What Are You Waiting For

What are you Waiting For?

John’s dying wish was that he wanted to die. I ask all hospice patients the dying wish question. Wishes can range from chocolate ice cream to an impossible trip to Paris.

John lay curled up in his ancient twin bed, on his left side, facing a blank wall. I gently placed my hand on his right shoulder and quietly asked him how he was doing. He whispered nonsensically about helicopters, a river, and that someone’s arm had been blown off.

I offered him a back rub. He unsuccessfully tried to brush my hand away and snarled with clarity, “Leave me alone so I can die.” I responded calmly with, “Is that what you really want? To die?” He slurred, “I’ve been hoping the grim reaper would come get my sorry ass since I got home from the war.” With certainty, I declared, to the back of John’s head, “You are finally going to get your wish. You have maybe a week to live.” He slowly turned his head towards me and said in a puzzled whisper, “I do? Really?” His eyes dart back and forth a few times under his lids and with a sense of urgency he said, “I better call my brother and let him know.” They hadn’t spoken in ten years due to a fight about a woman back in Tennessee who eventually betrayed them both. He muttered about several other estranged family members he should talk with before he died.

John had been saying he wanted to die for years and now it was true. There wasn’t anything physically wrong with him. He was consciously starving himself to death. He tried and failed many times, but this was the first time he made it a week without food or water. It wasn’t until death seemed real to him that he had the notion to contact his family. I can only imagine what he had to express. Anger? Love? Forgiveness?

People who haven’t been given a six-month prognosis somehow believe they have a whole lifetime ahead of them. Many tend to put off matters of the heart until later. Then, when death is knocking at their bedroom door, there is urgency to express love or resolve.

Spare yourself that rush at the end of your life. Who needs to hear from you right now?

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