Hope is a Hospice Thing

Shawshank

“Hope is a dangerous thing . . .”

My obvious hope on this website is to inform people about hospice.

I speak personally. A hospice cared for Dad. My mother, though never a hospice patient, received feedback from a hospice nurse that proved crucial to my family’s decisions. (We also “rejected” another hospice because their admitting nurse was—being polite—a poor listener.)

I speak professionally from my past. On numerous occasions, visiting hospice patients as their chaplain or pastor, I witnessed the importance of quiet time with loved ones in the final days. As hard as it was to admit, one more round of chemotherapy or another frantic trip to the emergency room would only put off the inevitable for a brief, painful time. Wasn’t it better to remain home?

I speak professionally from my present position in bereavement support. On numerous occasions, grievers have shared with me how helping a dying spouse—or other beloved family and friends—represented a way to honor that relationship. They learned about their unexpected strength and compassion as they focused on being a caregiver.

I also try to speak realistically about hospice and mortality. Modern medication, fervent prayers, high-tech treatments, and the skilled hands of a surgeon may lead to remission or even complete cures . . .

But do you think your ill friend or family member is somehow immortal?

Do you think you are? Read More →

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Come and See Grammy!

couch

And he takes my hand and leads me back to the couch . . .

Come and see Grammy! She scared me at first, but then I think Grammy wants me to come sit by her.

This was a request from a nearly four-year-old grandson. In a church I served as an interim pastor, I visited a man whose wife had died. Temporarily helping the congregation for several months, I didn’t know him well and had never met his wife. Well, I had “met” her in a hospital’s intensive care unit. In her mid-seventies, she had a series of unexpected health emergencies that far too quickly led to her death. I had also done her funeral.

Preparing for the service, I learned about her from friends and family. A devoted wife. A loving mother. The go-to Grammy for favorite desserts and spur-of-the-moment babysitting needs. She had raised her kids, gotten a teaching credential, taught for two decades, and badgered her husband until he took her to Paris after both had retired. They had a thousand more plans.

None of those plans included her death.

I went to see her husband. Read More →

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What Would You Choose?

walking

They couldn’t imagine being with anyone else.

We shook hands as I entered his home.

“Went to see the doctor yesterday,” he said.

Which I knew. This was years ago and he had told me the prior Sunday at church that he was going to see a recommended physician. An oncologist. As his pastor, I was visiting to see how things had gone, and to provide support.

“The doc was an okay guy. Didn’t ya think so, honey?”

Honey was his seventy-something significant other. Both had been married before. Both had gone through the deaths of spouses they loved. Both had told me, when I arrived a year before as their new minister, that they were sorry they weren’t legally hitched, but getting married might mean losing some retirement benefits. They couldn’t imagine being with anyone else.

“We just shack-up together,” he had said with a shrug and grin. She—his honey—rolled her eyes.

He had been in combat in Korea. Didn’t talk about it. She loved to chat about her grandkids. They owned a tidy modular home in a retirement “village,” pinched their proverbial pennies, and clearly adored each other.

Now he had cancer.

“Got me a little issue with bad tissue,” he joked.

In their cramped kitchen area, with a view of the vegetable garden she tended, he told me what kind of cancer it was, and then what the oncologist had explained. Read More →

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