Introduction: Who This Book Is For
The book on hospice is for no one.
[See my note at end, please]
No one wants to die.
No one wants a loved one to die.
No one wants to grieve a death.
No one wants to talk about hospice.
Are you no one? If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you’ve taken a reluctant step toward admitting that it’s time to consider dying, death, or grief.
You didn’t plan to get cancer, but once you learned about the diagnosis, you planned to battle and beat it. Now your oncologist has suggested hospice, to shift from curing the disease to creating quality of life in the final season of life. No one plans for that suggestion.
Since your spouse never smoked, and usually made the right choices about eating and exercise, it’s unfair that she has had to deal with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Nonetheless, for years she successfully managed her illness with medication. Until now. And now both of you are waiting for the person from hospice to arrive to explain the benefits.
Your father survived the war, built a business, and raised your family. Everybody knows him as a good man of few words, but if he makes a promise, he keeps the promise. You never imagined the strongest man you’ve ever known would have to move to a skilled nursing facility. You never imagined that as his heart slowly, slowly failed, that he would become as helpless as a newborn. Even though your father’s doctor told you to call hospice, wouldn’t that be giving up?
It’s not fair that your grandmother, the cheerleader in your family about you seeking a college education, can no longer dress herself. Every time you remind her that her husband of over sixty years died two summers ago, she weeps as if hearing it for the first time. How can dementia rob so much from the most vibrant person you’ve ever met? Your grandmother’s doctor—with her too perfect hairstyle and lousy bedside manor—has suggested hospice should be called for an evaluation. No matter how hard you try, you can’t picture yourself inviting strangers from hospice to help honor your grandmother’s long-ago wish: to die at home.
Your spouse died three months, two weeks, and five days ago, but you’re doing okay. Before he died, you’d both reviewed the insurance and pension plan. Everything was in order. After the funeral, you created and then whittled away at the to-do lists, from canceling credit cards to paying bills. Day after day, week after week, there was a flurry of activity. People stopped by and left food; the out-of-town siblings called on weekends; the pastor (or rabbi or imam) always found you at your place of worship to say hello before you escaped to the parking lot. Now, though, alone at the kitchen table, there’s not much to be done. The house—no apologies for an obvious analogy—seems as silent as a tomb. Except for the sound of weeping. Your weeping. You recall, from a talk show or sermon, hearing the C.S. Lewis quote, “No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.” If you’d doubted it then, you don’t now.
Dying. Death. Grief.
Dread. Finality. Fear.
No one expects to or wants to face these decisions and situations.
But most will.
This is a brief book about hospice, about what you don’t want to read or talk about. It’s not for everyone, but it may be for you. Perhaps, with minimal enthusiasm and maximum foot-dragging, you’ll allow me to be one of your companions on a journey no one wants to take and that everyone will face.
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I have intentionally kept this modest little book . . . modest and little. It’s about 100* pages in length. If you want to learn about hospice, or you’re in the midst of hospice care, who has the time or energy for detailed reading? On your best days, you probably have the attention span of a two-months-old puppy.
The first section is written as letters to those considering hospice care. Whether your “consideration” of hospice is to avoid the subject of dying, or your experience with hospice has now involved the death of a beloved and the next scary steps of life, one of my “letters” may be of some help.
The next sections include chapters on dying, death, and grief.
If you want to know about me, the final chapter has a few quick thoughts about my background. It also has my email address. I answer my mail.
I hope this book is a “companion” that prompts meaningful conversations between loved ones, along with sharing useful information. If anything I say makes a positive difference for “you,” that’s a blessing for both of us.
*In a sense, this book has less than 100 pages. If you want to learn a little about hospice because a loved one has been told he or she has six months or less to live, or you’re struggling with grief, just pick the section that relates to your needs. When dying, death, or grief are part of your life, who can concentrate on any more than a few (hopefully) helpful words?
NOTE – I need a favor! I’m working on a book about hospice. This post is a draft of the introduction for my possible “Companion for the Hospice Journey.” I would appreciate comments from you about two things:
Is this introduction a compelling “invite” for a someone searching for a resource on hospice?
What do you think should be included in a simple book designed to help a person not familiar with hospice or who is suspicious about hospice?