Veterans: May their Souls Rest in Peace: Their End of Life Care

NTM Vol3 No4Vets_smallMay their souls rest in peace: Veterans’ end of life care. Editorial from Natural Transitions Magazine, Vol. 3 No. 4 on Veterans.

 

When my father, Jack was dying, he shared a story that woke me up to who he was and the reason for his restless soul. I’d never understood this volatile, charismatic Dutchman who’d shared so little of his background gorwing up in occupied Holland during World War II. But one day, a few weeks before his death, as he rested in his favorite leather recliner, much diminished by his lung cancer, I begged him for some stories about growing up in that little village in the Netherlands. That’s when, out of the blue, he blurted out, “You know, when I was 14, me and my best friend strangled a German soldier in our village.” I responded with silence, offering him space: “He (the soldier) was probably only 17 and didn’t know why he was there. But he was the enemy, and we had to take him out.”

 

My father’s sharing was a tacit plea for forgiveness and a re-humanization of the young German guard he had killed. He’d never spoken of World War II, which he joined after escaping and lying about his age, nor of that most intimate of killings that preceded his full-on plunge into combat. I’m so glad he got to take that one huge rock out of his backpack before he died.

 

We all would like to leave this life with a clean slate, complete in our relationships, having achieved “closure.” But, for veterans, the moral burden of participation in war can cause immense spiritual pain. I’ve heard Vietnam veterans even say, “I don’t deserve to heal.” For veterans who have stuffed away the horror of war, we often see how all that is unresolved rises up as they are dying.

 

One in four people who dies in the US is a veteran according to a 2013 VA report. Many of us do not know we are around veterans, and their wounds are equally invisible to us.

 

This issue of NTM considers our role in healing their soul wounds. We hear from wise teachers, Deborah Grassman of Opus Peace and Dr. Ed Tick of Soldier’s Heart. Alison Perry shares her innovative approach to veterans’ care by reconnecting them to nature on a sheep ranch, and Kandyce Powell makes a difference to the lives and deaths of veterans, including those behind the walls of Maine State Prison. May all our veterans go in peace.

The Courage to be with Death: Movers and Shakers

The Courage to Be with Death. Editorial for Natural Transitions Magazine: Movers and Shakers issue, Vol. 3 No. 3. by Karen van Vuuren. Editorials customarily address the current issue of a publication, so forgive me for first writing about one that is past. The theme for Natural Transitions Magazine, volume 3 #2 was “Responding to…

Responding to Crisis: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Responding to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Karen van Vuuren, Editor, Natural Transitions Magazine. (Letter from the Editor for Vol. 3 No. 2 Responding to Crisis.)   Noah Pozner’s mother chose to see his body after he was killed in the Newtown, CT school shooting of 2012. She felt that she, “owed…

Coma Communication – reading the signs

Reading the Signs: Coma Communication by Ann Jacob A person’s essence is present in all states of consciousness, during times of wakefulness, sleep, delirium, dementia, coma, near-death, and dying. This belief inspires our work in coma communication, the art of cherishing and connecting with people seemingly unable to communicate. Arnold Mindell, (who along with Amy Mindell…

The spirit in Alzheimer’s

The following article on the spiritual aspects of Alzheimer’s by Megan Carnarius and is excerpted from an article published in Volume 3#1 of Natural Transitions Magazine (Communication). To sign up for the free e-version of our magazine – fill out the Contact Form on the Natural Transitions website. A high-quality print version of the magazine…

Communication creates compassion creates community

Earlier this year, I, Karen van Vuuren, editor of Natural Transitions Magazine, was sitting in Patricia Kelley’s living room in her modest Victorian-era home. Kelley, a doyenne of the field of end-of-life communication, is mostly known for her first book, Final Gifts, which she co-authored with fellow hospice nurse, Maggie Callanan and published in 1992. …

Life after death: What to expect when we die

This article is from an editorial in Volume 2 Issue 4 of Natural Transitions Magazine: Life after Death. Our fear of death is foremost a fear of the unknown. By the time we reach death’s door, most of us in the Western world will have given scant thought to what lies beyond our material existence…

Caregiving and Receiving – we need to share the care

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Natural Transitions Magazine issue on Children and Death

A frail, exhausted octogenarian dies and we muse on his consummate life. He’s made it through childhood to old age, and the finishing post is death. Grief and sadness arise, but he had a “good inning” (or that’s the hope). Not so with the demise of a child. We expect our progeny to flourish, to…

Upcoming issues

The spring issue of Natural Transitions Magazine is on hospice and palliative care – featuring hospice work in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ira Byock’s provocative new book – The Best Care Possible, and Being Pissed Off about Death by Isabel Stenzel-Byrnes.  We’re looking for story ideas and contributors for the summer issue, which will be on Children…