I once worked with hospice for almost six years and while there I found…sprinkled amongst all the expected hardships and heartbreak…some of the most beautiful, strange, moving, transformational, and mysterious things I’ve ever experienced. (And I’ve seen a lot.) This discovery floored me so one of my first impulses, naturally, was to try and talk about it with other people. I needed to find out what they’d seen, compare notes. See if anybody else had ideas about what was going on.
I tried to bring it up with everybody–family and friends, random cashiers, unsuspecting people sitting next to me on airplanes–but the response was almost universal; squirming, uncomfortable, deer-in-the-headlights silence. Still, it wasn’t till I noticed them all sidling toward the doors that it hit me no one else wanted to talk about it like I did. In fact, far from being interested most people behaved like I was trying to sell them something unclean. All it took was that one, simple word, hospice, for the front door to immediately slam shut in my face.
And no matter how many times it happened I’d still bounce off the wall again in surprise.
How can they not be curious about something as big as dying, too?!!
Finally I figured, since polite company banned me from chatting up the topic at potlucks and birthday parties, I’d try sounding it out here instead. (And if I inevitably stray into other offbeat topics from time to time…like the possibility that fungus has intelligence, or that first morning urine could be a healthful beverage, or about the tiger penis I once found pickled in mixed alcoholic beverages…please forgive me. I can’t help myself.) I’d love for you to join in. I could use help figuring out what to make of some of this stuff.
Welcome to my world.
Well sis, I am HONORED to even be able to fill out this form and look forward to getting into some great discussions on the odd and the unmentionable – can you really drink early morning urine?!?
Two questions for you! One is tied to the copyright stuff over there –> It says I can reference your work here with full and clear credit. That’s cool (way cool in fact) but I just want to make sure you are good to go with me drawing other peeps into your domain. I’d love to share your writings with other creative minds but don’t want to offer ingress to your blog without your permission.
The other question is have you ever viewed dying from a cosmological perspective? Keep in mind that I ask this with a deep ignorance of your dying views and will follow up with a more full reading of your blog – but I think it would be fun to do a comparative time line study of the moments leading up to natural death and the moments leading back to the birth of the universe (big bang stuff).
Just throwing out some fodder 🙂
I love you!!!
Welcome bro! Thanks for popping in here and leaving a comment. And no, I’M the honored one. (No, no…really. I am. No, I am.)
As to first morning urine? Personally, I’m a tea drinker but for those with a more adventurous palate, urine is said to offer a few medicinal benefits. Here’s the clearest write up of it I could find: http://www.answers.com/topic/urine-therapy. There’s apparently an east/west split on the topic. The big eastern traditions have long histories with the practice but so far western medical doctors are proving a tad skeptical. However, the first World Conference on Urine Therapy was held in 1996 in India. Two more conferences were convened at three-year intervals: in 1999 in Germany and in 2003 in Brazil. Clearly, someone is taking the whole thing seriously.
As to your second question, thanks for asking me, Jeff. Really. The answer is yes, feel free to call in the peeps. They’re welcome here. I’ve been hiding long enough and should probably crawl out from under my log now anyway.
And for number three, whoa Tex! Ooh baby, baby, we could start a new religion with that discussion! I’ve thought about the death of planets, stars, and galaxies, the role of black holes, the possibility of multiple universes, etc., and how (or if) there are parallels between those things and the human experience of dying. But I haven’t considered the Big Bang. Yet. I’m curious how you’re seeing that timeline? Is it going backwards towards the Big Bang–towards birth?
Hello Dearest Dia —
This is my first EVER visit to a blog. I have never logged into one –least of all participated in one. I don’t even know what sort of comments qualify for a blog. So let me just say I have long been looking forward to your book on dying and I sense that these blog entries might just be a preview glimpse of what is to come? So thank you — I am enjoying this visit and look forward to more.
Love and hugs to you.
Hey Tamara! Welcome, welcome and thanks so much for stopping by. A blog virgin eh? Well, I’m honored to be your first. Comments are pretty wide open. Usually they have something to do with questions, insights, or random thoughts that get stimulated by something in a particular post. If enough people participate, there can sometimes be titillating discussions taking place through the comments. I don’t have enough traffic for that but I’m still very interested to hear any thoughts you might have. I’m tired of contemplating these things by myself and vastly curious to know what (or if) other people are thinking about them. Love right back atcha!
Well, I feel welcomed. And I certainly wish to stick by and see your world, Dia. It is very, very interesting indeed.
Thank you Priya and welcome again!
I can’t wait to read more. I too am fascinated by death and have always wanted to pick the brain of a hospice worker.
Well welcome and pick away! I always had so many questions about the whole thing but no one to ask. Well, actually I had lots of people to ask but no one who wanted to answer me. 🙂
Dear Dia (There’s a ring to that),
I have found your blog via rangewriter. My belief is that we must come to understand death so that we can fully understand life – its essence, its value, its brevity. I hope you don’t mind me looking around your blog.
What’s that “thing” (for lack of a better word) on your header?
That “thing”? I laughed and laughed, Nel. Glad to have you stop by.
