Many people feel that they should be present at the very moment that a dying loved one draws his last breath. However, whether this is important depends on the preferences of family and loved ones. Trying to be there can be quite draining, since the exact time of death is impossible to predict. People sometimes keep up a death watch for days and finally have to get some coffee or some sleep. Often, this is when the person finally dies. Perhaps he was "waiting" or just needed to be "on his own" a little before letting go. Perhaps the timing was just chance.
Important things are rarely said just at the time of death, so it is not likely that survivors will miss hearing something important if they are not there.
On the other hand, a few patients really do and say remarkable things in the few days ahead of death: seeing people long dead, comforting family and friends, or making peace about a long-hidden failing. It is important to patient and family for these things to be shared. Thus, spending some time at the bedside is worthwhile. Families often use this time to share feelings and perspectives that do not often have the opportunity to be heard. They can begin to sort out new relationships and do some practical planning, too.
Families and patients should give instructions to caregivers in hospitals and nursing homes about who should be called, if possible, when death is close, and who should be called when the person has died.
To learn more about the book "Handbook for Mortals" click here.