End-of-life: Prayer (and other activities) for the dying.

It’s hard to die when all the birds are singing in the sky, but caregivers can still have seasons in the sun with a dying loved one who is in the end-of-life stage of caregiving. In addition to talking and spending time together, the following activities may take their minds off the fact that their time is running short. It may sound far-fetched, but in a way we’re all dying and yet we don’t often think about it, and it’s because we keep ourselves busy.

Writing a journal together

Write down anecdotes, memories, and thoughts about your life together in a special book with blank pages. Pressed flowers, photos, and other tokens may be added to the journal. At the end you will have a document of your relationship with your loved one.

Organizing family pictures

Bring out your pre-camera phone photo albums and any old pictures you may have lying around. As you choose your favorites you will surely be reminded and compelled to talk about the stories behind each photo. You can write those stories down and add them as a caption next to the respective picture. This will serve as a pictorial legacy for the younger members of the family who will be in awe as much at their family’s history as at the fact that you photos used to occupy a physical space.

Putting together a collection of favorite items

In the words of Maria von Trapp, “When the dog bites, when the bee stings/When I'm feeling sad/I simply remember my favorite things/And then I don't feel so bad.” These things may include recipes, books, movies, and collectibles, as well as souvenirs from trips, seashells, and handicrafts – which may go in a special shadow box. Notes may be appended to the recipes and books in order to record the memories associated with each item.

Planting a memory garden

This may not have gone so well for the protagonist of Andrei Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice, but plating a tree or garden with the dying person can be a living monument to the memory of your loved one even after they are long gone.

Getting a pet

Picking and keeping in the house a puppy, kitten, or fish may lift the spirits of your dying loved one, with the added benefit that the pet will remain around after the person has passed, providing you with company and a living, breathing reminder of some of the times that you shared. Talk to your doctor first to make sure that it’s safe to keep an animal in the house; i.e., that there are no concerns about an allergic reaction or immunity problem.

Going outside

Going out to eat or for a short walk can be a very positive bonding experience – provided that the person is healthy and strong enough to go outside (and if they are not, elderly medical supplies such as mobility aids might do the trick).

Related: Caring for someone with frontotemporal dementia: The End