Archive for Refusing Help

How Ornery are You?

the old Up guy

The ornery old man from Pixar’s 2009 film Up.

Humans can be remarkably empathetic and compassionate.

And we can also be, especially when facing the toughest of times, so darn ornery. In Joan Halifax’s Being with Dying, she wrote,

World religions scholar Huston Smith once told the story of a well-known psychologist, an ornery old man close to death. One morning, as he was struggling to get to the toilet, a nurse tried to help him. He snapped back at her, “I can do it myself!” Then he dropped to the floor dead. Smith used this story to illustrate just how defensive about needing help we are often are. He called this reaction ‘the porcupine effect.’

I agree with Smith’s “porcupine effect,” or . . . don’t touch me! Over the years of working with those close to death (and those caring for them) I have frequently heard a variation of the phrase: how you live is how you die. That may not be as true when death happens because of a car accident or an earthquake, but still . . .

During life, some are ornery like Smith’s “well-known psychologist,” and that’s exactly what they are like as they approach death. Read More →

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In Hospice: To Bed or Not To Bed?

hospital beds

The rational reasons for using a hospital bed make a long, persuasive list. But you don’t care . . .

Who would want one?

Does anyone really like ‘em?

They have cranks and levers, wobbly wheels, and are cumbersome to move or adjust. Newer models are often complex, with silent electric motors, links for computer cables, and (though pricey) lightweight metal alloy frames.

But who seeks to be horizontal in a hospital bed of any kind? Not for overnight, and certainly not for the remainder of your life. Whenever the hospice clinical staff discusses current patients, it’s nearly inevitable that at least one patient has recently balked at shifting to a hospital bed. I view the hospital bed as one of the intimidating symbols of hospice care. Of course, it’s more than a symbol once it arrives at your home.

Wouldn’t you refuse?

We like love our bed in our bedroom. It’s a sanctuary. Don’t all the health care experts tout the value of a good night’s sleep? Whether retired, in a part-time job, or with a stressful career (along with raising kids, volunteering, and don’t forget yard and house work), doesn’t everyone desire to sleep every day? Do the personal math: we’re on a mattress more than we eat, work, play, exercise, procrastinate, shovel snow, mow a lawn, or take a vacation. Hey, for some, a little sleep is as close as they’ll get to a vacation for long stretches of time. Work is demanding. Families are demanding. At least let me escape into my cozy bed! Read More →

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I Just Want Them to Be with Me

This newborn day is where I can dare to make a difference…

When serving as a chaplain for another hospice—like hopefully all chaplains in all hospices—I never emphasized my personal faith. But then and now Christianity influences me, even as I try to remain open to learning from the various religious traditions (or lack of religion) represented by the dying patients and families that have been part of my work.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said, “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?” (Luke 13:16)

This verse from Luke is one of the places where Jesus broke the rule about not working on the Sabbath—he healed!—and was condemned by the religious authorities. Worse, he healed a . . . woman! Worse yet, the incident occurred in a synagogue. While I am a Christian pastor, I don’t think the implications of this passage are limited to Christianity or Judaism. Whether someone is Hindu, agnostic, or spends weekends worshipping a three iron while strolling along a favorite golf course, Jesus’ statement resonated with universal truth.

I’ve seen it in hospice. One of the suggestions I make to families is to let their loved one know—when it seems appropriate—that it will be all right for him or her to die. Read More →

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