Death. A reality that touches us all. A reality that we do our best to ignore. What happens when it knocks on our door? What do we do about it? What happens when we have to face the death of a loved one? Do we do something to live these moments consciously, putting our heart?  These issues take on special importance when we face situations that force us to realize that death is not something alien to life. Death is the final part of life.

Taking into account this premise and welcoming the opportunity to explore the subject, Don Francisco recently presented this topic in his program Reflections on CNN Español, Ponerle vida a la muerte (Adding Life to Death), in which I had the honor of participating, along with very special people, whichI will present below.

Near-Death Experience

The program focused on the unique and highly spiritual experience of former Colombian President Ernesto Samper Pizano, having a Near Death Experience (NDE) after having received 13 bullets.  The term NDE was coined by Dr. Raymond A. Moody, Jr. M.D. psychiatrist and renowned scientist, and introduced in his book Life After Life, which was published in English, in 1975. Many of the people who have this experience, according to Dr. Moody, go through a tunnel, see their loved ones, and get to perform a life review (they see their life go by like in a movie, as experienced by  Mr. Samper Pizano).

Palliative Care

Another important topic that was covered in the program with Don Francisco was palliative care at the end of life, which was presented by the argentinian doctor of palliative care, Dr. Nacho Torre.  This type of care is when we take care of the person in an integral way, paying attention to all its dimensions, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual.

Dr. Torre emphasizes the great value of compassion towards the patient, which is the focus of hospice care:

You matter because you are you and you matter until the end of your life. We will do everything we can not only to help you die in peace but also to live until you die.

Dame Cicely Saunders
Hospice Founder.

The Value of Validating Grief

Then we continue with the topic of grief, a subject very close to my heart. When Don Francisco asked me how one can help the griever, I replied that the best thing we can do is to accompany people in their pain, instead of trying to get them out of that space.

I highly emphasized the need to express our emotions when experiencing grief, as this is our right. I feel that it is so necessary that we be allowed to go through this process so as not to get stuck, that I wrote the book,Déjame vivir mi duelo…y sanar de adentro hacia afuera. (Allow me to Grief… and Heal from the Inside Out) This book is inspired by my mother’s death and is intended to validate and accompany the mourner.

Non-Traditional Wakes

The last topic we addressed in the program and which has great value is the issue of the value of funerals, in particular, wakes. On this occasion, Damaris Marín, who is the funeral director and president of Marín Funeral Home in Puerto Rico. She explained to us a type of wake that they have been holding since 2008, inspired by the wishes of a young man who wanted to be watched standing, outside the casket.  By making this young man’s wishes come true and being the first to elaborate on them, he made them world pioneers of this type of wake.

Having been part of this program has been very special for me because apart from enjoying sharing directly with Don Francisco who is an eminence as a program presenter and a charm of person, it confirmed to me once again how important it is to talk about these issues because many of us have this need and we do not always have the opportunity.