Tuesday, July 13, 2010

At the Hospice

Last Thursday, I spent most of the day with two people: my handsome French-Canadian beau, Le Canadien, and my 92-year-old Hospice patient who is dying of "adult failure to thrive" (basically, old age). I ended up chatting with both of them a bit in French, but ironically, it was not Le Canadien who propositioned me with the age-old phrase, "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?"

The room erupted in laughter when she said it, mostly from the nurses and aides since other patients were too deaf or out-of-it to catch the joke. She grinned mischievously and said, "I thought you'd enjoy that."

She is, quite simply, adorable. She is smiley and chatty and appreciative of my visits and appreciative of everything in general. It makes me very happy to go see her -- so much so that I have to resist the urge to go every day. When I left today she repeated, as always, that my visit made her day, and asked when I'd be back; I told her I can come back next week, to which she replied, "Oh no! That's too long. Can't you come back this week?" I promised to return on Friday.

She seems utterly content with her life, both past and present. She told me several times today that, while she often feels tired, she still "feels like myself." At age 92, what more can one ask for?

It can't be easy to live surrounded by people who are bent double in their wheelchairs or gaze blindly at beige walls all day while Muzak plays in the background, interrupted occasionally by a prayer broadcast over the intercom. Or to share a tiny room with a few decorative wall hangings, the sole remains of a houseful of possessions; or to be so limited physically that one can't have much of a conversation because of hearing loss, or read much because of sight loss. She handles it with remarkable grace. I hope that if I am ever in her position I can do the same.

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