Archive for Home

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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You’ll Accompany Me

BSE45854He was at home.

He was with his family.

His wife, who he said he loved more than life itself, sat by his side.

He had a good death.

Because he enjoyed rock and roll, a lot of music played during his final days at home. Several years from turning fifty, he was young. In those last moments, in those last breaths, there was one particular song that . . .

But I’m getting ahead of the story. It’s a story with a sad ending because a young man dies. It’s also a story with a good enough ending, because of those four opening sentences. How I wish everyone’s death (old or young, rich or poor) had some version of those simple, blessed opening sentences. That won’t happen. Some deaths are hard. Some deaths strip a person or family from any opportunity to prepare or plan. Sometimes we deny impending death and then find ourselves grieving not just the person, but our own blindness or stubbornness. Read More →

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Home Was Also Here

When I was a hospice chaplain . . .

The city hall in Cernovcy, Ukraine

The city hall in Cernovcy, Ukraine

I wanted to know where my patient was from so I brought a world atlas. He spoke only Russian; I spoke only English. Both of us were ministers. With his daughters translating, and an atlas to point fingers at, I hoped we could find the Ukrainian town where he’d been born and raised.

And we did. There, in the map’s tiny black print, we spotted Cernovcy. At the southern edge of the Carpathian Mountains and above the Romanian border, Cernovcy appeared to be halfway between Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine, and Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Two years ago, he had left that dot on the map to come to Fresno. He had left home, but home was also here. Here, where his daughters laughed as I spoke my only Russian word: “Da!” Here, where his wife silently smiled at my questions.

Here, where he was dying from cancer.

Here, where he was, even more, living with cancer. Read More →

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