Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Planning to Die

Since I lost a job in palliative care, I've been at a loss for blog material. Or not so much lack of material, but an absent platform. I haven't stopped thinking about end-of-life care, not at all. But for a while there I felt disempowered to write about it. Of course, I have continued to volunteer for Compassion and Choices, and help people who wish to use the Death with Dignity Law in Washington State. After a year as a volunteer, I am now helping to train new volunteers. I have also begun the process of becoming a hospice volunteer. I don't want my skills, knowledge, and passion to be wasted.

Contact with people who are planning their own deaths is so intimate, it's hard to share. In Palliative Care, even Hospice Care, the conversations about death are precious and rare, little gems in the midst of ongoing conversation about illness, redemption, and symptoms. As a volunteer working with people who wish to control the circumstances of their deaths, the entire focus of conversation is planning to die, with little gems here and there about life and its struggles.

I posted one blog on a hastened death, mainly to portray how sacred, safe, and peaceful these deaths can be. Some poems have emerged from this experience. But as a rule, I don't expect to blog about it further. It feels too private and rare to share in a blog.

So what to blog about so that I can stay connected to this community of palliative care bloggers--a group I have utmost respect for. And miss having a dialog with. And with this thought, I realized that I would like to share my own process, at age 60, presumably in good-enough health, of planning for my own death. I think this is a topic I can write about for the rest of my life.

So look for the first installment, coming soon. Meanwhile, indulge me in leaving poem.


The Three-Part Breath

After a cleansing round
of Dirga Pranayama, the three-part
breath, our yoga teacher says,
Pause and trust.
There will always be another
inhalation. In repose, I try
to meditate on emptiness, rely
on the next lungful,
ignore my prattling mind
with its endless to-do lists.

But instead I brood
over an ailing friend
who gasps for each breath,
gathers morphine and valium
plans to claim his deliverance
from respiration. He lingers only
long enough to square affairs.

I hear his whisper in the studio’s
stillness. In preparation for death,
breathing is the last thing
you forget to do.

1 comment:

  1. Very poignant ending statement: The last thing a patient forgets to do is breathe.