath and follow your heart. And remember, you don’t have to “do” anything if you don’t want, just being there is often enough.

Do you have a favorite story of sitting with someone you loved in his or her last days?


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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.