End-of-Life Issues and Hospice Cards
While a main focus of Be Here Then has been ethical wills, it also concerns itself with end of life issues. This includes hospice, that service of helping patients live as fully and as well as they are able when cure is no longer an option, or is no longer sought. When someone is knowingly facing their ending days, it becomes difficult for many of us to know what to say, or to do. Frankly, it scares a lot of us.
We have few, if any, models for how to relate. Regina Holliday has become another patient care advocate, and started a petition to ask Hallmark to start a line of hospice cards. I have signed her petition, and I encourage you to visit her blog and read her story. But that’s not all —
I confess a wee part of me is a bit dismayed, because one of my plans was to introduce exactly that: a line of “greeting” cards that might be usable for friends in hospice care. Of course, as John Lennon sang, life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans, and the cards idea had to be back-burnered.
But we don’t have to wait for a greeting card company to help make this conversation. Why don’t we start, ourselves — by imagining what kinds of things we might want to have written in a card to us, as a way to help figure out what to say to someone we love who is now in hospice care.
What follows are a few examples of what I’d love to read from a few of my friends, and one example of what I would write to one of mine. I’m more likely to find a blank card with an image I like, or draw it, and write something inside. Also, I love to see my friends’s handwriting and read their own words, however imperfect they might be.
I have a wide variety of friends. Some are very verbal and emotionally-communicative, and others are — not. Men, women, straight, gay, Christian, atheist, Baghavad Gita studiers, smart alecks. What I would love to read from them would be different, depending on our relationship.
Feel free to use these in a card you write yourself or change them to suit your circumstances:
“I will plant poppies. I will plant poppies, the deep red-orange ones, in the garden and arrange an arc of pale stones behind them. And every year especially on your birthday, when the poppies are blooming, I will think of you and your love of that round temple at Delphi. I will remember how you imagined it would be so lovely to have your ashes scattered there, so you could come up each spring as the poppies. Then I will eat a quiet lunch of bread, and feta cheese, olives, and that eggplant dip, and toast you with the retsina you liked so much, the one with the orange label. I will plant poppies, and reread your letters and stories, and love, and remember you, always.”
“Seriously, are there supposed to be ‘right’ words for this? You know if I knew magic words that would make this all better, I would say them, right? But the only words I know that have been magic for me are the ones I keep thinking of when I think of you now: I love you, I love you, I love you.”
“I really, really, really hate it that you are sick.
I really, really, really, really love it that you are my friend.
Thinking of you.”
“Make believe I have come walking up to you, my hands in my pockets like usual, and I just glance at you and say “Hey.” You nod and say “hey” back. Then we just hang out together for a while doing whatever. That’s us. We know what it means. Right now — it means everything. So, buddy — Hey.”
“I have no idea what to say again.
So this is what I have decided to do.
Besides the fact you come to mind at odd times almost every day, I am going to deliberately stop what I am doing at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. every day, say a prayer for you, and send you my love as hard as I can wish it towards you.
I am going to imagine myself right there with you, being whatever company you want at that moment.
Every day, at 9 and 9. See you there.”
What would YOU want to receive?