Grief Remembers: Shadowing the Bear

Together, while others dozed in tents, three of us shadowed a bear.

This is not about hospice.

Except that it is.

In part, this is a remembrance of Richard—his real name, because I wish to honor his memory—who died following an accident in Mexico with college friends.

I will never forget visiting his parents soon after they heard the worst news of their lives.

Richard and his friends were around twenty, visiting Mexico for fun in the sun. They were kids. They were serious students. All happily lived in the moment, excited or nervous or both about their futures. Then came the accident. The one with the most injuries in the vehicular collision was Richard. But they all walked away, quickly making a decision that may or may not have been the right one. And please, read the truth of those words: they may or may not have made a good decision. Hindsight is cruel. Second-guessing sours even our most reasonable thoughts.

Should they have gone to a hospital immediately after the accident?

Should they have hurried to get across the border to the United States?

Who knows? Who knows? Read More →

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World’s Best Pie and a Perfect Death

At a weekly hospice patient care meeting, the medical director shared about a patient longing for one last overnight trip to the family’s mountain cabin. The drive would take a couple of hours from his home to the place the patient’s grandfather had built before World War II.

“I’d like to sit on the front porch again,” the patient had said. “In the early morning, you can always see deer grazing on their way to the lake.” The patient then added, “And there’s a diner not too far away with the world’s best berry pie. I’d like to share a slice with my Annie for old time’s sake.”

Annie was his wife of five decades.

“Would it be okay if we go?” Read More →

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On Guns and Hospice: Is Everyone Safe?

“Is it safe?”

That was the riveting question repeatedly asked in the 1976 film Marathon Man. During a grim and crucial scene, Sir Laurence Olivier’s menacing character demanded—as he wielded dental equipment in the worst way—to know if what he planned to do could be safely accomplished.

“Is it safe?”

Dustin Hoffman’s “innocent man” paid an excruciating price for every hesitation, every uncertainty.

I sometimes think of that scene when one of our hospice’s social workers announces that a patient’s house is safe. When we talk about a new patient entering hospice care, the question about safety must be asked and answered.

Which is to say, are there are any guns in the home? Read More →

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