I was in Palliative Medicine for more than three years, mainly recovering from a deep wound, taking small steps each time. The question often asked is, how can you stay in Palliative Medicine for that long and not feel depressed?

Rather than hurting, it actually healed.

It helped me learn to live, seeing death and the process of dying. Day in, day out. It’s something that you don’t get to learn elsewhere in life.

* * *

It was July 2011, almost about the same time now. A patient was admitted under our care with lung cancer which has spread to the brain. She had some pain and headache.

Early afternoon on a Thursday after a quick lunch, we were called by the nurses, telling us that she started fitting. We attended to her urgently.

True enough, she was fitting. All her limbs are moving, her eyes rolled up, saliva drooling, her breathing noisy and heavy. The high flow oxygen already in place. Her daughter crying next to her.

We had to gave her a few medications before we could sustain her fit-free. Diazepam twice. Then phenytoin. It didn’t work.

I cried giving the second dose of diazepam. “God, please stop this. Please. Have mercy on her, on her family. You are the Merciful.” But her fits just wouldn’t stop. Her daughter was crying and calling other family members. They came within the hour, set a few prayer mats in the room and started praying for her in congregation.

In the end boss decided to give phenobarbitone. Yes, that worked.

It took us a few hours to settle her.

* * *

I was not around the day after, the two bosses and I went to Penang for an international conference, which left Jaspal and Kamalah to care for her.

The fits finally stopped, phenobarbitone infusion continued. However she developed death rattles – that gurgling sound of lung secretions that you can hear when someone approaches death. It doesn’t happen to everyone, and if it happens we do have a few medications that we could offer to reduce them.

As with the fits, they needed to try a few medications before settling with the largest dose.

* * *

She passed away on Sunday, three days after she started fitting.

* * *

It was not something that was easy for me to see.

I texted a few of my good friends, during her few minutes of fit-free period.

They responded to my anguish.

The image is still clear until now, it’s been two years.

It changed my views of life, and death, and dying.

At the same time, it enabled me to answer some questions people ask about a dying person. You see, we believe that a good death would only come to a good person, and vice versa. But seeing a bad death, how would we know that it really is bad?

Sometimes it does take a long time for someone from a critically ill, barely conscious state up to the actual death. For some, it’s short and easy.

Seeing difficult dying process, many asked me, “Don’t you think there’s something that he/she has done, something he/she has not let go?” I’d tell them, “This is a test for everyone. For you, for me, maybe for her. We can’t judge her for this.”

I mean, we don’t know, you see. They may appear to be suffering but we don’t know how they actually feel deep inside. What they actually are seeing. It’s a test so that people will learn not to associate difficult deaths with unforgivable sins. It’s a test so that the family and friends would continue to pray for them, not just during the dying process, but also when they have left.

Most importantly, it’s a message for us to prepare. To take our steps to get closer to Allah. So that when our time comes, we will feel welcomed to our next life.

It’s a message for us to make things easy for others in this life, so that, hopefully, Allah will make it easy for us when the time comes.

No matter what we think they might be feeling, suffering should be alleviated. The fits, the rattles, the pain must be settled, or at least reduced. Especially so when they could not tell us what they feel, we need to feel for them.

Seeing such death really reduced my mood at that time. Lost all the excitements in life. That’s how deaths heal – because you know that all the pain, loss and suffering in this life are temporary, and are means to achieve greater good in the next life.

* * *

Thank you my dear ones, for being there for me at that time. You may have forgotten, but I could still recall it.

* * *

I was so far from You

Yet to me You were always so close

I wandered lost in the dark

I closed my eyes to all the signs You put my way

I walked everyday further and further away from You

Allah, You brought me home

I thank You with every breath I take

Alhamdulillah

Alhamdulillah

All praises to Allah

All praises to Allah

Alhamdulillah

Alhamdulillah

All praises to Allah

All praises to Allah

I never thought about all the things You have given to me

I never thanked You once

I was too proud to see the truth and prostrate to You

Until I took the first steps

That’s when You open the doors to me

Now Allah, I realize what I was missing by being far from You

Allah, I want to thank You

I want to thank You for everything that You’ve done

You’ve done for me through all my years I’ve been lost

You’ve guided me from all the ways that were wrong

Indeed You gave me hope

Allah, I want to thank You

I want to thank You for all the things that You’ve done

You’ve done for me through all my years I’ve been lost

You’ve guided me from all the ways that were wrong

I want to thank You for bringing me home

“Thank You Allah” by Maher Zain

* * *

I am forever grateful to Imam Suhaib Webb, Wardina Safiyyah, Mariam EmirIbrahimi, my kakak Yasmin Mogahed, and the gentleman behind Islamic Thinking (whoever that might be), for helping me through. I pray that Allah will continue to show us all the right path, and keep us there.

* * * 

Hazrat Ibnu Umar (Radiyallahi~Anhu) said: “I was one among ten people who came into the presence of Prophet Muhammad SAW. One Ansari stood up and asked Prophet Muhammad SAW: “Who is the most intelligent and careful person?” Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) replied: “Those people who remember death most and prepare for it most. These are people who have excelled in the nobility of this world and the honour of thehereafter.”

[Reported by Ibne Abud Dunyaa and Tabraani in Jaamizlos Sagheer with a good chain of narration. Ibnu Maajah has reported it briefly with a good chain of narration as it appears in Targheeb.]

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