Archive for Talking About Dying

Do You Have a Moment?

one minute

Gotta minute?

In 2017, the life expectancy for an “average” American was 78 years. Simple multiplication means that the annual total of 525,600 minutes accumulates to 40,996,800 lifetime minutes.

In a minute, everything can change.

In hospice, every moment is precious.

How many minutes are wasted on worries that prove meaningless, or speaking meaningless (but hurtful) words we regret, or regretting decisions that meant there was less time with loved ones?

How many singular, wonderful moments become like doors into rooms decorated with experiences that will be treasured for the remainder of life? Read More →

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Hospice is a Foreign Language


It’s nearly impossible to hear and retain information about hospice care when a loved one enters the final stages of life. Whether a years-long struggle with heart disease or a cancer diagnosis and weeks to live, most have never considered hospice’s options and limits.

Of course, they haven’t! But then:

With honest conversations and tenderness, a family decides hospice is the best choice.

Or . . .

Staggered by panic and desperate to get a loved one out of the hospital, hospice seems like the awful but only possibility.

Or . . .

In denial until doctors say there is “nothing more to do,” a family continues to not talk about dying or death as their beloved enters into hospice care.

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No Perfect Words

Speak Truth

For many future hospice patients, there is a time when life is about to change. And someone needs to say something . . .

A doctor leans forward in her chair. For no reason—other than doing one more thing to avoid speaking—she shifts several thin manila files across her desk. She has done this with only a glance at the files because she was making herself keep eye contact with her patient. The patient hasn’t moved. He sits motionless and upright just like the prior three visits. This gentleman is old enough to be her grandfather. Wearing a wrinkled sports jacket and food-stained tie, he’s overdressed like her Pops would be. Dress nice for the doctor’s office, that’s what her grandfather always advised.

Her patient is a nice man. Always polite. Always with a list of questions. Now, as his oncologist, she knows his most recent test results. What should she say about the final worst thing that will happen in his life when she manages to open her mouth?

Later, the seventy-something man in the wrinkled jacket and stained tie faces his wife. She didn’t go with him to the doctor’s office because she was “under the weather.” As they sit on the couch—the one she’s been negotiating to dump for three years because their cats have shredded the sides—he loosens his tie. They sit angled toward each other, his knee touching her knee. She still wears her house robe and sips the tea he made for her after returning home. It’s chamomile, of course, the same kind of tea she drank on their first date over fifty years ago.

She is his oxygen; his yesterday, today, and tomorrow. They have been through the death of a child and have watched two other children graduate from college and start families. What should be the first thing he says to her that will begin the last thing they will do together? Read More →

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