I think it was some kind of an arthropod but I can’t be more specific than that. Sorry. I found it exposed just as its pictured, over on the coastline of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. I believe a seagull–or perhaps one of the many eagles around the place–had started eating it, but been interrupted. By the time I wandered on the scene, it was clearly still alive although wounded and dying. I thought it extraordinarily beautiful…the colors were so vibrant on an overcast, dreary March day that they took my breath away. After I photographed it I scooped it up oh-so-gently and placed it right-side back up in the sea. It curled up a little when it felt the sand beneath it and the cradling water around it…and I like to think it was happier there. Safer. Like dying peacefully at home as versus upside down and exposed in a car crash on the side of an interstate somewhere.
It also reminded me of female genitalia, like orchids do, which tickled my sense of humor. Did you know you’re the first one who’s EVER asked about it? Bravo! You deserve a prize of some kind!
I just found your blog and wanted to reach out to let you know about a new initiative that I’m working on.
Your hospice experience makes you an expert in helping people with one of the toughest subjects for us to tackle. Very few families have a real plan in place in the event of an accident or unexpected illness, even though we all know we should put that on the to-do list each year.
MyDirectives.com is the very first HIPPA compliant web-based system for creating & storing advance medical directives. Its patent-pending technology allows users to include audio and video messages for caregivers and is endorsed by Baylor, the 5th largest health care system in the US.
As a free, web-based system, individuals can create and update their documents at any time.
I’m sure you know that without an advance medical directive, family members and health care providers are left with difficult choices. Storing medical wishes and emergency info online means everyone will get to have the final say.
The economic consequences of our current situation are staggering. Nearly 30% of all US Medicare spending is for treatment during the last year of life – just over $165 billion in expenses that, when asked, most patients do not want. The MyDirectives platform dramatically improves the quality of emergency, trauma, and end-of-life health care while reducing cost.
MyDirectives is a simple, transformative idea: to make sure every person has his/her end-of-life wishes expressed and respected.
We’d be very happy to have you visit MyDirectives.com and give us your thoughts on the new site. Feel free to respond with questions. If you’d be interested in interviewing the CEO or a physician using the system let me know and I’d be happy to connect you!
Best wishes. Keep up the great work
Hello, I just want to let you know that I’ve nominated you for a blogger award! Check it out at www.http://realwomanshealth.wordpress.com/. Here are the rules for receiving the award: (1) thank the blogger who nominated you (2) include the links to their blogs, (3) include the award image in your post, (4) copy the award image to your site, (5) give seven random facts about yourself, (6) nominate 15 other bloggers for the award, (7) when nominating other bloggers include the links to their sites, and (7) let those bloggers know they’ve been nominated.
Hey Katie–thank you so much. I’ll check it out, I promise.
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I am so excited to find you today! I was a hospice chaplain for 7 years, and wrote a memoir consisting of quirky stories about hospice and my deeper reasons for choosing this career. Were you a nurse or did you serve in another capacity? Can you tell me anything about your book? Is there some way to communicate more directly with you? Most sincerely, Karen B. Kaplan
Hey Karen– It’s great to meet you and welcome to blogland! I was just over taking a look at your new blog and I’m excited both for the beginning of your journey and a kindred blog. You know, another blog you might want to take a peek at is Transitions by Becki Hawkins. She was a home health/hospice nurse/chaplain in rural Oklahoma for decades and wrote a book by the same name (Transitions) about her experiences. A lot of it is from articles that she wrote over the years for a column in the local paper and she’s got a gift for capturing the colloquial language of the area. (I’m kind of a language geek so I really enjoyed that.)
I looked around for your book and couldn’t find it anywhere. Is it out yet? I’d love to take a look.
As for me, I started with hospice as a volunteer back in 2001, a few years after my grandmother died, and then decided to become a CNA as they were the members of staff who spent the most time with the patients. I worked part-time for about six years before my back started to go out from all the transfers. It was an extraordinary time…perhaps one of the most extraordinary of my life…and initially I intended to write more of an educational book about dying, then it turned into a pseudo-memoir, and now it’s turned into a novel about an elderly woman facing the realities of dementia and confronting an advance directive for the first time. All over the map I’m afraid. But I’ve been writing this blog for about three years and one of my followers has been urging me to just collect some of the most pertinent blog posts into a book, edit them appropriately, and e-publish that. I just may as it would finally get this monkey off my back of feeling responsible to share what I experienced and learned! In the meantime this blog has turned out to be a wonderful medium to “get it out there.”
I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts! Oh…and you can email me at email@example.com if you wanted to communicate more personally. Thanks Karen.
I do appreciate your thumbs up and telling me about Becki’s blog–wow, another hospice colleague to dialogue with. You definitely have attention-getting and yet non-superficial posts. They’re great just as they are, but some combination into a book would be superb, too. As for my own book, TWO publishers are considering it, but that is a very slow process. So if anyone wants more immediate gratification, just hop onto my blog, http://offbeatcompassion.wordpress.com/ -Karen, hospice chaplain