November 5, 2009 4:00 pm
Dear Anne and Carter:
I am about to do something that isn’t easy. I am about to visit my 75 year old friend Robert, who is home bound, (meaning he hasn’t been outside his tiny apartment for over a year). He’s had a heart attack and has several diseases, like emphysema, that make it difficult to breathe. Oxygen runs into little tubes in his nose 24/7 from a tank near his bed. He is very thin and frail (meaning his bones are weak). He eats food like scrambled eggs and grilled cheese, but mainly drinks little cans of milkshake like thing called ENSURE. A home health aide comes in every day to help bathe him in bed. I do his shopping and have helped take care of him for two years.
He is now under hospice care, which means he is taken care of at home by a special team of nurses and doctors and aides. They come to him every day to check on him and give him medicine for his pain. He also gets spiritual counseling. Yes, it means he is dying. And yesterday his daughter called me to ask if I’d visit and ‘say goodbye.’ The nurses told her that the end is close. So I am going over there right now. I’m a little nervous, but all people have to die someday, and I just hope his is a peaceful passage.
I remember when I was little; a lot of my mother’s Aunts and Uncle’s died in their 80’s. When something bad happened to them, or anyone, she’d have us light a candle in church and pray for a speedy recovery (meaning they get better) or a happy death. Today they call wishes like this for a ‘graceful passage.’
Someday we can talk about what may lie beyond life on this earth. Different religions and different cultures believe in many different possibilities. But one thing for sure is, when that person is gone, their not being around often makes people feel sad. Grieving loss like that, especially if it is something like a pet turtle, or puppy that didn’t make it, is important. If we keep our feelings in, someday they may pop out where and when we least expect it.
If Robert is awake I am going to tell him how much he has taught me about how to ‘chill,’ and ‘hang loose’ as he used to say to me. And I’ll remind him how much fun it was when I used to drive him to Santa Cruz for his medicine or doctor’s appointments. We would stop at the beach and have lunch looking at it from the car as walking was hard for him. Robert had a business once that took him all over the world. His favorite place was Egypt, and he is an expert on numerology or what numbers mean. He watches the History Channel with no sound on, just the words on the screen, all day.
Wish me luck.
November 5, 2009 9:00 pm
So that wasn’t so bad. Robert was thinner than last I saw him two weeks ago, and he was saying some things that didn’t make sense, but he recognized me and took my hand. Actually he looked sort-of serene, calm. One of his aides came in while I was there. She was beautiful, dark skinned and had a white flower in her dark hair that was piled up on her head. Her name was Maile. She was named after a flower in Hawaii where Robert once lived. She mentioned she liked to sing. Robert wanted her to sing “Bali High.” It’s from the musical South Pacific about a soldier in WWII who falls in love with a Polynesian woman but can’t marry her. But she didn’t know the song. Before I visit next I will try to find that song on the inter-net, put it on my I-pod and bring it for him to hear, and maybe even leave it on CD so next visit Maile can sing it to him.
Saying good-bye didn’t have to happen yet. And good-bye isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Stay tuned.