There’s an Elephant in the Room:Issues in Death and Dying

Death is the ugly relative we don’t talk about. It’s hidden from our thoughts as if it doesn’t exist. Worse, we carry our perceptive blinders into our clinical practice. Entering a patient’s room, we tell them how good they’re looking, despite sunken cheeks and a sallow complexion. We may even make the mistake of asking how they feel. “Lousily,” they answer incredulously. “I’m dying you know!” We stare at them and mutter something later regretted, such as, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

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.

Cowboying Up!

When my wife suggested that we go to a guest ranch for our wedding anniversary, I could see no way out. For years Wendy had been making the same suggestion, and for years circumstances had always (fortunately) intervened. This year, alas, there wasn't an excuse in sight. Worse, our son was attending a college within 2 hours of 15 different Arizona guest ranches. It was hopeless. I was fated to spend 4 days with wannabe cowboys dressed in sequined shirts and pointy-toed boots.

Tidal Movements

The radiant Gulf sun rises from behind ancient mangroves and egrets snatch prey with lightning beaks as I push the canoe into brown waters.