Dignity – Definition
- The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect
- A sense of pride in oneself, self-respect
What do you think of when you hear the word “Dignity?” Do you imagine an old dowager with fancy pearls and servants? Maybe you visualize a war hero with a sharp uniform and metals.
What I Observed Working with The Dying
Several years ago, I worked as a clerk in a specialty care inpatient clinic and hospital. Our patients were the elderly and the terminally ill. My job was wrangling hospital forms. I had the unenviable task of collecting signatures from the dying. This was during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Naturally, there was an overabundance of fear and a serious lack of compassion for the suffering.
The meaning of Dignity became clear to me one day as I visited two AIDS patients in their hospital rooms. The first young man – in his early twenties – maintained a good attitude. He laughed and joked with his family. Though in pain, he was gracious to his care staff. This young man gave me hope.
The second young man – also in his twenties – was a bundle of screams and ugly crying. He was mean to his care staff and bitter toward his family members. I’d been around the ward long enough to have an inkling of how much pain these patients endured. I can only imagine how fear must have haunted their every moment. Both young men were close to the end of their short lives. Death was a terrifying reality.
The young men were expressing their true natures. They were both dying (painfully) of AIDS. They both had every right to rage against the disease. The first young man, however, chose Dignity. He maintained his self-respect and chose to die with courage – not just for himself. He stayed strong for his family.
It is not the circumstance that defines us, it is our reaction to adversity or fear that shows who we really are. Remember: Someone is relying upon you. They need your strength. Choose Dignity.
Be Positive. Be Happy. Be Well.