I know I am not the first to comment on this, but for me it is a relatively new experience to see death close up. In these past five years working at the hospital, I have visited patients who were close to death and have spent some of their final hours with them. Before working here, I would have imagined that such an experience would have made me feel, at a minimum, awkward, but more likely extremely uncomfortable. I am sure I would have been afraid of doing or saying something "wrong". In short, I had a very self-centered view -- thinking mainly of my own discomfort -- and I avoided those circumstances.
Once taking this job, I considered it part of my responsibility to visit patients at all stage of their treatments, including the final stages. Instead of the expected discomfort, I have found these moments to be stunningly freeing and beautiful, notwithstanding the tragedy of the situation. The people who have given me the privilege of their company during such times have been open, honest, warm, funny, and even cheerful. Maybe it is still very self-centered on my part to say so, but they have confided in me in a way that leaves me both honored and humbled.
I write this in thanks to them and their families for the chance to be part of this very, very intimate human experience.