‘Fortunately’ with Fi Glover and Jane Garvey has become a regular feature of my bedtime radio listening. This episode, in which they talk with Dr Kathryn Mannix, author and end-of-life care consultant, contains the best and most reassuring description of what it is like to die (in a non-intensive care or emergency situation) that I have ever read or heard. It doesn’t ignore the things that are hard, it is completely realistic, but it does also explain how dying from illness or old age is usually a gentler process for the person dying than it is for those who keep vigil.
Many people who have been with someone as they died and been alarmed at what appeared to be their loved one’s struggles to breathe agonise about whether they should have called for medical help or even an ambulance. But Dr Mannix explains that what they witnessed in their loved one’s dying moments is a normal, natural part of death for the dying person and they will not have been distressed by it. Even more importantly, she confirms that it is always right to talk to someone who is deeply unconscious, because it seems that hearing persists long after a person has the ability to respond.
It’s well worth a listen and you shouldn’t be put off by the quirky title for the episode ‘Underpant Pyres, Death and Dying’. The underpant pyre is entirely relevant to the main topic, from the lived experience of a listener, and the episode brings together humour and poignant lived experience which is both engaging and educational.