THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO
Death & Dying
Conversations About End-of-Life Issues
The following are a series of emails from an on-going conversation I had with a pediatric ICU nurse over several months in 1999.
Thanks for writing back. It’s nice to have someone to chat with that’s on the same wavelength. Ditto about the lessons. We are all searching and if we keep an open mind the truth of the universe will be revealed to us. I have been reading Conversations With God and I find it refreshing. I am amazed at the similarity of thought that I read in the book and my own views. More amazing still is that the things presented by the God entity are word for word things that I have said and opinions that I share with friends and family. Not that I think I am so enlightened only that I feel it represents a much broader belief system. It is like the universal unconscious or conscious or whatever it was that Jung wrote about. I just think these things are widely held belief systems. Conflict occurs when humans stray from this universal belief and that is where the darkness comes in. We all know on some level the truth and we are like the salmon swimming upstream to arrive back at the beginnings.
So about my patients. I love my little “hemers” as we affectionately call them. That means hematology-oncology patients. Talk about huge lessons in a hurry. I think if you subscribe to the thought that we choose our paths, then these souls are truly great and distinguished. There is so much suffering that they must endure physically. Then there are the lessons again. Sometimes the mechanics and dynamics of the family pretty much tell the story. I had a darling little girl that I took care of named Mary. Her mom was extremely involved and knowledgeable about the physical aspects of the little girl’s tumor and in the techniques involved in her care. The mom spoke like a dr. to the dr.s, a nurse to the nurses, and not at all did she speak to the child. It broke my heart that there was not much of a relationship with the precious little girl yet there was an incredible bond with the child’s illness. The child’s tumor was not about to go into remission and remission was the only hope they had of getting the child to a place where they could do a marrow transplant. All the time I heard the mom say we can’t stop trying to get a remission because then the tumor will take over and she won’t get a transplant. All the talk revolved around the disease state and what the next round of chemo would be. I said to the mom what chance do they give for recovery with the transplant. It was less than 50 percent. I told her that transplants were incredibly difficult for patients to endure and a less than 50 percent chance wasn’t the best odds. She said there wasn’t any other choice. I got the distinct feeling that the woman was not so afraid of losing her daughter as she was of losing this illness. It gave this woman a way to interact with people in the only safe way she knew how. It was a technical cold relationship that she forged but anything closer would have been threatening to her. I saw in the midst of all this a woman who was most likely the product of a sterile unloving home. (She was germaphobic, too.)
Well I guess I have made a short story long once again, as I seem to do . At any rate there was a huge sacrifice on the part of this child. This mom had to lose a child to get into the place of learning how to build relationships. I wonder if the woman ever got a clue. The child had an explosive tumor growth and died quickly without getting a transplant. No dr. ever said to this family that the transplant was a long shot. No one dared to suggest that perhaps the most humane thing to do would be to take the child home. How ridiculous it would be to suggest that they simply hold and love their precious baby and tell her of a place where suffering is absent. That there is a place that is warm and loving as anything she had ever known. To tell her that it was a pleasure and a joy to share the time they had with her courageous spirit and all that they had learned from her brave fight. It gets easier and easier for me to express myself to these families and to these children. I know of my God’s plan for this world and that we mortals haven’t control over how it comes down. Come down it will, come hell or high water and we’ve certainly seen a lot of both of those things recently!!! Thanks so much for being there to share with me. I love you for that!!! Let me hear from you again soon.
Interesting story about Mary and her mother, how people handle these difficult situations. She resorted to intellectualism and forgot to love. I think doctors hold out hope as a carrot to people even when there is no hope and wonder when someone will have the good sense to stand up and say it’s time to prepare for death. Human beings fight so much against death that they’ll believe anything.
I get letters from people who opted for the life saving surgery and their loved one died anyway, now they feel guilty. And others who decided against the surgery and the person died and now they feel guilty. It’s too bad death has such a bad reputation! I remember back when organ donation was becoming a big issue but everyone was afraid to ask, maybe someday we’ll have the courage to say it’s time to go home, how can we help you prepare? The right to die is the next big issue!
Peace & Joy! Diane
I have no special affection for physical death that is for sure, but I don’t fear it either and interestingly enough I find that the more one practices being close to spirit in trying times the easier it gets. I had another tragic and unexpected death of a child in our ER on Sunday and I took the opportunity to pray with the child’s grieving parents…
To read more of this fascinating conversation…
THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS
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