If I can share some humor, or discuss news and current events, if a person needs to hear me read psalms, or have me sit quietly, then that’s what I do. Hospice care is not there to judge or give one-stop care; each patient is unique in their history, their needs and the way we care for them. I love that challenge. There are patients I’ve only known for hours, and those I will always remember — people who have touched my life, and allowed me to share a sacred time in theirs. Each week I look death in the eye and I’m reminded just how fragile life is and how my actions can help make the final transition a little bit better — I am reminded, how to live.
From my perspective, whether we are in hospice or merely transitioning to a new story or both, these questions constitute our overarching assignment in the time we have left, and they form the crux of my work in the wake of our predicament. The pivotal task, I believe is an invitation offered on Page 66: “Imagine yourself on your deathbed, looking back on your life. What moments seem the most precious? What choices will you be the most grateful for?” This is hard-core hospice work.
Think of it this way. An old and very dear friend of mine died a few months ago of cancer, and made the mistake of never believing seriously that his end was coming, and thus went out basically screaming, “No!!” It wasn’t pretty; he was so angry his wife had to have him taken out to hospice. On the other hand, my dad, who died of the same type of cancer, was ready for it, embraced it, and died at home surrounded by family. While the very end was rough, he had a pretty good last year experiencing life, family, and love while waiting for the cancer to take him down.
These are the sorts of deaths that I carry, not only in my memory, heart, and soul, but in my body. I work to make sure they do not either silence or immobilize me in the quest for social justice. Each death is unique and personal. We can recover from them. Death Cafés are not grief groups where people get counseling. They exist to talk and listen to stories about death, without judgment. They can be more fun than I would have imagined.
Whenever the topic of near-term human extinction arises, I invariably hear comments like, “Well, if it’s true, I might as well lay down and die then.” I never fail to respond with my perspective that if there is anything we must not do, it is to “lay down and die.” Die we will, but it’s the laying down part that I cannot abide for the simple reason that we have a choice: to die lying on our butts under the influence of some recreational substance that keeps us in a state of mental and emotional oblivion (which does not arise from the same motivation as using medication to relieve pain) or to embrace our dying consciously and with intention. Why reject the former and choose the latter?
What Collapse Feels Like, Part 5: Hijacking Joy: The Civilized Cerebesphere And New Age Nausea, By Carolyn Baker
Perhaps the last emotion a collapse-aware reader would expect to see in a series on “What Collapse Feels Like” would be joy. Fear, anger, grief, and despair yes, but not joy. Yet I believe we have every reason to expect that the end of life as we have known it will be attended by joy as much as by any other of the so-called “negative” emotions.
It is time to stop trying to “do” things to reverse the cataclysm in which we are embroiled—to stop looking for “answers” and start asking the right questions. The most important one we can ask in this moment is: How do we live in the face of the possible near-term extinction caused by the Fukushima nightmare and catastrophic climate change?
So if you want to insist that life is meaningless, which by the way even Nietzsche did not believe, you probably should stop reading right here. If you want me to convince you that life isn’t meaningless, well, I can’t do that, nor do I want to. It’s really none of my business, but if you have some inkling that it’s possible to find/make meaning in the throes of despair and that doing so matters in any way, you may want to continue reading.
When I began writing this article, a friend of mine had recently entered hospice. While I was finishing the article, my friend died. She was not in the same town as I, but during the past month, we had been able to speak by phone several times a week. Given my friend’s decline and death and its impact on me, I was not taken aback by Daniel Drumright’s essay “The Irreconcilable Acceptance Of Near-Term Extinction,” posted last week on Guy McPherson’s Nature Bats Last blog.
We have witnessed over just the last three years, hypothetical Abrupt Climate Change become empirical, where the evidence is so overwhelming, it barely has anything to do with actual observable science anymore, and has everything to do with human psychology, or rather, our shared pathology in the hopium of indefinite growth and progress. And this is why the whole concept of climate change will be, very soon, completely refashioned in context to geo-engineering, if for no other reason, than it sadly now has both the logical and moral high ground compared to doing nothing. Amazing!