Part Three: “What if the leaves said at the end of the summer: I want to die.”
Even if today many are trained for euthanasia, believing it to be a part of patient care, I am convinced that there will always be enough people to look reality in the eye and not run away from life’s tragedy. And I hope that they may discover by themselves what I was brought to understand.
One day I was travelling home after having dealt with a particularly difficult situation. I was in total turmoil, at the end of my tether . Driving home from the hospital takes me about half an hour, across beautiful scenery. That evening, the sun was highlighting the autumnal colours, and suddenly it dawned on me: ‘Fortunately nature does not react like us humans… What if the leaves said at the end of the summer: “I want to die. Soon, there will be no more tree sap, so better end my life right away”. If this were the case, we would miss out on the autumnal beauty. As early as July many still green leaves would litter the ground and there would be none left to display their colours in fall.
The richness of autumn lies in the time leaves take to let the vital juice dry out and die. In spring and even more in summer, all the leaves are green, but in fall an extraordinary variety of colours is displayed.
Similarly, a human being in the twilight of life lets go of their masks and reveals their true self. In everyday life, running after time, we all have green leaves and, sometimes, it is not until the end of our lives that we realise that, beneath the green, there is a wide array of warm and exquisite colours.
Palliative care is the autumn of our life; it is the time the leaf takes to gradually detach from the tree. Even though the sun is not always shining and there are difficult times of heavy showers and wind storms, the leaf holds on to the tree with all the colours it has left. Could we imagine a year with three seasons only? Could we go from 35 °C in summer to -10 °C winter without any period of transition? No!… However, that is what happens with euthanasia’.
I have met all sorts of people during my career, from the humblest to those who are used to being in the limelight. For each and all of them, masks come down at the end of life. No doubt this is very difficult for the person, but it is also very beautiful to watch. They reveal their deep inner self and remind us that they are unique and irreplaceable. We see a person readying themselves to leave this life. For sure, their body is often falling to pieces, and their mind is slowed down, but what is being said, what is being experienced, is of a beauty and intensity that remind me of the autumn leaves…
- François Trufin is a hospital emergency nurse. He is secretary of the palliative care platform of the Belgian German-speaking Community and Vice-President of the Belgian Chamber of German-speaking Nurses.