If we reach it before we are ready, our destination can unsettle us. All of us alive have the same destination—death. When we realise it creeping upon us, many of us are not ready to disembark. That is when we need the ashraya (shelter) of karuna (compassion) to help us cope and to let go in peace.
Karunashraya, the palliative care centre in Bengaluru has just published Crossing Over, a collection of 35 stories of people whose journeys so ended. It is about how the proximity of that ending affected those who had to leave, those they left behind and the compassionate team at Karunashraya.
When it comes to palliative care, there are courses and experts but no easy answers. There is no room for judgment, but frustration thrives. A gentle touch or a patient ear often helps to ease the pain as effectively as an opioid.
Life matters until it is. The idea is to ensure comfort and facilitate closure. Every palliative care professional tries to practice detached attachment. Yet, it is never easy. There is no shutter you can pull down at the end of the day. They must share the tears and fears of one patient after another, day after day. This book is as much a tribute to them as they are about those they care for.
As Atul Gawande, the famous writer and surgeon put it, “In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all its moments. Life is meaningful because it is a story. And in stories, endings matter.”
Read this book. Because we are all living our stories. You will find no morals in the pages of Crossing Over. You will find acceptance. And gratitude for those who make the ending matter.