MICHAEL BARBATO has been in medical practice for more than 40 years and has been a palliative care physician for over 20 years.
During this time he has directed several palliative care services within NSW and the ACT and has held the positions of Medical Director at the Sacred Heart Hospice, Darlinghurst, NSW and the Palliative Care Unit at St Joseph’s Hospital, Auburn, NSW and was Director of Palliative Care for the ACT Canberra.
He retired in late 2008 and now runs courses on Death and Dying for professional and community groups and continues hands on palliative care with locum work in remote parts of Australia. He has a long-standing interest in unusual experiences around the time of death.
“Dying, more than any other life event, presents us with the opportunity to grow, to change, to love, to appreciate and ultimately to experience the meaning of our existence. Our death is the completion of our life’s mission. The setting sun may have lost much of its early brightness but this has unexpected rewards for it can, often for the first time, be clearly seen. It seems paradoxical, but truth and the mystery of ‘Who am I?’ are revealed in the final moments of our life.”
– excerpt from “Reflections Of A Setting Sun”
“There is an enormous body of knowledge and literature about death. Of the many messages that come through, none stands out more than the words of Scott Peck: ‘When we shy away from death, the ever changing nature of things, we inevitably shy away from life.’ This reinforces the strong, close relationship between life and death, a relationship that has always existed but is increasingly neglected or denied in a world that attempts to redefine life at the expense of death. There can be no life without death or death without life – together they complete the cycle of life. Not surprisingly, then, preparing for death teaches us about life and helps us to lead a more fulfilling life. Laying claim to the fact that we will all one day die is what makes life as valuable as any treasure, and death the treasure chest that contains it.
Dying is one of the most important times in a person’s life. Preparing for it means leading a full and good life, as best we can. To reflect on this life as it draws to an end is what brings completion. To relive all that has been beautiful or painful, to talk about relationships that have been replenishing and those that need healing, to face our beasts, to speak of the people we love and to remember the wondrous things that have filled our life. The most peaceful people I have seen die were those who, like Steve, had time to do all these things. Their life cycle was complete and, to quote Goethe, ‘like all things ripe, were ready to die’.
If we can accept death as part of life, not just as the end to life, living and dying become inseparable. Rather than a shadow that hovers over life, death becomes the light that illuminates life.”
– excerpt from “Caring for the living and the dying”