Last Grains of the Hour Glass
A One Act Play by Drew Gershman
The curtain opens and we see what appears to be a hospital bedroom. It has a bed, dresser and TV, but other than that it seems to be lifeless. A man of age 70 or so rests in the bed waiting motionless hooked to numerous machines and IV’s. His name is Martin Gray. He is a typical elderly gentleman. He has a wife, and a Daughter and 2 grandchildren. As his lies there, lost in thought, a doctor walks in. Martin can tell by the look on the doctors face that whatever it is he’s about to say isn’t the greatest news in the world.
Doctor Bishop: How ya feelin’ Mr. Gray?
Martin: Been better Doctor Bishop. What’s the deal? Am I going to be OK?
Doctor Bishop: Since you’ve been staying here at the hospital and haven’t been able to move around or allow your blood to circulate well, you developed a blood clot. Because of it, we weren’t able to move you until it was taken care of, and now it seems we’ve detected three more. At this rate I’m not sure we’ll be able to take care of them before more develop.
Martin: So you’re saying there’s nothing you can do at all? Or is there some kind of treatment or drug I need to take. Or what about surgery? You can just get rid of them all at the same time if you have enough doctors in there performing surgery on me right? I mean, there s got to be something, Right?
Doctor Bishop: I wish there was, but they’re just continuing to generate and we aren’t able to slow down or stop the process. But at this rate, at some point in the near future, it s just going to become too much for your body to handle. I can’t tell you exactly how long you have. Cases such as these have ranged between a couple of days to a couple of months and there were some that made it a couple of years. It simply depends on how many more develop, and where exactly they develop at. If they generate in the cranial area, they can effect and even destroy one side of the brain itself. I’m sorry sir. I wish there was something I could do.
Martin: Are there any tests you can run? Can you take another look or do something? I mean, aren t you supposed to consult a supervisor or CO-worker before you come to any final conclusions? Have you gotten a second opinion? What s the deal?
Doctor Bishop: Well the X-rays confirm the blood clots, and if you d like, we can take more periodically to find out just how fast they are developing. As for tests and second opinions, all I can really do is show the x-rays to a specialist and see what he says. Which, I d be happy to do by the way.
Martin: Yeah doc, I d appreciate that, thanks. Actually, my sister gave me another doctors name, who is a specialist. Would you mind having them come in and take a look? You know, in case you missed something? It s a Doctor Clemmens I think. You ever heard of him?
Doctor Bishop: Sure Martin, I ll get that done right away and I ll let you know the earliest time he can come up here OK?
Martin: Thanks doc. I m sure everything is all right. We ll just have him take a look.
Martin is obviously in shock. He’s not sure what to make of anything and can only stare in disbelief at the doctor that told him his life was about to end. The doctor waits a brief moment to see if Martin had any question or comments and when it was clear he did not, he slowly got up and sadly left the room. No matter who the patient is, news like this is never easy to deliver. As he reaches the door, he calls out to Martin’s wife who is impatiently waiting to see her husband. She rapidly moves by his side, holding his hand, and asking what was said. After a moment, Martin begins to explain what has just been disclosed to him. As he tells her, the lights dim.
As the curtain opens, we see Martin still in bed. This time not nearly as upset. He’s on the phone with his daughter. Although we only hear one side of the conversation, we get a general idea of what’s being discussed.
Martin: It’s going to be OK pumpkin. You know we’ve gotten through tougher things than this! This is your old man we’re talking about! You know me! I’m stronger than an ox!
Look, I called up Doctor Clemmens to come in and run some tests, and we’ll see what he says OK? Do your pop a favor and call your mother so she doesn’t worry about me.
Hey! Stop that… I’m not going anywhere! (sarcastically) I got through half my life putting up with you didn’t I? There’s no way I can’t beat this too!
OK pumpkin, have a good day. I’ll talk to you later. Give the rug rats a hug from their Pop-pop will ya? All right- bye bye.
Martin hangs up the phone almost cheerfully. As he does, Doctor Bishop enters with another hospital associate.
Doctor Bishop: How ya feeling Martin?
Martin: Doing much better doc! A little tired, but I didn t sleep a whole lot last night. My wife was here and I was trying to assure her that everything was going to be OK. What time will Doctor Clemmens be coming in to take a look at me?
