Waiting to Die
Sal’s cardiologist told him his medications were no longer working, and at ninety-seven, heart surgery was out of the question. His doctor also suggested that his implanted defibrillator be turned off and he allow hospice to step in. Sal was thrilled. He was done living, but his body wasn’t; he could hang on for a few more months or more. The worst part was that he “couldn’t do anything for anyone anymore.” He spent his days “waiting to die.” I wish I had a crystal ball to predict when people will die. Sometimes I can, if they follow the textbook (most don’t).
Sal’s eyes were so bad he couldn’t read or watch TV anymore and his hearing aids weren’t effective turned all the way up. He became very short of breath with minimal exertion and he catnapped about 14 hours of the day. Nothing tasted good anymore, but he ate out of boredom. Sal had a quick wit and he was mentally sharp as a tack. I offered Sal the idea of living while he is still alive; he rolled his eyes and grumbled that he was, “open to ideas.” When he got home from the hospital I arranged for his caregiver to take him on daily smell walks. It was the perfect time of year for it, so his caregiver put him in his wheelchair and they were off to neighboring gardens. He was so pleased; after his first smell walk he reported that in 97 years he never took the time to fully take in the smell of lavender, rosemary, pine needles or lilac. He looks forward to his walks; thank goodness it was spring.