Archive for Death – Page 2

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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Sauntering Along the Hospice Path

It was the pause.

The silence.

I won’t reveal details, but when I called a woman grieving her husband’s death, we talked about several things. Some were trivial. Some involved how her adult children were doing. Some concerned upcoming decisions that she faced.

Then I asked her a question.

And that pause came.

One of my responsibilities at the hospice where I work is to phone grievers after a loved one’s death. Many don’t want to talk for long, though they seem to appreciate the contact. Occasionally, the ones I call drive me batty! They answer and immediately say they can’t talk. Why? They’re at work or shopping or there’s a thousand good reasons . . . so why’d they even answer!?

However.

Could it be they simply (and understandably) don’t want to talk to the guy from hospice? They don’t want more tears falling or throat constricting. They’d rather avoid the memories that might rush in, unbidden and with the force of a typhoon. Read More →

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My First Deaths

What was your first memorable death?

As a baby boomer raised in the American suburbs, mine was a dog named Ginger. One day, my age still counted in single digits, and mostly unaware the family puppy that I named was ill, my father took Ginger to the vet. Dad returned alone.

During high school, Mom’s mother died. I loved Grandma. She and Grandpa owned a ranch, giving me—a kid raised with sidewalks and city parks—access to a magical, wonderful realm. My most vivid childhood memories included cattle roaming vast fields, skipping rocks in the year-round creek meandering through their land, and exploring an immense walnut orchard that seemed equally mysterious and dangerous.

Following a surgery—as I inaccurately recall—health worsened for my sweet, energetic Grandma. My mother (and her siblings) would drive the two hours to the ranch, taking care of their mother. They witnessed Grandma’s decline. I did not. In the peculiar, fractured way of memories, Grandma went from happily digging in her purse for coins to buy the mud pies my older sister and I made (yup, literally dirt and water mixed in a borrowed pie tin) . . . to being dead. I don’t recall her dying. I have a hazy recollection of trooping across a cemetery, flanked by my parents, to and from Grandma’s grave.

Back then I was a shy high school nerd. How could I know that my mother’s world was rocked to the core? Read More →

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