Counseling at the End of Life

As the debate on heath care reform heated up, the phrase “end of life counseling” was used as a canard by opponents of change. According to many of them, end of life counseling was the equivalent of a death panel where those worthy of saving would be, and those deemed too expensive to maintain would have the plug pulled. One would have to go back to the McCarthy period to find this level of accusation and inaccuracy. But where was it coming from?

The Power of Ritual

It's easy to dismiss rituals as just the historical trappings of ancient religions. Something very beautiful, but having little relevance to our contemporary lives. Nothing can be further from the truth.

Am I Dying? A Child’s Question

What would you say if a terminally-ill child asks the question? Should you be honest, probing, or try to convince her this is just a passing illness? The decision may be dictated by parental preferences or institutional policies. But what if there’s latitude in what you can say, or the moment is so pregnant with a child’s concern you don’t have time to consult with anyone? As with most things in hospice, there isn’t a right or wrong answer—just different ones.

Searching For Healing

There is an old story told of a young monk seeking enlightenment. He would sit meditating for long periods of time, waiting for it to engulf him. A teacher, watching him for weeks, sat down next to him and grabbed a piece of broken pottery. Without looking at the student or saying anything, he placed the chard in his lap and began rubbing it with a filthy cloth.

You’ve Got It!

It was Monday, May 27, 2002 and the morning fog was clearing. Sitting in my kitchen drinking a cup of coffee, I watched the Pacific become visible. It would be a great day. Then the phone rang. “Good morning Stan”, my doctor said, “the results are positive.”

A Bean Hollow Goodbye

A gray on gray Pacific coast morning begins as new yellow flowers push from beneath scarlet ice plant fingers, and a mother says goodbye to her son’s ashes.

Reinvent Yourself: 12 Principles of Change

She died on Christmas day of a massive heart attack. Looking at a shelf in her apartment, I saw fifteen self-help books on diet and exercise. With that much information, I couldn’t understand how it happened. As I read, I found each offered general philosophies and broad ideas, none provided specifics necessary for my mother to save her life.