Doctor Bishop: Probably a little later on this afternoon. Martin,. I want you to meet someone. This is Doctor Haroldeen. She works in the counseling department mostly with patients such as yourself. She just wanted to see if you felt like talking at all about what’s going on.
Martin: Thanks, but no thanks. I m fine , really. You ll see. sarcastically Why don t you give me a call in about 20 years when I m going to die!
Martin: Hey look, Doctor Haroldeen is it? I appreciate what you’re doing here, but I’m really fine! I’d think I’d know when my own time was coming, and I can assure you, I’m not even close yet!
Doctor Bishop leaves the two alone to discuss Martin’s situation.
Doctor Haroldeen: I’m glad to see you handling it all so well Martin, but I just want you to understand that no one in this world really knows when they’re going to die. Most people are not thinking of it at any given time. It’s almost as if they feel dying is not possible for them. We all seem to subconsciously think we re immortal. It s nothing to be upset about, it s just the way our minds work. Talking about it just helps to realize your own mortality.
Martin: I can understand that Doc, but you see, this just can’t be! I know it! It’s practically in my blood! My dad for example- strong as ever until the day he got cancer. He was 87 when his body finally gave in. And my mom… she didn’t even get sick! She died peacefully in her sleep when she was 91! I realize you guys think you’ve got the whole human body figured out and all, but the fact remains that me dying anytime soon just can’t be true. Just watch. I’m having a specialist that my sister referred me to come in and take a look in a few hours. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Doctor Clemmens I think.
Doctor Haroldeen: Martin, as much as you don’t want to face it, you’re going to have to sometime. Death is just a part of life, and although your heredity would suggest otherwise, you’ll have to learn to accept this and talk about it. Now, I m going to leave my office number with Doctor Bishop, and when you feel like talking, just go ahead and give me a call all right?
Martin: He begins to speak with a louder tone and eventually it becomes a yell. I’m going to be fine! Why can’t you quacks understand that!? Jesus! It’s like just because you have a PH.D. you think you can sentence everyone and their mother to death! Just get out and leave me alone will you? You come talk to me this afternoon after Dr. Clemmens takes a look!
Trying to be professional, Doctor Haroldeen attempts to keep her cool as she exits the room- closing the door softly behind her. Martin turns his attention toward the Television and flips it on with the remote control. We hear a show in the background and Martin laughs along with the audience as the lights dim.
As the lights go up, we see Martin still in bed. His wife (Gina) sits in a chair beside him trying to be strong during the current situation. As they sit and talk, yet another Doctor Enters the small hospital room. It’s Doctor Clemmens. As Martin and his wife look up to see the doctor, Martin smiles- expecting whatever the doctor is about to say to be what he’s wanted to hear.
Martin: Hey Doc! So what’s the news? When can I get outta’ here?
Doctor Clemmens: Well Martin, I’m afraid it’s not going to be that easy. I’ve looked over the test results and compared them to Doctor Bishop s, and I’m afraid he was right. The more you’re hospitalized, the more blood clots are growing. And we can’t move you until we can get rid of them. I’m sorry.
Martin: Wait a minute. I thought you were like a specialist. Can t you prescribe some kind of medication that I could take that will unclot the blood or something? I mean come on doc, you ve got to be able to do something right?
Doctor Clemmens: I wish there was Martin, but your condition is extremely fragile, and there isn t much we can do other than make you comfortable and aware of how your body is doing as time passes.
Martin sits quietly for a moment thinking. His wife begins to cry and holds her head in her hands. Seeing his wife this way triggers something inside of him and he proceeds to blow up at Doctor Clemmens.
Martin: What the hell is wrong with you? Why did you people let this happen to me!? You God damn doctors think you’re so smart. You’re supposed to be helping me! Not giving up on me! Why the hell should something like this happen? If you ask me, it’s your damn fault! Every year I come in and get a check up, and every year, you quacks say I’m fine! Now you’re telling me I’m going to die just because of some tests! Get the hell out of my room! I’m sick of you all telling me the same damn thing! You sound like a broken record! Why don t you just bury me right here!?
Martin: Damn doctors! What the hell do they know?! He looks over at his sobbing wife. Stop that! What are you crying about, it’s me they just sentenced to death! What do you have to cry about? It’s always me these kinds of things happen to, not you! Why me!? Out of all the murderers, and drug dealers, and terrorists there are in this world, God has to pick me to be the one to die! And then these doctors….these professionals- they’re the ones who are supposed to be able to help me! How could they let this happen to me!? Why can’t they help me!?
