Michael Pritchard

The less afraid we are of death, the more we live

Connecting through compassion is fundamental as a healthcare provider. Whether a situation is preventable or not, Michael Pritchard speaks about the importance of being there for patients through any transitional stage and what it means for us all to be less afraid of death.

The Interview

The most important thing I learned as a medic is to be constantly, constantly compassionate. The wisdom I’ve gained just looking into a patient’s eyes, their eyes will tell you everything you need to know, whether they are afraid.

Fear is the little dark room where negatives are developed, and one of the things is to comfort that fear. With a sense of faith and levity, fun, play, silliness, not letting them get into the doldrums and transitional fears. But also giving them high expectations of hope that things will be better in their lives as they transition smoothly through.

So as a medic I saw a lot of people die, as a paramedic I saw people die, on the streets as a probation officer I saw people die. I helped with transitioning family members through. And death teaches you; it’s the most democratic of all processes. It happens to the rich, to the poor, to the young, to the old. One of the great gifts I have seen is dying children. And it wouldn’t seem like that, you would seem like that would be a curse, but children have more courage than adults, because they come through more unfiltered.

I watched a young boy transition over in a Ronald McDonald House. And we were there, and he said, “You know, I was falling asleep and I saw my uncle across the bridge, and I started to walk over, and that’s when I remembered I hadn’t said goodbye to my mom and dad, and I woke up.” And a day later he had crossed the bridge. And the remarkable, almost mystical nature that was, he was happy to awaken from that and come back, and be able to say goodbye to mom and dad.

What we need to teach people is that death is not something to fear; it’s something to help people with. The less afraid we are of death, absolutely the more we live, and we live well and in happiness.

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