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Palliative Caring

I arrived to find him headed slowly down the wide stone steps. He was balancing on his walker and the wooden railing His face lit up and he grinned at me, “I’ve been waiting for you!” Dressed for the garden, his wife was helping around the piles of tools and seedlings by the door. So much goes on in his life during the six days I don’t visit him.

A young woman I didn’t recognize was standing by his side. I thought it might be his daughter but there was no resemblance and soon she introduced herself as the daughter of a friend recently moved to the area. Julia is a nursing student with a few months off. She has offered to help out with his care while she is home from college. We settled on the lawn overlooking the chickens, the young pigs, the bees and his wife’s garden.

Julia and I sat on either side,  pointing out the antics of the animals and the beauty of the farm, and were soon joined by Anna, a relative of his from Germany. She is living and working on a farm nearby. Anna and Julia have become fast friends and regaled me with stories of climbing a popular mountain the day before. They are young, full of promise and joy, and addressed him with tremendous respect. He dozed as I sat cross-legged and massaged his feet. He loves a foot rub though I constantly tell him I don’t know what I’m doing. Julia asked me about hospice, the hows and whys of my intents and the system. At first it felt odd, talking about death while he appeared to doze. Then I saw that he was listening and when I caught his eye, he gave me an imperceptible nod and wink.

They were bare foot, dressed in skinny jeans and loose tops did nothing to hide their youth and beauty. He was dressed in lovely dapper “country gentleman” clothes bought for a body that has shriveled and withdrawn. At one point he reached down and touched the silk top I was wearing – a colorful orange pastel. His wife had commented when I arrived and asked if it was a remnant from my life in Indonesia. I couldn’t remember. That brought later questions from Julia about how I came to be there, when did I move from wherever to New Hampshire and why? The tales unwound between us. He dozed and pretended to take no notice.

For two hours, life was transformed to the immediate. This man, who is slipping away and his lovely wife who carried on in the garden, close enough to keep watch, far enough to immerse herself in a period of solitude and peace. The two girls, so full of youthful curiosity. I with no contact, no phone, no email; nothing but my two hands to bring comfort and my mind to spin tales and listen to the dreams of the young.

6 comments on “Palliative Caring

  1. Touring NH says:

    It’s obvious he looks forward to your visits. It is a wonderful thing you do. So few people take the time or have the heart to spend quality time with someone who has so little of it left.

  2. cheryl622014 says:

    I really like the flow and rythmn of the story and the colour orange as a bright interlude in what I imagine is a green garden. I like the old man not having to bother but enjoying, to my mind, the story telling and foot rubbing as a child would, no need to make a comment just accept, it’s all about acceptance and the peace that gives to all involved. Lovely and peaceful.

  3. I think that those who are dying and know it might really enjoy having the spotlight off themselves occasionally. It must be exhausting being the center of attention all the time.

    1. Ah, I hadn’t thought of that. Very good point, thank you.

  4. mariekeates says:

    I so admire what you do and your writing about it. You took me to that garden and it was a beautiful, peaceful place. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Marie. It makes such a difference in my life and reminds me to slow down and be grateful for what is happening right now.

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