Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hospice Spouse Redux - circa 2006

Hospice Spouse Redux
Hi. I’m that hospice spouse guy. Remember me? I’ve met many of you at conferences and you chortle and say, “Oh, you are the hospice spouse.” We have your article on the refrigerator. So, you probably won’t put this on your refrigerator. My sweetheart of 42 years died a few weeks ago. After a very hard struggle with two types of metastatic cancer, Sarah died peacefully with me and our daughters Laura and Suzanne.
I learned a lot of good things from Sarah, but I learned most this last year. Sarah knew where this would end and so did I. When Sarah retired because of her illness, I quit my job. I decided to start spending some of our retirement savings. We were together constantly for the last 12 months.

For me, this was the best year of my life. Sarah and I were best friends and I knew our moments were very precious. Except for my daily long walk, we were together. Sarah didn’t have the strength to go with me. At first I didn’t want to go, but she told me that I was doing it for her and that got me out the door.

We learned or I should say we practiced at staying in the moment as best we could. We learned to try to avoid the recitation of illness. “When did that happen?” “Why didn’t they know this or that?” “What about that missing sponge?”

Whenever we would go into the past, where both good and bad lived, we often found that our minds drifted into dark places. So, we would jerk one another back to the moment. Sometimes we would think ahead into the future and find scary places. Again, one of us would tug the other back to the fact that we were together, safe, in a nice little condo with music and pictures and a park outside and we could snuggle. We had many blessings.

Another technique we used was a metaphor. It was “The Well.”
The well is an old stone structure covered with moss. In fact, there was green moss all around the outside and all the way down into the dark bottom. The floor of the well was covered with thick moss. It was slippery. If you got close to the well, you could slip down inside. In a short time you --yourself would be covered with moss. You would become a mossback creature.

So, we would laugh and say, “Don’t become a mossback!!”
If you think that is weird, well that is fine. We thought it was funny and laughter helped jerk us back.

Sarah had a special ability to see the good in every day. That insight was not my specialty. I had always thought of my job as keeping an eye out for the wolf. After being alert yet finding no wolves for many years, I tried to learn Sarah’s sunnier approach. As Sarah became more ill, the clouds were more frequent but we managed to find some sunny spots in every day. And… we didn’t fall in the well.


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