Archive for Dying

Words Used in Hospice I’d Like to Delete

winding paths

The scene below is complete fiction . . . (Except families face similar situations every day.)

The phone rang before he had sampled the morning’s first cup of coffee. Given the daily flood of robocalls, wrong numbers, and solicitations for money or opinions, he thought about ignoring it. Out of habit, he glanced at the caller ID.

His sister, phoning before dawn on the other side of the country.

He answered, knowing even before she spoke her first halting, gasping, tearful words that their father—the “old man,” the cranky veteran of two wars, and the guy who had not disturbed his wife’s side of the closet a decade after her death—had taken a turn for the worse.

“You better come,” she said. “I think he’s dying.”

Within the hour, he’d called his boss and rearranged his schedule. He bought credit-card-exploding plane tickets and kissed his wife and kids goodbye. Finally settled into a lousy middle chair in a row of three seats near the back of the plane, several thoughts dominated his mind.

Maybe I can get closure.

And then the family can get back to normal.

I hope this will be over soon. Read More →

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With Hospice, Maybe Tomorrow Should Be Today

Scarlett O'Hara

My mother loved Gone With the Wind.

As a teen, she may have first seen it in 1939, the year it premiered. Much, much later, I watched it with Mom on television. Though I’m not a fan of the famous, sprawling film, who can forget the closing moment?

“Oh, I can’t think about this now! I’ll go crazy if I do! I’ll think about it tomorrow. But I must think about it. I must think about it. What is there to do? What is there that matters? Tara! Home. I’ll go home. And I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day.”

The music swelled, and soon the final credits rolled as—viewers may forever assume—the clever Scarlett O’Hara schemed to rebuild Tara and perhaps get Rhett back and, well, keep living like there were 10,000 tomorrows.

Which finally leads me to ask: what’s your excuse for avoiding hospice? Read More →

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Death, Slowly but Suddenly

While solo climbing the Matterhorn, Eric fell…

My father’s dying spanned a decade. Though not on his death certificate, Dad died from dementia. His decline seemed like a daily drop of water filling a bathtub.

My mother’s dying occurred in the hottest stretch of a singular summer. There was a clenched fistful of weeks from diagnosis to death. Though not on her death certificate, Mom died because of an opportunistic, savage cancer. But her rapid decline also unfolded like a film stuck in slow motion. A solitary hour of holding her hand in intensive care could feel like a week.

Then, in the midst of their dying, the phone rang. It rang while I wished my father’s cruel dementia would please, please, please be over. It rang while I longingly, lovingly prayed for an impossible miracle to spare Mom more pain.

In one call, my older sister informed me Dad had died. In the other, a year-and-a-half later, a nurse spoke on a phone down the hallway from Mom’s hospital room to tell me about the death.

For all the differences in their dying, and in their diseases and our decisions about care, one of my first thoughts after twice placing the phone back on the cradle was . . .

Dad’s death was sudden.

Mom’s death was sudden.

How often does death feel like that? Read More →

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