Detachment.I have watched many, many people die, but only in a professional capacity.
Still, it is hard to remain removed from the situation entirely, especially when it' has been your decision to let nature take its course, to no longer attempt to wrestle a person back from the edge of oblivion.
Death has slipped away from modern civilisation. Most of us are deeply afraid of death; the intimate relationship that people once had with the reality of their own end is now lost. Death has lost its place in the home - the dying itself is frequently done in hospitals or nursing homes, and the body is secured away into the bowels of the morgue.
You watch enough deaths, and it's readily apparent that death is not a single entity -as with life and as with birth, there is a spectrum. The abrupt deaths that are over and done with before anyone has a chance to even arrive, the deaths of years long vigil that culminate in a phone call deep into the night, and the death that comes and goes, teetering on the precipe balanced by by skill, luck, technology and desperation.
With practice, it becomes easier to decide when it's time that someone be let go, but an easier decision does not mean the consequences are any easier, even when the choice is obvious. Perhaps it's because the largest part of the process is guiding the living that remain behind to a place to meet that final point, death. Or perhaps it's because it takes what strength remains to banish any thought of doubt from your mind. No decision so final can ever be tarnished with second thoughts, not till the day is out.
As for the physical act of letting someone's life literally slip from beneath your hands, it is a surprisingly unremarkable experience. In one moment, you are thrusting downwards trying to squeeze life back into the ever colder body, and the next, you simply are not doing anything any more. It's done. Death is often merely a matter of inaction, take your palms to your sides, unfold the jarring levers of your arms and shift onwards.
Until Western civilisation relearns the art of dying, it is not a way of life that can last; surely it is as incomplete as the plaintive wish for immortality that is the core of its immaturity.