As he finishes yelling, he turns away from his wife, showing no concern for her emotional well being. She slowly reaches her hand out to him, and he briskly slaps it away without even looking in her direction. At this point, the situation becomes to much for his wife and she leaves the room crying, hurt, and humiliated. Moments later, there is a knock at the door and a nurse enters with a tray of food.
Nurse: Here you go Mr. Gray, lunch time.
After receiving no acknowledgment, the nurse leaves the room as well. The tray of food sits untouched by Martin. Seconds pass of silence, and there is a third visitor that enters the room. It’s Martin’s daughter.
Jaime: Daddy? Mommy told me what Doctor Clemmens said. Are you OK? She sits down next to him, trying to both be calm about the situation and gain his attention. Are you hungry? She picks up the fork and shovels up some of the food.
Martin: Slaps the fork from her hand. Jesus Jaime!, I can feed myself! Just leave me alone will you? Go sit outside with your mother or something.
Jaime: I m sorry, I m just trying to help.
Martin: Well don t. I ve had enough people try to help me today, and in the end they all just keep telling my that I m going to die. I m sick of it. And then you come in here treating me like I m in a nursing home and need to be fed.
Martin: News flash pumpkin, I’ve had 3 people in the last two days tell me I’m dying! And you expect me to be around long enough for us all to get through this? How would you feel if you found out you were going to die because you’ve been lying in bed for just a little too long!? What kind of death is that? What kind of significance does that kind of death have? No one can help me. I can’t move, I can’t leave, I can’t help myself, and no one can help me either- not even God himself! So you tell me- why should I even give a rats rip about anything anymore!?
Jamie: Now crying as she speaks. Because we’re your family! Everything that happens to you happens to us! Can’t you understand that? You need to just accept the fact that sometimes, things like this happen! We’re trying to help you daddy, but you’ve got to not push us away!
Martin: Push you away?! HE begins to get frantic and waves his arms wildly as he screams at her. How the hell can I push anything when I can’t even get out of bed!? I swear Jamie every time I—
His words are cut of by a sharp pain in his chest. The machines all begin to beep wildly as if to try to say something. As she realizes what is happening, Jaime, runs out screaming for a doctor, a nurse, or anyone to come and help.
We see Martin lying motionless in his bed. Both his daughter and wife are next to him, watching the machines which appear to be running more smoothly now. Slowly, Martin awakes only to find that he’s just barely survived a heart attack.
Martin: What happened?
Jaime: You had a heart attack daddy. How do you feel?
Martin: Still very disoriented- I’m all right I guess. Is the doctor around?
Jaime: Yeah I think he’s somewhere outside. You want to talk to him?
Martin: Yeah pumpkin- thanks.
I’m sorry honey…I know this isn’t easy for any of us. But from now on, I’m going to try to make everything better any way I can all right?
She returns with the doctor
Hey doc…look I’m really sorry about before and all. I’m just not good at taking bad news. But I’m ready to listen now- I’ll do anything you say.
Doctor Clemmens: Well Martin, I’m glad to see that everything is more settled, but I’m afraid there’s not a whole lot we can do at this point. That’s what I was trying to tell you earlier.
Martin: Nothing? Isn’t there a drug I can take, or a treatment I could undergo? Come on doc- I do whatever it takes- no matter how long it takes, or how hard I have to work.
Doctor Clemmens: I’m sorry Martin, but there isn’t…
Martin: What about surgery? I know you guys can fix blood clots can’t you? Sure you can! I believe in you!
Doctor Clemmens: Martin, it’s just not that simple. It’s not that easy of a procedure, and even if we were to go through it, there would just be three more blood clots waiting for us when we were done.
Doctor Clemmens: I’m sorry Martin, I don’t know what else to tell you…
The doctor leaves and the family embraces as they come to the realization that Martin doesn’t have any options.
The lights are dim now. It’s night time. All in the hospital seems quiet and lifeless…except for the room of Martin Gray. As the rest of the world rests peacefully in their beds, he lies awake thinking.
