This chapter focuses on the way my participants conveyed their understandings and experiences of a loved one’s dying moments. In so doing, it considers the sociological significance of an experience that has been largely overlooked in relation to the way that contemporary British society approaches death and bereavement. It illustrates how, in a medicalised context, which emphasises the biological nature of dying, for some of my participants their loved ones’ dying moments represented gestures of leave-taking, in which elements lost to the medical discourse, but vital to making sense of mortality, were recovered. These elements include the spiritual, humanistic, social and emotional aspects of the dying experience. The way in which these moments were recalled emphasised the dying individual’s continuing or recovered agency and personhood, in some cases to include an ‘enhanced aliveness’ at the point of death and the sacred, intimate, emotional and social nature of the occasion. Such emphasis points to a resurgence and reformulation of the ‘sacred good death’ and a contemporary Ars Moriendi, as Pat’s words so poignantly represented:
But she was lying there in bed, you know and her eyes were open, big smile on her face and she kind of gestured for me to come over and I sat down next to her and – I was weeping and she put her hand on my cheek and she just looked at me, wiped a tear away and died – like that – with her hand on my cheek you know.