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.
One week here and I haven’t died. I won’t for a while. It isn’t possible. If I do, will they really shroud me too? I’m not like “them.” Yes, they will wash my dead body then shroud me just like they do to everybody. Will they be sad to see me go?
The husband is singing to his wife again and the harmonica plays again. Consistency. Home sounds. The house will get two more borders later today. Who will they be? Will I learn about their quirkiness before they die?
Mike sneaks in and grabs me from behind when I’m at the computer. “Nubby!” “Hey Moo! I thought I’d surprise you.” “Why are you here so early?” I’m dumbfounded but not sorry that he came without notice. “I thought you would want to see these letters.” He pitches them into my lap. “What are they?” He smiles. “They’re from the people who found out you’re in hospice. Should I read them to you?” He opens a letter already.
All letters were similarly solemn. Words like “sorry,” “tragedy,” “keep smiling,” “faith” and “love.” I am touched but not weepy. When Mike finishes I gather them up and present them back to him. “Please take these home and put them in my study.” He looks at me sadly.
“This room is your home now, Sweetie.”
So Real . . .
Michelle comes in to empty my catheter bag. In between trips to the toilet, we plan Mike’s birthday party still four months away. Michelle was busy telling me about a fun time she just had with her friends playing paintball. My eyes light up at the story. “That’s it!” I gush. That’s what I’ll give Mike for his birthday: a paintball party! Do older people play, too?” “Sure,” there are even people in their late 20s (she is 25).
Mike loves to play like a little boy. What an endearing quality!
When Mike brings Marco, I can’t contain my giddiness. “I am so excited about your birthday present!” I realize how silly I must sound to be overcome with anticipation four months before “the Day.” All the while that I’m talking to him my internal voice warns me, do not tell. Don’t you dare tell!