False Pretenses

Ironically, one of my comments on last week’s post,”An Uncompleted Story (Not This One)” dated July 10, stated that the post itself was incomplete too. Certainly any story can potentially go on further, but I take the comment as high praise meaning he couldn’t wait to read more about Jenny.

One of the loose ends about Jenny was that she had been at best a borderline case for hospice care for quite awhile. Such people can be put on hospice because hospices want to have as many patients as possible. Ultimately she admitted to me that she just wanted to be on the program in order to get some free hours of help with bathing and dressing by the home health aide. I did not know this for many months. In the meantime I was puzzled that visit after visit, I did not see signs of decline such as loss of appetite or changes in her ability to move around in bed. At one point I even showed her how to do some yoga designed for the bed-bound. (By the way there are chair-bound yoga moves too.)

Once Jenny finally told me the truth about getting put on hospice prematurely, I felt defrauded. She was seeing me under false pretenses. A chaplain is there not just to provide companionship, but to provide a safe place for patients and families to express their concerns as they cope with the impending crisis of death. I felt like a firefighter who had put on all her heavy equipment and driven over with alarms clanging for miles around only to find there was no fire. Once again, loose ends remain in this post. Perhaps this will be true for all my posts, given the nature of this topic. That, too, is ironic, as we think of death as final, as the ultimate closure.  _Karen B. Kaplan

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