A Little More

Monday, May 30, 2011. Memorial Day

This past week has been all about a little more. A little more pain, A little more medicine. A little more sleeping. A little more panting. A little more oxygen. A little more visitors. A little more searching for names and memories.

A little more…

Incremental dying.

* * *

Transition. That’s the word I need to focus on.

Last month I met with our social worker Terry for myself. This was purely for me to sort out what kind of support I need during this time. Because I keep one foot in the professional world of bereavement as I straddle this part of my life, going to a typical cancer or hospice support group would probably not be very effective for me. What is it I need now for support?

We concluded that what I might benefit from most is what any woman experiencing a transition or change in life might need. Adding the word transition to my vocabulary is liberating. I know I can survive a transition. I know I can plan for a transition. Once adjusted (to the “new normal”), there is something on the other side. There is hope that this type of pain will not go on forever. What’s sad and difficult is that I will be alone after this transition; but that is part of the transition itself.

The time Terry and I spent talking and focusing on my needs was well spent. Having validation, recognizing that Dave and my needs divert on this hospice road is critical. Our futures look entirely different. I still can’t fathom the perspective Dave faces. I’m not sure he knows quite yet either. There are occasional hints that he is working on it as he makes small admissions of trying to understand the unknowable, yet foreseeable future. Surreal is one description.

Last week Terry returned. Wow, you’re looking good she told Dave. There was genuine surprise on her part. Most patients show a marked change, ie., appear noticeably more ill, since a few weeks can pass between the social worker’s calls.

Her visit provided me a linear marker. Since we last spoke… There are little incremental declines in Dave’s health. Family members are each adjusting in their own way as far as we can tell. I am taking the steps to maintain status quo. Dave’s outside mind and his inside body don’t match. It does seem like he should be able to get out of bed and conduct life as usual as he did just a few months ago.

We are the exception she tells us about our hospice experience. Most families don’t have the candor to talk about death. Americans don’t do death well at all. We don’t talk about it. We don’t plan for it. We don’t like it, therefore we’ll ignore it. Our single family households don’t know the cycle of life and death. Most people are out of touch with the rhythm of breath.

We are more than three months into the six month protocol for hospice service. Our nurse mentioned this milestone a couple of weeks ago. She does the paperwork to track it all. After the six months then a review is conducted every two months. We still warrant hospice service. That’s good, I guess. We’ll remain on hospice until Dave doesn’t need it anymore; until he dies. No matter how long we have.

Time is fast. Time is slow. Time is our enemy. Time is our friend. Everything we do is for a little more time.

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