Being with those who are dying is a most rewarding experience -- an act of love.
To be means to exist, to live. Being there is to live with one's full presence in the present. To be with someone is to be silent inside and to be in rapport.
The verb "die" comes from the Indo-European base dhue-, which means to pass away, become senseless. Dying is a natural part of living. Dying is the personal experience of the being letting go of its physical body.
Don't desert. In being there with the patient be open, simple and in the present. Listen with your heart, not your mind. There's often anger, denial and fear before acceptance of the inevitable.
Don't try to fix the pain. The key to dying is allowing oneself to relax. Embracing our natural fears of the unknown with acceptance and joy brings one through difficult moments expanding our capacity to surrender and let go.
Permit the terminal patient to remember their essential being. The attention is designed to carry through the transitions of death and birth. The state between death and birth for which our western culture has no words becomes visible to the terminal patient as passage approaches.
Be sincere and constant. Being honest and speaking directly to the being helps maintain their connection to the purity and strength of their being, enabling them to meet passage with serenity.
Be a terminal midwife. The experience between death and birth carries with it forgetfulness and ego disintegration. Someone who is not experienced at remaining attentive through death may feel very disoriented. Being there as a midwife is an act of compassion toward the being, assisting them in remaining as conscious as possible through the ensuing unsettling transition.
"This is really the book I didn't want to write...It wasn't until 1974 that I discovered that this teaching had been neglected completely, and then finally lost, in the western world." (from the author's introduction to the American Book of the Dead, by E.J. Gold)
The readings from the American Book of the Dead for the being are the direct teachings of the guides - you may think of them as teachers, sufis, arhats or bodhisattvas - and the instructions have been rendered into modern American English.
It isn't necessary to understand the readings. Shortly before transition as well as passing through, the being has an all embracing clarity of vision and understanding. The reading will reach the part of the person that's actually passing into the macrodimensional domains and in that state understanding comes naturally.
There are observable indications that transition and/or passage is near at hand:
In a culture which has a taboo against even knowing about death, relaxing into a peaceful attentive passage takes the help of a dedicated guide. A dedicated guide can be anyone who cares enough to assist a loved one or even a stranger through transition.
To use The American Book of the Dead is a small effort to help the being not resist or be distracted by the perceptions, sensations, and cognitions that dawn upon one when going through transition.
To guide and concentrate a being's attention on recognizing their true essential nature is an experience you will cherish and remember your whole life and beyond.