A Guide to the Dying


Death: The dying process is difficult for many people and follows a specific pattern that this guide will lay out for you and your family as you follow the journey of the Dying. Please note that some variations may occur depending on the circumstances of the Dying.

Emotions: Intense feelings are normal for the Dying, and the members of their family during this journey. As the Dying begins to lose grip on reality, emotions begin to spiral out of control, but thankfully, one can always ask the nurses for some narcotics to lighten the mood for both the Dying and their family.

Narcotics: At this point, the Dying will begin to sing ‘Danny Boy’ while the family silently watches. It’s important for the Faithless of the family to remember to allow the sudden increase in religiousness to go without question. Otherwise, it would be selfish of the Faithless to seek so much attention when it’s really about the Dying.

Information: Books, brochures, podcasts, YouTube videos and almost every other medium possible will help guide most through the journey of the Dying. Most information will have clouds, angels, and Jesus on them, so for the Faithless, they will have to figure out most things on their own unless they convert.

Apathy: Sometimes, when the emotions don’t come, it’s easier to hide. There is a safe place located inside of your mind that opens under stress that should be coming at about this point. It makes the journey of the Dying seem like a silent film that runs in the background of a nice bar to add an aesthetic feeling.

Lifeless: It’s the nights when the family goes home and the only book in the hospice center that isn’t another Bible is one by Nicholas Sparks that the stillness begins to solidify. There are people, but the Faithless can’t connect to them. They pass her by without noticing that she’s lifeless, not the Dying.

Arrangements: This lifelessness continues into interactions with the family. The Faithless continues to sit next to the Dying and watch his breathing while her Mother sells all of the Dying’s belongings. Later, this will become problematic, but it’s hard to break through the blankness.

No: Eventually, communication will stop. The Dying’s organs have begun to fail, and the Faithless watches as the breaths become labored and bile begins to run in dark liquid down the corner of his mouth. It’s hard for her to take the towel every few minutes and wipe it off. The smell shakes her to her bones, and not even the numbness can protect her anymore.

God: Praying will be the most common coping mechanism for the family, but the Faithless will be dragged into it too. There will be silent nights where the Faithless stares down at the Dying and brings up the devoutness that permeated her as a child and prays for this journey to be over. Let the Dying go if you’re really out there.

Edge: The dying process knows no God. The Dying and the Faithless are locked in something as old as humanity, and the edge will only come when the Dying has completed his journey. The Faithless leaves the hospice and sits for a moment in the car as the family continues to pray. The tears won’t come, but the anger is there. The Dying was never religious. The Dying wanted to continue to look for solutions. Why wasn’t he offered chemo?

Rest: Maybe the Dying is just sleeping, and he’ll wake up soon while feeling better.  A nurse comes in and says they need someone to sign the document giving permission for a catheter.

Before: It’s normal to think about the past and how the Dying got to be in this state. The many times the Faithless and the Dying spent at restaurants as the Dying’s skin and eyes turned into a lizard like yellow. No one had ever noticed. How could no one have noticed. It’s really her fault that he’s sick. If she would have visited him more or just noticed the color of his skin. How the whites of his eyes were yellow.

Assistance: At least the Faithless left her university housing to help the Dying at home. He told her that he was just sick and needed help around the house. She thought that he was lonely, but the doctors told her that he knew this was going to happen.

Remain: The Dying hasn’t woken up. The chance to ask him why he didn’t tell the Faithless has passed. She remains by his side as each breath brings bubbles of bile out of his lungs. The sound reminds her of the sound the coffee machine makes when it’s done.

Gay: There are things the Faithless never got to tell him either. The Dying was never a religious person, but she wasn’t ready. It wasn’t the life the family had wished for her, and the sound of her whispers are being drowned out by the smell of bile.

Atheism: There was a lot that had lead the Faithless to abandon the religion she had grown up with. One of those reasons was her hidden sexuality, but another was the idea that the Dying didn’t deserve to go to hell. To live in an eternity of torture was something the Faithless refused to get behind because most people who do bad things aren’t evil. They’re hurt.

