Sunday, November 14, 2010

November 14

I am reminded over and over why I love working in hospice. The absolute best part are the many people I meet from all walks of life. Today, I share a couple of stories of some of the patients and families I meet.

An elderly man came in last week as he was experiencing pain. He was also very confused and frustrated that he did not know where he was or how he got there. We talked for awhile and then he said, "I just don't know how I am going to earn my keep here. I used to be an electrician - do you think there is any electrical work that needs to be done?" I assured him that he could just rest while he was there but he was disappointed that he couldn't help out. He died just a day later.

A "young" woman, in her 60's, has been mostly unresponsive and has been declining. Her family was gathering, flying from all around the US to get there and yesterday, they were all there. "Mom" opened her eyes and talked with them for 20 minutes about how she was ready to let go and she was glad to see them all. She returned to her nonresponsive state of health and later died. But what a gift for the family as they all gathered to honor her.

Life is somewhat simple here in FL. I don't have meetings, or work I take home, or actually very many responsibilities. Work doesn't feel like work, I live in 990 sf apartment, I spend time encouraging the people I work a chaplain, I get to accept people wherever they are, in whatever they believe, and just be with them as they review their life and get ready to say goodbye.

So life is good, but I truly miss friends and family. My 8 yr old nephew, Trent, won a basketball shootout yesterday - I wish I could have seen him in his winning.
I miss face-to-face conversations and some of my favorite watering holes and shopping experiences. But what's there not to like about the beautiful weather and magnificent sunsets in FL in November? love to all.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It has been awhile since my last post. I talk all day so by the time I get home, I do not have so many words. But certainly, much happens. A few hospice stories, recently I had a patient that was with us for a couple of weeks. She was such fun to talk with as she had a great sense of humor. Each time I would visit, she would want me to pray with her and so I would. One morning I went to her room and she had really declined so I just thought I would say a prayer. As I began, her eyes opened and she said, "Did I die?" She did die the next day but what a gift she was.

Another patient kept shaking hands with the dead. She was very imminent but was still really verbal. She told me that she could see the light and that she needed sunglasses. And she mentioned that the people on her right, she knew, and the people on her left - well, she did not know any of them! Her niece was there watching this with me and fortunately, the niece was very comfortable with what she called, her explanation of the afterlife. Of course, I do not know how that works any more than anyone else, but it is amazing to see these kinds of things over and over. You really cannot work in hospice without believing that there is something sacred at the end of our earthly life.

I got a couple of letters recently from a friend that I adore. He is trying to bring back the art of letter writing - I thought that was a good idea. The ease of the internet makes notes and blogs and facebook seem like the best way to communicate, but I think letter writing is a great old tradition. Perhaps I'll start writing letters. Well, perhaps I'll start to think that it would be a fun idea.

We do Thoughts for the Day each day at the hospice house for the staff. They cover a broad range of thoughts but today's was from my favorite Disney character, Winnie the Pooh.
"If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
A more scholarly version of that message might be from an Ancient Greek Philosopher,
"be kind, for everyone is fighting a difficult battle."
Either way, it is a message to remember.