Martin: …God- if you’re out there, listening, I have a favor to ask of you. Please, please help me. The doctors said there’s nothing they can do, and I’m just not ready to go yet. It’s not my time- it can’t be my time. Look, I know I haven’t been to church in a while and I know I haven’t led the most Christian of lives, but please, I beg you to help me. I’ll do anything. I’ll go to church everyday…twice a day. I’ll donate to more charities, I’ll read the bible! Just please, do what you can for me. Help the doctors find a cure, or even a treatment. Or you can even perform one of those famous miracles on me and I’ll heal overnight. I’ll do anything you ask…just please don’t let me die yet. I’m just not ready. I’m sorry for everything I’ve done. Before I go, I want to thank you for the life you have given me so far, and whatever life I may have ahead. It’d mean the world to me. Amen.
The following morning we find Martin to be in a much better mood. He sits on his bed reading a bible. The nurse comes in to bring him breakfast.
Martin: Hey thanks! Look I’m sorry if I was a bit cold yesterday when you came. I’ve just had a lot on my mind. You know how it is.
Nurse: Don’t worry about it Mr. Gray. Have a nice breakfast.
Martin: Will do! Hey, this hospital food is supposed to be really good for you right?
Nurse: Smiles. I’ll be back for your tray in a little bit Mr. Gray.
As she exits the room, his daughter enters.
Jaime: How are you feeling this morning daddy?
Martin: Doing great pumpkin. How about you?
Jaime: I’m all right. Mommy will be by a little later. She had to go take care of some things.
Martin: That’s fine. I’m really sorry about yesterday. I don’t know what came over me. I know I said some awful things, but from now on, I m going to try and make up for it OK? From now on, you’re going to see a whole new me. I m going to turn everything around. I m going to start going to church more, and donating to Good Will, and maybe I ll even clean out the garage like your mother has been asking me to do for seven years now!
Jaime: That s great daddy, and don t worry about yesterday OK? We were all a little crazy. I’m just glad to see you doing better. Is there anything that I can get for you?
Martin: No, no, thank you though. What about you? Is there anything that I get get for you? sarcastically- Or more like, get the nurse to get for you!
Jaime: Heh, no thanks dad. I m fine.
Martin: Pumpkin, can I ask you a question?
Jaime: Sure daddy, anything.
Jaime: Of course not daddy. Where did this come from?
Jaime: No daddy, you were wonderful father. I always knew you were there for me and that you loved me no matter what terrible thing I may have done.
Martin: What about to your mother? Was I a good husband to her?
Jaime: Yes! Don’t worry about that. You were the poster-child for the family man. Now quit worrying and eat!
Doctor Clemmens enters
Doctor Clemmens: Jaime, would you mind if I talked to your dad for a minute?
Martin: All right pumpkin. You have a good day. And bring the rug rats to come see their grandpa when you come by this afternoon OK?
Jaime: OK daddy. I’ll see you later. I love you.
Martin: I love you too honey.
Doctor Clemmens: Martin, I just came by to tell you that we found another small blood clot. The good news is that, they all seem to be in your lower body, so we haven’t had much concern for them affecting your brain, but I wanted to let you know.
Martin: Thanks doc.
The doctor leaves, and Martin talks softly to himself.
This is really happening…Yes you Martin. There’s nothing you can do.
He picks up the phone and dials a number.
Yeah, this is Martin Gray in room 745. Could you make sure I’m not bothered? Thanks.
Martin drops the phone and begins to cry.
Gina: Doctor Clemmes, can I speak with you a moment?
Doctor Clemmens: Absolutely Mrs. Gray, what can I do for you?
Gina: Doctor Clemmens, what’s wrong with my husband? I’m not talking about the blood clots or the heart attack. I mean, when I got here, Mary was crying and kept telling everyone to leave him alone. He’s not like that at all. The only time I’ve seen Marty cry in 47 years was at his daddy’s funeral. And he loves people. He hates being alone. He even turns on the TV when is in the house alone just to have some background noise. What’s wrong with him? Why is he acting so odd?
Doctor Clemmens: Nothing at all is wrong with him Mrs. Gray. Your husband is reacting quite normally to the situation. You see, he’s just having difficulty in dealing with the full impact of the way imminent death strikes him and he’s entered a stage of depression. His odd behavior is in no way inappropriate but is his own way to respond to the overwhelming sense of loss death represents. Usually people don’t walk around contemplating their own mortality, and the last few days have forced your husband to do just that. Recall the sense of loss you may have felt when someone close to you died. He is now going through that same thing, except it’s internal and it impacts him at a deeper level. Depression is very difficult for most people to handle. Its releases for frustration and loss in expressions of grief, such as crying, provide a means by which those in grief can admit the full impact of their loss with appropriate seriousness.
