Pondering the great mystery of life and death

Hospice The reason I went through the 8-week Hospice volunteer program a year ago is because I believe all humans deserve to die with dignity…

Yesterday I visited with an 82-year-old gentleman in his home while his 50-year-old daughter ran errands and got some fresh air. 

The man asked what I did during the week.  I told him I am a pastor. 

A clear plastic tube attached under his nose provides him with a constant supply of oxygen.  The tube from under his nose snakes across the room where it is plugged into his oxygen supply.  A four-feet green cylinder of oxygen with assorted gauges hooked to the top sits in the corner.

"I am nothing," he said, explaining that he is not a church-going man.  "I don’t bother people and they don’t bother me.  So I guess that makes me nothing." 

The constant, rhythmic pulsing of the oxygen machine droned in the background as we sat and chatted.    Sometimes I could not make sense of what the man said, and occasionally he drifted off.  "I take lots of naps these days," he explained.

Though he was bare-footed, he wore gray slacks and a gray T-Shirt.  His gray beard and gray hair matched his clothes.  The brown recliner where he sits is next to a hospital bed, positioned directly in the middle of the family room.  On the stand beside his chair is a clear plastic cup with ice water and a flexible straw, the TV remote control, a bottle of medicine and a box of Kleenex. 

[During one of his intermittent naps I couldn’t help pondering the small amount of equipment one needs in preparation for death.]

"It’s been a very happy life," he said.  "I don’t know how I could have been blessed with a better wife and children.  They have been magnificent."  He showed me lots and lots of pictures.  "Aren’t they beautiful?" the old gentleman asked.

When the man’s daughter returned, he kissed her and said to me, "Have I said this is the finest human on the face of the earth?"  The 50-year-old daughter smiled at her father and rubbed the back of his hand.

A few more minutes of small talk ensued before I made my exit.  A couple of blocks from the man’s house, I noticed a donut shop.  Pulling in, I grabbed a donut and coffee before heading home. 

I kept my radio off and quietly reflected on the great mystery of life and death…

One thought on “Pondering the great mystery of life and death

  1. Really beautiful Don, thanks. My grandfather died well a few years ago, surrounded by his family. All the music at his funeral was performed by his 12 kids and 40 grandkids. At his request, the final song was my Dad playing a rollicking New Orleans honky tonk version of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and my sisters sang it. He was a staunch Catholic, and didn't have much place for "closer" walk with "thee", but he liked the way that song sounded when my Dad played it.


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