Archive for Death

12 Suggestions for Talking to Kids about Death

A patient asked his hospice nurse, “How can I tell my kid that I’m dying?”

And the nurse later asked me.

It’s a scary question for parents and grandparents when they enter hospice care and have “six months or less to live.”

Before attempting answers, there are several good reasons to question my responses.

First, I don’t have children. I’ll never tell my own kid that I am dying. Second, I’m not an expert, but do have experience. A minister, I’ve supported families during the time of dying and grieving. Right now, in hospice, I work in bereavement support.

Now you’re aware of my advice-giver flaws! However, with conversations involving parents, kids, and dying, being open about your weaknesses (and not forgetting your strengths) is important. Read More →

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On the Wings of a Dove

Where do you want to be buried?

Please, bury me in a wild place. Scatter my ashes so that a wandering human or animal won’t notice any differences in the place where my remains have mixed with the earth.

I recall thinking those wild musings while searching for graves at a local cemetery. This cemetery saunter was a few years ago, when I was serving as a church’s pastor.

Why was I exploring a “stone garden?” Back in the 1930s, a certain Jane Q. Smith (not her real name) had given three cemetery plots to her church. Since the transfer of ownership occurred in the Great Depression, was it a valiant effort by the dearly departed Ms. Smith to boost church finances? Or was she dumping all of her rotten husband’s assets during a humiliating divorce? Who knew? Read More →

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Hospice: Apt or Likely to Change

“However,” the hospice nurse continued while describing a patient, “right now she is very labile.”

Huh?

As the nurse shared additional information about the patient to the rest of the hospice team, my feeble mind wandered. I like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable about words. I keep my dictionary near my desk. I pay attention to new words in the books I read. Searching for word meanings and histories on the web may give me as much pleasure as when a pitcher throws a strikeout or an attorney finds the key witness for a case. But I had no idea what labile meant.

Later (of course!), I looked it up. It’s pronounced Lay-Bile. According to an online dictionary, it means . . .

  1. Apt or likely to change.
  2. Chemistry. (of a compound) capable of changing state or becoming inactive when subjected to heat or radiation.

Now I understood that the nurse’s patient was rapidly changing. Maybe the patient had been able to walk not long before but had become bed bound. Maybe yesterday or last week, she’d been preparing her own meals, but now required assistance. Maybe pain had dramatically increased and additional medications would need to be considered.

In hospice, change happens frequently and quickly. In other words, patients are labile, and rarely by choice. Read More →

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