Gina: How long will he be…depressed?
Doctor Clemmens: It’s hard to say. Some people get through it in a matter of days while others deal with it for weeks. All I can tell you is that eventually it’ll pass when he finally learns to accept it.
Gina: You won’t tell him I talked to you will you? Marty would be upset if he thought I was talking to doctors behind his back.
Doctor Clemmens: Don’t worry about it Mrs. Gray. The best thing you can do right now, is let Martin know you love him no matter what.
Gina: Thank you doctor. I’ll do that, I promise.
She returns to her seat and holds her husband s hand. Doctor Clemmens scribbles something on his clipboard and exits the room. Seconds later, two toddlers (boys) run in, followed by their mother (Jaime).
Gina: Shhhhhhhhh! We don’t want to wake Pop-pop up. He’s very sick. Why don’t you guys have a seat and watch the TV quietly while Grandpa rests OK? And if you re good, Grandma will get you some ice cream later on.
The children obey happily and Jaime walks in to talk with her mother.
Jaime: How’s he doing??
Gina: Well I talked to the doctor, and he s going through a depressive state and we don t know how long it will last. The good part is, they said eventually, it will definitely pass- no matter how long it may take.
Jaime: Well maybe the kids will cheer him up. How long has he been asleep?
Gina: About an hour. I came in, and he had tears rolling down his face while he was asleep. I can wake him up though. He never usually takes naps anyhow. Honey? honey, look who’s here.
Martin: M-What? Oh- hi pumpkin.
Seeing their grandfather awake, the two toddlers jump up to his bedside to say hello.
Oh hey kids. You come to see your Pop-pop?
The children nod happily.
Well, Grandpa is pretty tired, why don’t you go outside with your mommy and Grandmother while I rest for a little while.
I don t want to be rude, but I really would like to be alone right now. I just don t feel like talking to anyone today. Could you do me a favor and tell Jaime to go ahead and go and take the kids home? I can give her a call tomorrow and I can see the kids then.
His wife, wishing there was more she could do, recalls what the doctor had said earlier that day and she leans over and kisses her husband s forehead and gently covers his hand with her own.
Gina: I love you Marty. I always will.
He turns to face her as a tear rolls down his face.
Martin: I know hon- I love you, too.
There is a minute of dead silence as the couple stares at one another crying. Martin then releases her hand and sits up.
Gina, send the rug rats in will you?
She leaves the room and returns with the small children. Martin pats both sides of the bed and smiles and the toddlers climb up and lie down beside him with the help of their grandmother.
All right now, why don’t go keep Jaime company while I entertain these two trouble makers.
She leaves, wiping the tears from her eyes.
How you kids doing? You behaving for your mother?
Martin: Good, because you know she’s going to tell me if you don’t, and you’re grandmother will have to give you a Hawaiian Punch. I heard you two are going to a picnic this weekend. Are you excited?
Kids: Yes- we had to get a birthday present but mommy wouldn’t get anything for us.
Martin: That’s OK, I’m sure she will another time. You know what I use to do when I was your age and went to picnics? I would find the biggest hill, and lie on top of it and watch the clouds. And if you lie there long enough, the clouds magically turn into things that you didn’t even know were there!
Martin: Sure! I once saw a dragon float right over my head, and then it turned into a big school bus! Boy oh boy, if only I were your age again. Let me tell you guys, make sure you savor every bit of your youth. It ll pass by more quickly then you could ever imagine. One day, you re going to look in the mirror and wonder where all the time went. That s why you have to grab it now. Enjoy life while you ve got it. Run around, play with your friends and have fun before you have to worry about bills, and mortgages, and your health! (He now forgets who his audience is as he continues. ) And when you re older, don t get a job just for the money. Make sure you enjoy what you do for a living because you ll be doing it forever. And before you even think about getting a job, go to college. Boy I tell you, if there was one thing I could do over, it would be to go to college. And don t break to many hearts, because every time you do, there ll be someone out there sometime that will do the same to you. Always remember that. All this stuff you should remember. Hey are you writing this down?
