They say hearing is the last sense to go, so choose carefully
So many people have died recently because of COVID-19 and most would have died alone. What was the last thing they heard before they passed, I wonder?
The sterile sounds of medical equipment alarms and beeps are likely the last sounds they heard. Perhaps the reassurances and a few kind words from nurses and doctor's right before their intubation? Not ideal. Not altogether soothing either, I would imagine.
When I envision myself in their bedsheets, I’m terrified and sad. So it’s got me thinking about what sounds I’d like to hear right before I pass away. I’m fine, by the way. COVID free and healthy — as far as I know.
“Unnecessary noise is the cruelest absence of care.” — Florence Nightingale
Sen spent some time in the hospital while sick herself, and during that time felt accosted by unpleasant sounds. She describes the experience as terrifying, but later it motivated her to change the experience for others.
“Sound is largely ignored in healthcare — even though the aesthetics of it could have a great impact on our sense of wellbeing — and a sense of dignity.” — Yoko Sen
Ms. Sen created the Sound Will Project back in 2016. She simply asked the same question I asked in my title. What is the last sound you wish to hear at the end of your life?
At the time of this writing, 63 people responded. Here are a few of my favourites:
Surf. Gentle, regular intervals. Occasional sea birds. Maybe a dog barking, a kid laughing. — Robert Valenti
Ashana’s “Ave Maria” or any other type of beautiful music (Sarah Brightman also comes to mind.) — Andrea Kamenca
The sound of flappy ears that happens when a puppy or a cat shakes its head hard always makes me smile, and smiling would be a good way to go. — Re
The mixture of familiar voices, muffled or not, that I’ve loved through my life, you know, friends or family, and then some music I love… and then, the sound of laughter. That would be awesome. — Nicolas
My choice would be the sound of a two-year-old child laughing. I love the unbridled joy of that sound. — Mike Diaz
The sound of wind whispering through the trees… — Mina
The sound of horses chewing. — Mar Kilani
Anything with guitar strings and fire crackling — Bobby
The last sound I want to hear is, “Hey y’all watch this!”. — Jack Whelan
After pondering the question myself, I realize what I want to hear is life. If I’m about to lose life itself, then I want to hear the sounds from the best of this life. And the best of life, for me, is a combination of everything that I’ve loved during my time on earth. So, for my last sounds before I die, I choose the sounds of —
The natural world — bird song, a cat purring, water gurgling over the rocks in a stream, the sound of my dogs tail wagging against my leg, waves lapping the shore, baby giggles, the voices of my loved ones in their most joyful moments, and sweet, uplifting music.
The combination of those sounds would be much, much better than the raucous sounds heard on most hospital floors. I don’t want to slip from this world feeling afraid or stressed out by noise pollution. I’d rather have the beautiful sounds of the things I’ve loved in this world ring in my ears before slowly fading away to silence.
This has nothing to do with the act of dying itself, it’s more about getting the best out of our final sound-conscious moments and the many moments leading up to our last. Which brings me to my next thought.
Why don’t we fill our ears with these sweet sounds now? How about searching out the sounds we enjoy and turning off the ones we don’t? They make great headphones these days, right? We might choose lovely music over the sound of chaos instead.
I know it’s not always appropriate to shut out unpleasant sounds. Putting noise cancelling headphones over our ears so we can’t hear the other side of an argument, for example, may not be a good idea.
And what about the idea of really listening? To nature. To science. To each other. The world seems exceptionally noisy right now, with everyone speaking over everyone else while we each keep raising our voices to be heard.
Shhh. Let’s take a moment and get quiet first. Now, what are you really saying?
Starting now, I plan to search for pleasant sounds to add to my memory bank. Maybe even record them so I can compile my favourite sounds to play on repeat during my last days. Does that sound morose? I don’t mean to, I just like to get ahead of things.
What are the sounds you love enough to want to hear right before you pass away?