Talk About Death
Finding the right words.
There can be moments of surprising bluntness. Elinor Sheldon, Roberta's
niece, told her aunt that a family member was going to buy Roberta new pajamas.
Roberta's reply: "She can buy me the pajamas to be cremated in."
As death approaches, words become less important, according to hospice
workers; touch and silence become more meaningful. For Roberta's family, music
remained vital. Sheldon had tried to talk to Roberta about the differences
they'd had and was rebuffed. Finally, she had the conversation she'd wanted by
singing "Amazing Grace" to her aunt, who lay in bed, close to death.
"I wasn't sure I could do it, but I did," she says. "I felt she
could hear me. She squeezed my hand."
Jane Meredith Adams has written for WebMD, Health, The Boston Globe,
and other publications. She lives in San Francisco.