Irate: When the Faithless told the family that she wasn’t going to attend church anymore, the Dying invited her to watch shows about the universe with him. She enjoyed sitting in the sun with him during commercial breaks and drinking a beer, but the family saw things differently. They told her that the moment she stepped out of the door, she would be dead to them. Seeing them at the hospice now, after years of not being in contact made both her and them angry.

Non-responsive: The Mother of the Faithless left her in the room with a piece of paper. It seems that some words do have enough power to bring emotions to the surface. The Faithless begs for the Dying to wake up, but his hand is limp on the unnaturally white sheet.

Insult: The family has locked the room while the Faithless went home to shower. Unfortunately, the walls in the hospice are thin enough to hear them.


Games: The Faithless is back in the room with the Dying. A nurse knocked on the door to administer more narcotics, and the family looked away.

Dying: The process of dying is the most traumatic for the Dying, but this is a journey that ends. The family and the Faithless are left with an experience that most people have gone through, but no one fully understands.

Establish: Dying establishes itself as a piece of nothing that follows someone around. The Faithless continues to look at the Dying, trying to establish the meaning of it.

Passions: The Dying hadn’t told the Faithless much about his life. She tried to speak to him since the pauses between breaths were getting longer. He loved playing guitar, country music, and…

Reservation: Talking about the Dying’s past was never really something he or The Faithless had bothered doing while she took care of him. She left to get his photo album.

Estate: The house was empty. There was nothing left. The painters were working on the walls, and everything the Faithless owned has been sold. Even the books were gone.

Submission: The Faithless sat in the almost empty house of the Dying. It was too late to do anything.

Shame: The dumpster in the front of the house was empty, and the Faithless knows that she should have taken better care of the Dying’s things. The photo album is gone. Who was the Dying?

Inhumane: Maybe some people do deserve to go to hell.

Obliterate: How can the Faithless return to the Dying without thinking about what happened? How could someone sell everything she owned? Where would she go?

Never Again: The Faithless stays in her car in the parking lot of the hospice center. A panic overcomes her that takes her breath away, and her heart begins to beat irregularly as she tries to swallow the knot in her throat. A call comes from the Mother.

After: The Faithless starts her car and begins to drive. She never considered seeing the body. That was no longer the Dying.

Campus: It’s the last place that the Faithless can go. The Mother of the Faithless doesn’t know this place.

Centered: The university has emergency housing that’s expensive, but it allows the Faithless the time to become centered.

Everything: Fragmented. The Faithless takes in reality one piece at a time. The Mother of the Faithless is preparing everything somewhere far away. The paper sits on the small desk in the dorm.

Phone: The Mother of the Faithless calls one last time to inform the Faithless of the funeral. She is sitting outside the office of a professor when the call comes through, but the emotions fail to come. Everything seems normal.

Tomorrow: The Faithless arrives late to the funeral because she was given the wrong time on the phone. Many of the family look at her as a disappointment, but the priest calls the Faithless to the front to give the eulogy. She didn’t expect that.

Audience: The eulogy is wrong because the format requires the Faithless to know the details of the Dying’s life, but she tries to connect the words with those she makes eye contact with. The family. The Mother.

Night: It’s night by the time the Dying is lowered into the ground. No one speaks to the Faithless after the eulogy.

Continue: The campus was empty when the Faithless pulls up in her car. It is still hard for her to imagine the journey of the Dying was over.

Enough: The Dying is gone. The Dying is gone. The family is gone. The Mother is gone. The Faithless will soon be gone.

Life: Plans have changed, and the Faithless decides to leave. There is a life worth living where she no longer has to hide, but this city— this place where it all happened, it has to change.

Independence: The Faithless had applied to transfer to another university on the other side of the country.

Venture: The acceptance letter is here. The Faithless packs the few things she owns into her car and begins her journey to the other side of the world.

Intervals: On her way to the new university, the Faithless begins to cry. The emotions come in intervals along with memories of the Dying.

New: Although the Dying is gone, and no new memories will be made with him, the new university and the new city bring a feeling of relief to the Faithless. A chance to recreate herself away from the family and the Mother.

Grief: A process. Stages that come and go as you, the Faithless, continue with the life the Dying no longer has.

Haute Hands

I first encountered these disembodied hands several years ago in an antique store.