This post is penned by my friend, Rhonda whose multiple sclerosis landed her in hospice in January of this year. Rhonda is a writer, and though she she’s not afraid of death, she is not ready because she still has so much to say. Like any writer, Rhonda wants to know her words are being read, so when she recently gave me her journal entries describing her first week in hospice, I offered to post them here on my blog. I am doing only light editing – formatting, mostly, and deleting the occasional sentence that the software was unable to understand and interpret. Because of the disease, Rhonda doesn’t have the breath support to string together long sentences or to sustain any volume to speak of. When we talk on the phone, she is very patient as I repeatedly ask her to repeat what she just said or repeat back the bits I understood, asking her to fill in the gaps.
You may want to start here then follow the links at the end of each post to read yourself current. It means a lot to Rhonda to know how her words are landing in the world, so please leave a comment if you feel inspired to, and she will reply as and when she is able. Rhonda writes with the assistance of talk-to-text software, and some days her energy level doesn’t even permit that, so if she doesn’t reply to your comment, don’t interpret her silence as anything but a lack of available energy or available assistance, as she now requires help to do the most basic things that we take for granted. Somebody is reading your comments to her, though, you can be sure of that, and she is receiving them with a grateful heart. From both of us, thank you for being here, for bearing witness to this remarkable, amazing woman.
I am awake by 11. I used to get up at five o’clock to run four miles six days a week. Then I walked four, then three, then one, and then I swam. Now I don’t walk and I don’t swim. I can’t throw things at all. Surreal
I hear traveling from room to room an accordion and a singer both–one or two? –screeching hymns. I was readying myself for a quirky show to write about in my journal, but the accordion never peeked through my door. It was still playing enthusiastically elsewhere when a harmonica began belting out its own off-key church hymn repertoire. Is this really the music people want to die to? I’m serious. Is it really? What music do I want to die to?
I drink tea. Sitting up in my hospital bed is the farthest I get before Shawna comes in with a smile and my oatmeal—100% pure Quaker Oats with walnuts, sunflower seeds, dried pineapple, no sugar or honey, and a few droplets of soymilk. I always eat alone in my own room, save for the company of my feeder. I ask Shawna to talk, because I am busy mining nuts and seeds from my teeth. They tell me I am a choking hazard. Concentrate…
We eat alone. We die alone?
I’m still in bed when Steve comes by “armed” with baguette pieces and apple juice. He asked me a couple days ago if I would be interested in taking communion. I said, “yes.” As I was speaking “yes,” he was mumbling about giving me time to think about it. I restated, “yes.” He finally heard me and believed me, so Pastor Steve comes smiling today with the mystical body. I feel ready. He prays for me and finishes by holding my hand sweetly.
Is this communion a sorta last rites ritual, I think? Has nine years of friendship evangelism finally coaxed me to the altar?
“The darkness of faith,” Mother Teresa calls it. She suffered the lack of consolation until she died. I suffer a lack of consolation still. I pray silently, “I believe. Please help my unbelief. I doubt. Help.”
Jean washes my hair today in bed. We tried to do it in the sink yesterday, but the acrobatics wiped me out, and no water even touched my hair. The new hair washer thingy inflated like a mini pool around my stretched-back head. My hair got wet, but Jean struggles to get the contraption to behave and drain. “Next time I’ll do it with a wash cloth.”
Theresa sweeps into the room and says to Jean, “I need you when you have the chance.” I can tell that somebody has died. Urgency in Theresa’s voice? Sudden interruption? I don’t know. I can just tell. Not even in hospice a week and I’m already reading death cues. Sure enough, I find out later that Betty has passed away.
We are four.
Does Mike love me? He says he does, but I feel so alone. He and Marco visit once, sometimes twice a day. The first day that I go away from home Marco says, “Daddy, who’s going to be Mommy in the house now?
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Relationships are key to my happiness, to my thriving.
Important relationships have been my anchor in life, no matter where my exploration has led me. I have felt very safe to risk, knowing that my family and friends are always here if I need help. I have lots of people to catch me when I fall.
Go here to read Day 5.