A dying person most needs to be shown as unconditional a love as possible, released from all expectations. Don’t think you have to be an expert in any way. Be natural, be yourself, be a true friend, and the dying person will be reassured that you are really with them, communicating with them simply and as an equal, as one human being to another.

I have said, “Show the dying person unconditional love,” but in some situations that is far from easy. We may have a long history of suffering with the person, we may feel guilty about what we have done to the person in the past, or anger and resentment at what the person has done to us.

So let me suggest two very simple ways in which you can release the love within you toward the dying person. I and my students who work with the dying have found both these ways to be powerful. First, look at the dying person in front of you and think of that person as just like you, with the same needs, the same fundamental desire to be happy and avoid suffering, the same loneliness, the same fear of the unknown, the same secret areas of sadness, the same half-acknowledged feelings of helplessness. You will find that if you really do this, your heart will open toward the person and love will be present between you.

The second way, and I have found this even more powerful, is to put yourself directly and unflinchingly in the dying person’s place. Imagine that you are on that bed before you, facing your death. Imagine that you are there in pain and alone. Then really ask yourself: What would you most need? What would you most like? What would you really wish from the friend in front of you?

If you do these two practices, I think you would find that what the dying person wants is what you would most want: to be really loved and accepted.

I have often seen also that people who are very sick long to be touched, long to be treated as living people and not diseases. A great deal of consolation can be given to the very ill simply by touching their hands, looking into their eyes, gently massaging them or holding them in your arms, or breathing in the same rhythm gently with them. The body has its own language of love; use it fearlessly, and you will find you bring to the dying comfort and consolation.

—from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying


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