Listening to the “Ask Dr. Dawn” show on KUSP 88.9, and a discussion about palliative and hospice care. I was tempted (needed) to turn the channel, but instead listened on, fascinated, as if watching an old news report of a train wreck I was once involved in. Somehow, the end of my parents’ lives (and later my husband’s), insurance issues, palliative and hospice care, and the development of my poetry is all folded in together. When my mother was dying, my approach to writing poetry changed radically, and a lot of my inhibitions and assumptions about what it is to be a poet, and how one writes and communicates the poetic process, changed or dropped away.
I worked with visiting nurses, and their care and communication became important, and was often crucial, and helpful. But the general dialogue about hospice at that time was not as developed as it is now; hospice was presented as an absolute final stage, all of it constrained by money and insurance issues–which can become overwhelming and confusing– and because of that I considered using hospice too late. Recent research now tells us that using hospice services can actually prolong life, although that’s not actually its function. “Hospice is not about dying, it’s about living.” That’s overstating it a bit, but still to some extent true.
A “contingency kit,” as well as just more knowledge about the situation, as discussed on this radio program, would’ve been so welcome.
It was a difficult period. Memory still shapes me and my writing in ways that are often surprising and unsettling.