The following suggestions have come from men and women who have passed various milestones on their own sacred walks (with acknowledgement to Donna Authers’ book, “A Sacred Walk: Dispelling the Fear of Death and Caring for the Dying.”)
“Take care of you.” The patients for whom you are caring love you, and neglecting yourself adds to their burdens. Rest assured that your efforts are appreciated, but your loved one also can see how tired and worried you are. Get enough rest and exercise, and eat properly.
“Reminisce with me.” Don’t avoid bringing up stories and memories because you are worried they will be too painful to talk about. Your dying loved one will likely want to remember holidays past, and traditions old and new.
“As I am able, include me in Christmas preparations.” No, your ill loved ones will not be able to participate in Christmas traditions, visits and celebrations to the extent that they once did. Therefore, make every effort to ensure that they aren’t isolated and that they are participants in as much as possible, even if it’s just watching “White Christmas” with the family or hanging an ornament or two on the tree.
“Remind me of the reason for the season.” It’s easy for anyone to get caught up in the consumerism that has attached itself to Christmas, but the bottom line is that it’s not about us, and it never was. Remind your loved one that birth and death are simply the bookends of life on this earth as we prepare to celebrate the nativity of Jesus Christ — and that it’s because of His death and resurrection that we who call ourselves Christians believe that we will live forever.
“Pray with me.” Prayer is another wonderful gift for one’s last Christmas, and there is no greater prayer than “The Prayer of Abandonment” when your loved ones realize that they are no longer in control of their time or of their lives. Originally written by Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916) after becoming a hermit monk, this prayer is something that should be kept in every caregiver’s toolkit. There is no better way to find peace than to abandon yourself — or your loved one — into the hands of God.
Prayer of Abandonment
I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.