The curtain closes as martin continues to share his stories with his grandchildren. When it opens, we see him talking on the phone.
Martin: I know Casey, I just wanted to call you and let you know. You know, just in case I didn t get another chance. Oh and remember that turtle you had when we were really little? And he disappeared and mom and dad put the cat to sleep for eating him? Well what really happened was I stepped on him. I flushed him down the toilet and let the cat take the wrap. Sorry.
I love you too, sis. Say hi to James for me OK? Have a good week, bye bye.
Martin: OK now, where exactly were we? Oh! My father s gold watch. You know, it surprises me how many times we have already revised both of our wills and yet it never seems to be enough. Anyhow, what about my father’s gold watch? Which one of the rug rats should I leave that to?
Gina: Well, you’re already giving your ID bracelet to Mark, so why don’t you leave the watch to Bobby.
Gina: Well what about Jaime? We can put some in her name can’t we?
Martin: Oh definitely. And we can put the lake property in her name too. I mean, we never go there any more, and I’d like the kids to be able to go camping like we use to do with Jaime. pauses for a moment Honey? Do you think I should be buried or cremated?
Martin: You re killing me! Well, see I don’t know, if you buried me, you would always have a place to come visit, but I was cremated, you could put my urn over the fireplace or something.
Gina: Well actually, I heard that when they cremate someone, they do it with about 4 other bodies and the ashes are just divided up between the urns. I don t know if I want four different people besides you sitting on top of our fireplace.
Martin: Really? Gross. OK, it’s definitely going to be a burial then. Do you want to call the funeral home, or should I?
Gina: I can do it.
Gina: Are you kidding? It s going to be painted pink with little lacy frills all the way around it.
Martin: Yeah right! Better to stick me in a cardboard box! OK, I still need to call my cousin, and Josh. I owe the bastard $20.
Gina: What for?
Martin: Back in ‘76 I bet him he would be the first to die because he smoked so much. Guess maybe I should’ve taken up the habit huh?
Gina: Oh Marty!
The curtain closes for the last time, and we find that while Martin still isn’t completely content with the current status of his mortality, he’s learned to accept it, and has acted upon it in a positive way.
The previous one act was written in order to pass on to the audience, the emotional and psychological changes that a person goes through when dealing with loss (in this case, death). Originally, the five stages of dying were published in On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. The following are summeriztions of each stage so the reader may better understand the internal conflicts one deals with when facing death:
Denial of death because they are unable to admit to themselves that the patient might die and/or they will suffer the loss death represents;
Anger by which the pain of loss is projected onto others;
Bargaining which represents a last effort at overcoming death by “earning” longer life;
Depression when the full impact of imminent death strikes them;
Acceptance when the grieving come to grips with the fact of the patient’s death and make preparation for it.
This particular book helped to popularize a classification of the process of grief as steps or stages through which the dying and, to some extent, loved ones close to them ordinarily pass. It should be noted however, that she was not the originator of the idea. She was simply one of the first to document it. Her book has provided help to countless numbers of both health care professionals, and victims of loss. When the stages are made aware to people, they may find it easier to recognize and respond to the psychological state and needs of those in grief.
Another note made by Kubler-Ross is that one should not think of the five stages of dying as The Five Stages of Dying . It s not a specific sequence of events with set time limits or a specified order. The stage of acceptance is not a goal to be accomplished by means of the other steps. While patients tend to go through a series of stages, they may go back and forth, skip about or have periods where the stages seem to overlap, all according to their particular needs. With this in mind, it is helpful to think of grief as tending to the approximate five stages.
In the play, we find that Mr. Gray was shocked to learn of his condition. This type of situation, while not rare, is in fact uncommon. Most elderly people are very aware of their own mortality, and terminal illness does not as often come to them as a surprise. For them, the five stages may have occurred at different points previous to the illness. For example, when one comes to the realization that there are more days behind than there are ahead, they may become depressed. It s common for men around the age of forty to go through a mid-life crisis in which they deny the fact that they are getting old and try their hardest to hang on to their youth.
In conclusion, these stages reflect the needs of the dying patient and others and the devices they use to cope with them. It is most important for you to remember that the loss by death to and of the patient is probably the greatest loss those affected will ever experience. The thought or idea of death, then, will be the greatest crisis one can face. For most people, this crisis can be endured only with at least the temporary help of coping devices like those suggested by the stages.