nursing-homeThe corridors of all nursing homes can lead to challenging experiences. Personally, I learned to quit feeling sorry for myself and for my parents and accepted the situation. Mercifully, the smells of the facility eventually abated. Instead of walking past residents, I stopped, bent down to their wheelchair level, and listened. If you listen past the dementia, past the weakened bodies and into the heart, you’ll hear their stories.

As residents near the end of life, I’ve begun listening to their spiritual needs. From a Buddhist perspective, one would tend to review several key points, namely:

  • Gaining an understanding of the shortness and preciousness of life;
  • Considering what can help ourselves and others at the time of death;
  • Considering what goes on after death; and
  • The Buddhist concept of mind.

Although my father had a near death experience in 2000, his latest adventure to the “other side” resulted in nothing, no visitors, no father or mother, no friends or shinning light. Thus, how does one have solid “quality of life decisions” with someone who does not entertain (or at least acknowledge) anything greater than a doctor’s flashlight shinning in one’s eye? Strangely, even while I near my own death, I amazed that many become strengthened in religious love upon learning their prognosis.

To that end, I neither preach nor condemn any particular viewpoint. Walking the nursing home, I’ve found countless residents preferring to share beliefs and experiences with someone other than family or a nurse. I find it important all these souls are able to explore and express spiritual needs. In doing so, my form of spiritual care includes:

  • Ensuring their your self worth and dignity are supported;
  • Being offered spiritual care, as they wish; and
  • Having those you want around you when they pass.

Still, there are many days when I believe my Buddhist thoughts and practice and pretty damn weak. But there are several important things I’ve learned. First, encourage loved ones to share feelings, including thanks or forgiveness and give others a chance to say goodbye. Secondly, I wished I learned key life lessons before getting this far in my own world. These life-lessons are listed for us all:

  1. Wish I had the courage to live a true to myself, not the life others expected;
  2. Wish I hadn’t worked so hard;
  3. Wish I had the courage to express my feelings;
  4. Wish I’d let myself be happier.

The real near death experience is of love. Start liv’n in it.