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Saturday, November 7, 2009


liberty, whitehead
The day I called Hospice, which someone had mentioned the day before, I talked with Vickie. She said the people they work with have to be within 6 months of passing. I said, I'm looking at 6 days. Then we got down to business. I couldn't believe what she was telling me they did. This is the way I had 'expected' the medical establishment to be, but it wasn't anywhere near. Now we need Hospice because the medical establishment has failed our humanity. They have put our humanity in the disregard file and made us view ourselves empirically, which is only part of what we are, not all of it by any means. Not very long ago I started to tell the Dr about something I'd been going through, for context. The answer I got was, 'I'm not interested in the private lives of my clients.' OK. Have it your way. This same doctor told me a few years ago, 'We are chemical machines.' I thought, make that first person.

At Hospice they hug and support, listen, give intelligent, feeling counsel, and Lord Have Mercy they're honest. The first service agency that sent women out of work needing a job to clean house and look after Jr a couple times a week, a couple hours a day, included a virus among the women they sent, one who took him for a ride he got a kick out of, but it cost him dear. Another agency sent him to the emergency room in an ambulance as punishment for refusing to take a shower when he didn't want one. It was too early in the morning and it was cold. He was weak and tired. He said no. Call the ambulance. Foolishness every way you look. When the bill came, I sent it back to the hospital finance office with a letter explaining this is not his bill to pay.

At first, I thought these agencies a good provision to help old folks out. That didn't last long. By the time we'd been through all of them and I had the Absentee Police breathing their fire down my neck: Hi-Yo Silver, along came Hospice. It was the same as being a ship on a turbulent ocean entering a harbor where it's smooth and calm. From the moment of that first call with Vickie, Hospice was on the move. A nurse was there assessing his physical situation, taught me an awful lot, encouraged, helped tremendously, any time of day or night. Hospice also recognized that the caregiver has problems too, and listened to things I told them about his ways that were not bad, but particularly his own. I couldn't get anyone in the services agencies or medical establishment to listen to anything about his habits, his pains. I was in the way as long as I was in sight. It had nothing to do with me. What do I know? I didn't go to medical school or nursing school. I don't know anything.

There was none of that attitude from Hospice. With Hospice Jr's humanity was the first consideration, that he was a conscious, living human being with a mind, heart and soul, feelings, and a lifetime of experiences all his own. He was something quite a lot more than a chemical machine. I noticed in my first conversations with the Hospice nurses that I guarded what I said and regarded them somewhat askance. When I saw that they could be trusted, I fessed up that I have an attitude created by those other outfits, and it will take a little bit of time for me to start trusting them. Of course, I saw right away what I saw right on through to the end, that they regard the people lovingly with utmost respect for who they are and how they feel.

The best example I know is when Jr had sat down inside the toilet with the seat up. I couldn't pull him up because it hurt him every time and every way I tugged on him. I went to the living room and walked in circles until I decided to call Hospice for a nurse to help. It was like watching a miracle seeing her love him up out of there, cleaning him as she went, lifting him slowly, gradually, talking sweetly to him, and in a short time she had him up out of the toilet bowl and on his wheelchair clean. I was in awe. Radiant awe. When you're helping someone in the helpless years, it feels good to the caregiver to see the dear one treated so lovingly by a nurse or nurse's aide who really does care. The nurse's aide who bathed him, once shaved him while he was sleeping.

In my role as Jr's dog, I never once gave Hospice the faintest hint of a growl. When I saw one of the angelmobiles turn up the driveway, I'd go to wagging and squealing like a dog does, jumping up and down. Here they come. Here they come. Here they come. Hurry up, open the door. Come on in. Good to see ya. We talk about how Jr's doing, the latest turns for the better and worse, one thing and another. Hospice made the last 3 or so months a delight. Before Hospice, the threats of all the Services had me anxious all the time. Once Hospice came into the picture, I relaxed. Not only was the threat of nursing home abolished outright, but I got help, real help that recognized the full human being, not just the body.

One important thing I learned on this journey is an awful lot of people are taking care of someone in a helpless time, people who won't let the ones they care for be put on a shelf in the lumberyard. I already know several, and now have insight into their experience, am able to see in them too that it is a sacred experience. Like me, they say the reward, the blessing, is simultaneous with the act. It's like joy and sorrow both functioning all out. My tears were an indecipherable mix of both, still are. Joy and sorrow, the 2 sides of a coin flipping in the air so fast they're a blur.

1 comment:

  1. TJ:

    I'm really glad Hospice provided the support you and Jr. needed. You may want to consider writing a piece for the Alleghany News.