My guest this week is Dr. Christopher Kerr. Chris is a hospice physician and author of the recent book, Death Is But a Dream: Finding Hope and Meaning at Life’s End (affiliate link). This was an important topic, but I hadn’t realized the implications for the current situation we find ourselves in with the coronavirus pandemic. One of the things that’s so many of us are deeply troubled by is that people are dying now without being able to have their loved ones by their side.
Chris and I talked about how Covid-19 is changing the process of dying. As tragic as these changes are, he also explained that no one really dies alone, which I found deeply comforting as I imagined the final days and hours of those dying in hospitals. We also talked about:
- The spiritual enlivening that is common as death approaches
- Where the tendency toward growth at the end of life might come from
- Studying the “science of the soul”
- Our discomfort with things we can’t measure or quantify
- The fragmentation of medical care, including at the end of life, and the resulting loss of personhood
- What it’s like for a patient to hear, “There’s nothing more I can do for you”
- How my guest found his way to hospice care
- Seeing the very best of people at the end of life
- How end-of-life dreams and visions can help to fulfill our needs
- How questions about the afterlife may not address a dying person’s experience
- The life-affirming love that almost universally reveals itself at the point of death
- All that we have to let go of in the current pandemic
- What Chris has learned from children who were dying
- The difference between the death we expect and the death we experience
- How our age at death affect our experience of dying
I hope you get a lot out of this conversation, and I look forward to your comments. Thank you for listening.
Christopher Kerr, MD, PhD, is the CEO and chief medical officer at Hospice Buffalo. Born and raised in Toronto, he earned his MD as well as a PhD in neurobiology, and completed his internal medicine residency at the University of Rochester. His research has received international attention and has been featured in The NY Times, Atlantic Monthly, and the BBC. He lives on a horse farm in the small town of East Aurora, NY.