Tag: rich


A few weeks ago, I was seated around the bedside of a mother and grandmother, talking with her children. The patient was dancing between this world and the next, so peacefully and her daughters were just relived that she was finally reaching the end of a years long struggle. It had glorious highs with hopeful prognosis and soul crushing lows which caused this family to close ranks and focus on what meant the most to them. When mom decided that she was ready to enjoy what life she had left without doctor’s appointments and scans – without nausea so profound she was unable to open the blinds and without such exhaustion that even lifting her hand to caress the face of her granddaughter was a struggle, her family supported her choice.  That was about four months ago and hospice was called in. Our paths crossed there and brought us here. To this moment.

As she lay there, her breathing slowing down, if you could imagine the batting of a butterfly’s wings, so elegant and graceful, her daughters started to tell me stories of the precancerous life. At one point during a very animated moment, both daughters started laughing recounting a moment when Mom attempted to absentmindedly bake a cake and used powdered sugar instead of flour.  They both turned to me, with shock, and said “Oh my God, Helen… Mom is dying and we are laughing!  Is that allowed?”  “Of course it is!  I am sure she can hear you and is loving it all!” The girls went on to share more stories and Mom peacefully passed. The soft smile on her face proof that she loved every moment of their loving laughter.

So, what is allowed when someone is dying?  It’s not like Emily Post wrote about it or for you younger folk that you can search it on Wikipedia. As a hospice nurse, I have seen the gamut of emotions. The rainbow of feelings that one’s passing elicits is vast. Let me tell you what I think is ok… again… full disclaimer… my blog… my opinion.  Don’t forget… I am a loud, sassy, emotional and heart on my sleeve Greek woman, so some folks might not agree. I digress

It is ok to cry.

I am going to say that again, it is ok to cry.  That means everything from the single tear to the please hand me a tissue because the snot is overtaking me crying. No one has the right to dictate how you cry. I will put one exception here, I have seen, mostly in very small villages where people throw themselves on the deceased or dying person and caused them harm. Please don’t do that. Cry all you want. Don’t forget tissues and waterproof eye make up.

It is ok to laugh. Working in this death business, I often think about what it might be like when I go. Do I want people sitting around sobbing over me?  No way!  Especially if I am still there and hearing is the last sense to go!  I want to hear the stupid stories about how my brother tried to make me ride a goat when I was 5 and got lice. Laugh!  Heck, laugh till you cry. It’s ok.


It is ok to feel conflicted. Death or dying brings so many emotions. How could you not be conflicted?  Think of that period as a almost a time you are sifting for gold. You have all the sandy sediment junk on top, but, in time, as you move through the emotional stages, you will find the gold. Yes, you will miss that person, but, there is goodness that comes from death. It’s not always easy to see.

It is ok to be angry. Sometimes, people are angry at the person that is dying for not trying hard enough with treatments. That’s their choice. You might not agree with it, but, you do have to respect it. While it’s ok to be angry for a while, it’s not ok to stay angry… that’s an emotion that needs working through as soon as possible.

It’s ok to recount, recall, tell stories, make jokes (ok, maybe not crude ones)… all of those things help people begin to heal.

It’s ok to scream in a pillow when you are alone

It’s ok to eat a pint of ice cream while crying (not that this is from personal experience… tears and chocolate almond are yummy)

It is ok to see a therapist. No one is a fortress. It’s ok and really healthy to ask for health when dealing with all of these emotions.

Death just doesn’t change the life of the one dying. It changes the lives of everyone.

The Least and The Most

I once read something that said that the rich stay rich by never giving anything away.  Does that mean that the poor remain poor by giving everything away?  Is generosity a trait that is only possessed by those with less?  I’ve thought about this a lot… It seems that those with the least are more apt to give more. But, why?

The most adorable elderly woman offered me some of her cup of ice cream today.  Her worldly possessions were so few.  She is living out her days in a facility, her clothing obviously second hand and her only access to food is what she is given.  Yet, as she smiled at me with biggest toothless grin, she lifted up her white plastic spoon and offered me a few bites.  She seemed so disappointed when I told her that I was ok.  My friend with her disheveled white hair and trembling hands was more upset with my rejection of her food than she was with the cup load of pills that her nurse brought in.  While I was not there to visit her as she is not a hospice patient, she became the subject of my thoughts.  Why is it that when you have nothing it is everything that you want to give?

His apartment was so sparse.  It was in a neighborhood that even during the day most would be scared.  The furniture consisted of a cot and two of those hard plastic chairs that could normally be found on a porch.  The windows were so old that as the wind blew, the whistling melody echoed.  He had become a hospice patient because for years he was unable to pay for his medications and his condition deteriorated to an irreversible state.  The irony is that now that he is in hospice, all of his medications are paid for.  His long hair was tied in a pony tail as he sat shirtless on his makeshift bed.  

As I sat on the cold chair, I noticed a small kitten eating from a worn plastic container on the windowsill.  The matching plastic container was filled with water, which the kitten enjoyed soon after.  The patient started telling us about how neighborhood kids found sport in tossing rocks at the numerous stray cats.  His stories were stopped only by his need to catch his elusive breath.  He talked about how he doctored multiple cats back to health because they would come to his window crying.  The heartbreaking part was that he admitted that there were times he would forego buying food for himself in order to be able to provide for all of the homeless pets.  “At least I have a roof over my head, ” he said nodding his head, “my belly might grumble, but it does it indoors.  They have no food and no shelter.  I can go a night here or there without food.”

Perhaps it is because those with little know what it is like to have nothing and they want no one else to feel that way.  It was like a video I recently saw… a man was conducting a social experiment and gave a homeless man $500.  He stealthily followed and captured his moves on video.  Fully expecting the man to go to the liquor store and buy mass amounts of alcohol, the cynical man was speechless when he saw the events.  The homeless man went and bought food, drinks and shirts for his fellow homeless folk.  He literally spent all of the given money taking care of others.  People talk about charity and write a check, but charity is what this man with nothing actually did.  If you have nothing, you can’t miss what you do not know about, but, you do know the pain of not having.  It’s just so ironic and painfully beautiful that those with nothing are willing to give everything.