I met a woman recently who works for the “Make a wish” program, and we shared stories about granting wishes. She made an emphatic statement, “I’m so glad most of my clients have ‘a life limiting illness’ but aren’t necessarily dying”. (This accompanied a rather horrified expression when I mentioned my experience: that not all of my patients lived long enough for “Make a Wish” to get the details organized in time.)
Hospice is the “H” word… I’ve seen many faces cringe, and heard many people make the statement, “They had to call hospice”, or “So and so had to go on hospice”, which often makes me think of my “little man” patient who was approaching puberty, but would never reach adulthood. He had a different view of hospice.
Davie actually knew he was a hospice patient, and would sometimes say to me, “Being on hospice means I’m going to die…someday”. His slow deterioration and shrinking body was never an obstacle for the exuberance he shared about life, or sharing his make-believe adventures, with his interminable ability of looking forward to what might happen next in his day. I had to get in touch, each week, with my inner child, as we played games and “acted out dying” (in spaceships being blown up; while pirates having to walk the plank; or being buried alive by enemy pirates as we tried to steal their hidden treasures; and sometimes unable to escape the giant dinosaurs eating us before we could get away). I wonder what his little sisters, now almost grown up, must think about when they remember their brother, and the times that the nurse visited, and their brother played games while they sometimes complained to their mom, “Where is my hospice person?” (wishing that the hospice nurse, or the social worker, were there for them, like the special hospice people were there for their dying brother). I wonder if they think about those games, their brother’s ceaseless enjoyment, and have some sense of magic that he created, in the midst of experiencing his dying.
Davie was always living while dying.
I am reminded of the commandment to become as little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. My little Davie taught me this in a new and wonderful way.
Yes, death is there waiting. BUT oh, to be more like Davie…Simply hold on to the wonder of each day, find the magic in it, and never let go of your ability to make believe; it is what fairy tales and wishes and dreams are made of.