What the HELL was I thinking?!
While this literary and cinematic device is inarguably cliché:
stormy weather foreshadowing something bad about to happen in a story
…I might have known that my aforementioned 5-day respite stay at the local Hospice House could very possibly not go well, when, after several beautiful sunny days — a true respite here in the Pacific Northwest in December — cold air, wind, and rain greeted us as we woke up on the day I was to be admitted, and then rudely pelted us as we made our way, out our front door and into our car.
It had been 10 days since I’d posted that previous Owl Journal entry, in that time I’d done my best to resist formulating expectations concerning my planned experiment in letting go of earthly attachments, and I was sincerely glad that my wife would be getting a well-earned break from caregiver duties. But, to say that I was looking forward to it would be a gross exaggeration, and as we drove away in the driving rain, the reality of leaving the comforts of home — however temporarily — set in, and my mood right then could be described as a dull grey, closely resembling the overcast sky.
Now, I wouldn’t quite say that my reaction to checking into the facility, saying goodbye to my wife and son, and sitting in the hospital bed alone for the first time was exactly like Gene Wilder’s behavior in this scene:
…but, it sure felt pretty damned close.
Kidding aside, it’s important to clarify straight away that this had nothing to do with the quality of care at Hospice House, and rather, it had everything to do with the fact that over the 3.5 years since my ALS diagnosis, I’d spent the overwhelming majority of my time in my beloved home, surrounded by the collected memories of over a quarter of a century of marriage and parenthood, in a space where — as my physical condition, mobility, and dexterity declined — many adaptations were made to improve accessibility, convenience, and comfort, and suddenly I was in a space where nearly all of that was gone, including my wife and son.
It was jarring, to say the least.
Additionally, I suspect that my birth experience — born in a hospital, immediately taken away from my biological mother who was giving me up for adoption, and remaining alone in the hospital for eight days before I was taken home by my adoptive parents — was deeply traumatic in a very specific way. Throughout my entire life, I’ve hated hospitals, so much so that I’d feel profoundly uncomfortable stepping foot in one, even when merely visiting others who were admitted. And, despite the Hospice House’s earnest and significant efforts to make the facility look and feel as little like a hospital as possible, it felt exactly like a hospital to me.
To be fair and accurate, I had some relatively brief moments of reprieve via visits from friends and my son, video calls with my wife, several very kind staff members sat with me and chatted, and one volunteer played a private 30-minute concert for me on a sweet Celtic harp.
But, on my third of five planned nights, when my wife suggested during a FaceTime call that she could pick me up the next day, an offer completely devoid of disappointment that her respite time would be cut short, I needed no time at all to think it over, and I felt a huge surge of relief.
Anyway, About Those Attachments…
After reporting once again that I continued to struggle with the decision as to when to take the life-ending prescription I obtained per Washington State’s Death With Dignity law, I speculated in my previous post that:
…it might indeed be easier for me to let go and pass away if I weren’t always surrounded, day in and day out, by SO many memories that I’m SO deeply attached to.
Well, based on what I’ve shared above, I’m sure it will come as no surprise that the outcome of this little experiment was that my attachments actually strengthened rather than loosened, and I now feel more assuredly than ever that…
…and that home is, without a doubt, where I’d like to close my eyes for the last time.
So, that’s the Where decision finally and definitively made.
As for the When, while it may seem to have nothing at all to do with the Where, it turns out that eliminating Hospice House as an option has been clarifying. With the Where identified — one of the few remaining significant pieces of the puzzle in place — a certain peacefulness accompanied my return home. And, strengthened attachments notwithstanding, the prospect of eventually choosing the When somehow feels easier now that the Where is settled.
Besides, as if I needed any more proof of my declining quality of life, just since I’ve been back home, due to having lost so much body fat and muscle mass in my buttocks, I’m now experiencing significant soreness in my tailbone from sitting all day long, every day. Therefore, the very act of living is now quite literally a pain in the ass.
Ok, so, Christmas — a VERY white one at that — has now come and gone,…
View from home on Christmas Day
…and the New Year is right around the corner.
It’s a nice round, even number, don’t ya think?
FAR better than 2021, right?!
A good time to wrap up this journey, this divine comedy, no?