The people who are willing to work or volunteer at hospice centers are among saints on Earth. Dr. B.J. Miller is one of those good souls. He serves as a physician at the University of California, San Francisco, where he works with terminally ill patients and tries to help them during the final chapters in their lives. Dr. Miller has to face some of life’s most challenging moments and help the families of these patients deal with the inevitable deaths of their loved ones, which is not an easy task for anyone to complete.
Dr. Miller survived a freak accident when he was attending college back in 1990. The accident left him without three limbs. Because he is missing those limbs, he requires prosthetics to get around and to do the work he does every day. But not a moment goes by that he does not feel the miracle of life everywhere around him. Because of this near-death experience, Dr. Miller wanted to help other people who were nearing the ends of their lives. That’s why he has dedicated his life to serving terminally ill patients in palliative care.
Dr. Miller has been present with countless patients in the moments when they transition from life to death. That’s why he was invited to sit down and speak with Oprah, the billionaire media mogul, and speak about that precious moment. Dr. Miller took the opportunity to describe what he has seen in his patients at the moment directly following their death. And he is proud to talk about the moment of transition that he has witnessed occurring around their bodies.
“I’ve been around folks who,” he said, pausing. “I’ll be sitting there talking with their family, and we’re having a conversation, and the person dies in the middle of a conversation. It’s just, they were here, and now they’re gone.”
Dr. Miller has seen so much throughout his career that he wants other people to understand it. The more people are able to confront the inevitability of their deaths, the more they’re able to glean from their current circumstances in life. By recognizing how precious each moment is, we can seize it and squeeze as much value from it as possible.
During an interview for the university’s website, he said that “love matters.” When he’s sharing his most important lessons with families of dying family members, he encourages them to follow this advice:
“In a nutshell, probably the biggest takeaway is that love matters. I call it the beautiful deathbed test: When a person watches their life come to a close, everything else falls away, and it turns out that something as easy as love is so often the only thing that matters.”
Despite being with so many patients who have died, he has no clue what comes next.
“It’s a big fat mystery. It’s tempting to think that I’m more prepared for death because of my field. But when I’m standing at the edge of my own horizon, who knows what I’ll feel. I have no idea what’s coming, and I find that exciting, rather than scary.”
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