Palliative Care and the Concept of Time

Rian Venter, palliative nurse specialist and CEO of hospice in Gauteng, speaks about the changing concept of time in a person who has been told he/she is dying.

‘Your time concept changes completely,’ he says. ‘because there really isn’t any other time except now, except here. Nothing else. And you can talk about this, you can go on weekend retreats where you pay thousands of rands to be told these things and you can know it very well theoretically, but you don’t really know it.’

‘I had an old man here not so long ago, sitting between his wife and his daughter. He was so fearful. He had been through so much pain, so many tests. I spoke to him and suddenly the penny dropped and his whole demeanour changed. He obviously got into the now, where he stayed until he died…now that is a wonderful death.’  (Sunday Times)

It is possible to understand two perceptions of time before we are dying.  

‘Time appears to be a succession of moments that lead from birth to death, for example, or from spring through summer, autumn, winter and back to spring again. Each day and night present themselves as a period of 24 hours that pass so precisely that we have invented clocks to measure out the day and night accordingly. This does afford our lives some structure and there are times to get up, eat meals, go to work and so on. This kind of time may be refered to as passing time. Passing time gives us some sense of control over our lives (although in reality this is extremely tenuous), and is useful  in our day-to-day living, but is ultimately a delusion.’

In truth, there is only this moment, ever. We can never exist in the moments that have passed and only imagine existence in moments to come. So Now is the eternal moment, the point of stillness. In describing an exceptional moment we use the expression, ‘time stood still’. What we mean is that when we are completely in the Now, there is no consciousness of passing time; it becomes irrelevant. When we are totally engrossed in something, we say that ‘time flies’. When we are living in the Now, passing time ceases to exist; or becomes irrelevant.’ (Chapter 8: The Delusion of Time: See Below for book ref.) 

“Appreciate now so that the next hour and the next year don’t slip away unnoticed. Every moment matters.”  Oprah

Remember to be kind and gentle with yourself.

The full book can be downloaded as an e-book from Amazon on  or, Search by typing in: Living in the Now by Jill Jacques


About Jill M Jacques

I grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa, and have spent most of my life here doing the usual things - marrying, having children and caring for an array of pets ranging from dogs to silkworms and chameleons. I first became interested in philosphy and its practical application in everyday life in my early 20s and spent many years as part of a group that pursued this goal. Drawing on this experience, I have been running "How to live in the Now" programmes for over 10 years. I wrote this book in response to requests from group members for something "simple and practical". I tend to see the funny side of life situations and enjoy writing humorous back pages as well as short stories and some poetry. Some of these have been published. Being here now is what really matters.
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One Response to Palliative Care and the Concept of Time

  1. Michael56j says:

    A poignant reminder. Thank you.

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