Sunday, February 27, 2011

My mind is swirling with too many thoughts this morning. The snow has not gone away as predicted. In fact, this morning there is nothing but white from my doorstep to the doorstep across the street. It falls in icy mist then small and medium flakes. No walk around the lake this Sunday.

Dave slept from 11 pm to 6 am. Wow. This is the longest continuous period of sleep he has had since his stroke 12 years ago. Should I worry or be excited? My thought was that a catheter could mean a night’s sleep. I hope I’m right. We had plenty of company yesterday so he actually was awake most of the day, and slept the night. (Add this idea of sleeping through the night to the analogy of pregnancy/birth and end-of-life. There is a parallel. I just don’t quite have the complete understanding on this one yet).

My list of thoughts: Hospice comfort kit, funeral home. Legacy stories, career, making memories. Nesting, control of environment, cleaning. Contracts, retirement, power of attorney. Life Alert commercials, being alone.


Yesterday, although I didn’t write, I was thinking about the hospice intake and the irony of a comfort kit. Apparently this is like the welcome wagon to the program. In the mail we will get a comfort kit with anti-anxiety and pain medicines, and perhaps a welcome letter? I’m just wondering who it is for?! The patient or the caregiver? There are moments I can use anti-anxiety and pain meds. I am kidding of course. That’s not my style. My drugs of choice are exercise, sourdough toast with butter (or tortillas), and this week, Girl Scout cookies.

Along with the intake was a mention, almost in passing (no pun intended!), about removal of the body from the home. Eeek. That provides a visual I didn’t need. I know I need to choose and call a funeral home.  I even know the one I will call. But these are the first words that really make me stumble and hesitate to say aloud. After… when… later. The body. The body is so detached. Dave’s body. Too painful. The body. Clinical. Cold. Gone. Final.

I remember when my dad was taken away from his home. I don’t know who called; well, probably the hospice nurse since she was on site. I don’t know who decided on the funeral home. It must have been one of my brothers. Again. I just have hazy recall. Actually, it could have even been my dad. He had organized many details before his death. I do know at least one of my hospice patients made his own arrangements. Although my dad wasn’t very communicative on an emotional level, we found folders with each of our names and some wonderful little memorabilia, such as report cards, from each of our (kids) lives that he kept. So there was sentimentality inside him even if it wasn’t always accessible.

Anticipating the call to the funeral home makes all this future too real. As Dave says, “the outcome is not going to be positive.”


This is not a new thought. I have so many starts and unfinished productions of Dave’s life it isn’t funny. The most difficult story to tell is the one you are closest to (and admire most). I’ve toted several boxes of photos, tapes, news articles, etc. from room to room looking for the spot I can settle into and get organized. Currently the boxes are by my bedside. I work on this production for the family and me.

I just remembered that I have a video piece on my old Mac I used for DVD productions. I’ve mothballed that computer, but will have to see if I can wake it up to retrieve this important material.

I received an email from TESC (The Evergreen State College). They would like a statement from us about Dave’s condition. Community and students want to know. Inquiring minds want to know. My press release voice keeps coming to the forefront. Medical leave, cancer, the family wishes…  Weird. Here I write in the most personal voice all the details for anyone to see. I knew these two worlds might collide. How do I feel about it? How does Dave feel about it?

Word, or is it rumor, is trickling outward about this founding faculty member at a sometimes controversial institution of higher education.  He’s taught for more than 40 years at TESC plus another 6 or 7 elsewhere. How many lives has he touched? It must be thousands. How many people has he put on the path to lifelong learning? Where are those people who look back fondly at how this professor, Dr. David L. Hitchens, changed their life for the better, but didn’t know at the time it was happening? He has taught the first generation at this college, and now a second generation and even some grandchildren. His style has been to quietly do what he does best by staying in the classroom and at the lectern. Until January 21, 2011 he still updated or created new lectures for interdisciplinary programs regardless of the number of times he led the program. He didn’t have to do that, he wanted to. He loved to dig out material from the internet and access the vast world of comment and thought. He would re-read the text and novels each quarter. Ruminations became a public tool of thought on current reading. He is a tranied historian, not only of American history, but of life, current events, politics, social justice. He is an understated intellectual, humbly sharing his inquiry.

But, today, he is a student of end-of-life. He remains “intellectually inquisitive” about his approaching change in physical reality. He is the nine year old who once looked up at the sky of stars to realize how vast the universe is and how small a human, namely his own self, is among the darkness. Dave is the person who hoped that in his lifetime there would be a way to take his brain and consciousness and shoot him into outer space for even bigger exploration.

How lucky I have been to share these hopes, dreams, and ordinary musings on life. Our life.


After this release on Legacy the rest of my list seems trivial! What is important is that new memories are being etched right now with family and friends. Hospice gives us time, the quality of life and the opportunity to make the best of it. David and Nikki, the new old married couple (Viva LasVegas! February 22, 2011), and Dedi and grandson Carson visited in the early afternoon. Dawn and Richard, and Leah and Scott dropped by to make homemade ice cream (1 gazillion calories) for root beer floats for dinner.  The last words I heard at bedtime were Dave’s voice, “Boy, that root beer float was good.”  And then he slept all night.

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