Archive for Dying

Hospice & 3 Guys: Guy Dying

Guy Dying

Three guys.

They didn’t know each other, and they only knew me in the briefest and most problematic of days.

One Was Dying. Another was Near Death. The third was During Grief.

I think of them now, years—and decades—later, equally grateful and humbled for what I learned while spending time with them. As always, I will try to change a little or a lot of their story to disguise each guy’s true identity.

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Guy Dying . . .

Long ago, I was his hospice chaplain, randomly assigned by my supervisor to be part of his hospice care “team.” Guy Dying had COPD. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is an inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow. It can make breathing increasingly difficult. Be rude, and call it an old smoker’s illness. Be reasonable and acknowledge that with our guaranteed weaknesses as aging humans—often living or working in places with poor air quality, and that from birth until the day you die your lungs never cease working—COPD doesn’t care if you smoked two packs a day or never touched a cigarette. Read More →

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My New Four-Letter Words

Words Matter

As much as my words could be labeled as platitudes or clichés, they are heartfelt . . .

There are two four-letter words that I have usually said at the close of a conversation with someone grieving: Take care. In recent weeks, I have added two “new” four-letter words because of the microscopic onslaught of Covid-19: Stay safe.

There are additional slightly longer or shorter words that are included in my predictable, simplistic responses when trying to support those hurting after the death of a loved one:

  • How are you doing?
  • Is this a good time to talk?
  • Can I call you again?
  • Your (crying, not crying, eating, not eating, silence, worries, lack of concentration, weariness, plunging back into work) seems normal.

As much as my words could be labeled as platitudes or clichés, they are heartfelt. At the end of a phone call to a griever, a few weeks or months after the death, I say the Take care like it is a prayer. I indeed mean it as a prayer, as a spoken and shared hope for their future. And I don’t mean the future of years, but the future of a griever’s next moments and hours. When we grieve, time skids out of our control, like a car losing traction on a road’s black ice. Time slows. Time accelerates. A minute takes an hour. A day can whoosh by and we can’t recall anything accomplished between waking and returning to bed. My Take care is about treading lightly into the next moments. It’s about acknowledging a world that has temporarily lost color, meaning, clarity, purpose, plans, and so many other things that seemed “easy” a day or decade ago. Read More →

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Hospice and a Lingering Pandemic

Sheltering during virus

The essay with the most comments on this website was written in May 2016, almost four years ago. There were immediate responses to the article when it was first posted. More readers have added their thoughts in each passing year. I felt it essential to include a version of that “popular” article as a chapter in my 2019 A Companion for the Hospice Journey book.

It was on lingering death.

It was about those deaths that take more time than anyone—the medical professionals and the caregivers—ever expected or predicted.

We in hospice inform families that our comfort care is for those who have been given six months or less to live. That is a hard message to properly convey! When hearing from their doctor, or perhaps a hospice nurse who is the first to explain about the comfort care vs. cure services, there are families unable to comprehend the “six months” part. Maybe they are foolishly optimistic, or maybe they are dumbfounded by the new and terrible diagnosis, but some families are convinced their dying beloved will “graduate” from hospice care. Why, six months from now, won’t their spouse or parent beat the disease and return to . . . normal?

Normal? Read More →

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