The First Duty Of Love Is To Listen.
Celebrating Richard’s 83rd birthday January 24, 2014
When Richard mentioned ‘Hospice‘ for the first time in December of 2011, it opened the door for one of the most beautiful and meaningful conversations that two people could ever have over a sensitive topic. Just a few months after his diagnosis with esophageal cancer, this conversation happen so matter-of-factually, that by the time the conversation was over, there was no pain, no agony; just lots of tears from an honest conversation between two people who just happened to loved each other.
Chris and Richard is Arles, France 2006
Many years ago I had the opportunity to intern in hospice, it was quite a remarkable experience. High profile doctor’s humbled; broken families reunited; husbands, wives, siblings children, partners letting go, provided me with the opportunity to look at hospice through different set of lens. I was, and continue to be, forever grateful for that experience. While I tend to be on the spiritual side, Richard claimed to an agnostic Jew. I always found that funny because Richard was one of the most spiritual and ground persons that I have ever met. Often misunderstood for his gruff demeanor and direct comments, Richard was rooted in his clear thoughts and perspective. You may not like what he had to say, but you never walked away from a conversation with him without knowing his opinion or where he stood.. It is really the best way to communicate: boy do I miss those conversations with him.
Honest dialogue often brings out the best and sometimes the worst in people. However without honest dialogue, what then is communication? Our decisions during our caregiving journey was guided through our honest dialogue. I remember Richard clearly saying, “I will tell you when I’m ready to go to hospice!” When I look back to that day on March 3rd when he got out of the chair on his own and walked to the gurney to be taken to hospice, that was his way of telling me that he was ready to go. Hospice, end of life, life transitions, however you want to frame it, we both knew where we stood, we both knew what was important to us and we both knew that when the time came for hospice, we would embrace it and deal with it.
Planning for the day, when there will be no more days is challenging. How does one really do that? By having an honest and open conversation before there is the need. While there may not be a need for Hospice today, there is a need to talk about Hospice. The effects of a diagnosis of Cancer are enormous on everyone, yet we must not allow any disease to drive us. Fear is debilitating, making a decision while in fear, can be crippling. Find a way to have ‘that’ conversation about hospice. In our case, the conversation just happened, but that is not the case for every caregiver and their caree. One way to make this difficult conversation comfortable is to ask open-ended questions, I.e., ‘It is important for me to know your thoughts on the type of care you want to receive so we can make good decisions together.’
As advocates for hospice, Richard and I looked at hospice as a way to celebrate life in all of its stages. Hospice is just not for the patient, hospice is for the entire family. While Richard and I might have shared different opinions on life after death; one thing that we did know is that while we are alive, we are going to enjoy every second, minute, hour, day, month, year we had left. I think we accomplished that because we had the ability to talk openly about his wishes. The memory of these intimate conversations with him is what helps me get beyond my grief and allow me to heal. My you find your peace in your after Caregiving journey, too.