Jun 15th 2008

For Warren, and the Bride and Groom Tree

Posted in Helen & Warren, Izzy, Lenore

Generally, Hospice dogs are forbidden to take treats in a patient's home, but Warren has a jar of beef jerky and I can't stop him from giving some to Izzy and Lenore.
Generally, Hospice dogs are forbidden to take treats in a patient’s home, but Warren has a jar of beef jerky and I can’t stop him from giving some to Izzy and Lenore, who appreciate it, and I suppose, have earned it. But I’m careful. I don’t want the dogs begging in Hospice homes, or anywhere else.

June 15, 2008 – When Warren woke up Sunday, he saw that part of one of the two maple trees in the back yard had fallen into his yard. The other tree – both are 200 years old, and are called “Bride and Groom Trees” because they were planted when a new couple moved in – was blown down in the same lightning storm that hit my farm.
The symbolism, a month after Helen died, hit him powerfully, and hard. “I guess I feel useless sometimes, wondering exactly what I will be doing with my life. I believe in an afterlife, and so did Helen, and so I do have a sense of waiting.” Warren and I talked for a couple of hours about his life, and his plans for it. He wants to do genealogical research, and preservation work as well.
I gave  him no advice, other than telling him there is help available if he needs it, and it is perfectly normal for him to be feeling this way. There is no knowing when that feeling will ease. He is 81, and wondering how much time he has left, whether he should have the knee surgery his doctor has been urging. He wasn’t sure he wanted to take a couple of months and use it that way.
I said it was his decision, to be made in his own time.
I know this is an especially painful time for him. He has done most of the business related to Helen’s death – lawyers, insurance, credit cards. The calls and visits are slowing, and now, he is face to face with the new normal, life without Helen.  I can only imagine.
The tree seemed to open a deep vein of loss, and some grief, and this is also common, these triggers that bring up so much pain and sadness. I was grateful again for my Hospice training, even as I visit him more as a friend now than a volunteer, and we are close and comfortable with one another.
Warren is almost painfully reluctant to talk about himself, or his pain, and so we approach these issues glancingly, hopping back and forth to other things. I make sure to talk about my life, my farm, so he doesn’t feel self indulgent. And I listen.  Actively.
Izzy and Lenore bring great cheer, and Izzy and Warren are almost brothers.
I admire Warren, for his faithfulness to Helen, for his bravery, for his fierce independence. But it was a hard day, for him, and a challenging visit. It was a difficult day. There will be others. That is the truth of it. Before and after death, Hospice work is not about reassurance, not about cheering people up, or making them feel better. It is about being there, helping in any way people want or need. I have no idea if he should get that knee surgery or not, and I think, just a few months ago, I might have thought that I did know. Hospice is a great teacher.
So is pain and loss. They have their own life, their own path. I might wish I could ease it, but I know I can’t, not really.
Warren is an optimist by nature, and he also has many interests. My guess is that they will soon re-emerge.
“I want my life to be more than just waiting,” he said, “and I want to get my affairs in order so that my life isn’t a mess that falls on anybody else.” I asked if he might want to plant some new maple trees, a new Bride and Groom tree, in honor of Helen.
He said he might drive to the Historical Society meeting Monday night. I said it was up to him.