A Hospice Tale

by Glenn Fairman   1/11/17
Miles away from my lonely garret, far off in the bleak and still night, my mother lays dying in hospice. In truth, she is beyond the hope of men and science: as an invisible lesion inside her brain feasts and expands exponentially – all the while claiming her personality as the despicable final humiliation offered to a brave and intelligent woman who has bore so much suffering.

In the course of a month’s time, during the arduous and interminable testing that accompanies these things, this aggressive cancer grew by a third to the size of a golf ball. In this short duration she went from using a walker to virtual paralysis: from carrying on a conversation to uttering the simplest of wants and chanting the same syllables in childlike repetitive fashion. When Medicine’s “Powers-That-Be” pronounced her case inoperable and only held up the most cursory of hopes using radiation and chemotherapy, we respected her wishes and brought her home to my brother’s house to care for her ourselves. When push came to shove, we would not let her go to a Convalescent Home to be cared for by strangers.

And so we wait. Watching her laying in bed or the jerry chair fills me with an impotent despondency goaded by the knowledge that no mortal hand can deliver her. As she is inexorably losing the ability to swallow and take fluids through a straw, my mother is steadily losing weight. The dehydration that accompanies such a condition cannot be remedied by intravenous means, for such an act violates the spirit of the hospice – a condition of controlled and buffered annihilation wherein we can offer her just enough pain and anti-anxiety meds to soften the anguish and to insure that her days that remain are as gentle as can be humanly engineered. Make no mistake: curative medicine is forbidden in the hospice. However, for those of us who must stand watch over her terminal journey that leads away from this life, it is important that we stand firm against the inevitable spiritual jaundice that accompanies our separate moral agonies. In the shadow of the Great Transition, we are called upon to distill some transcendent meaning about the beautiful character of a life that is even now sifting through our sorrowed fingers. But this is easier said than done.

I, myself, have been double-minded here. I suppose that it is somewhat common to disengage oneself from the dying: especially when their condition and communicative abilities render them opaque to us. But I know that this is mere cowardice. If the truth be told, it is because I know that my mother is in there scratching at the walls of her skin to be understood that sets my soul on edge. Such a vision has kindled a horror within my brain—and God help me, I cannot bear it. It is I who am in denial here. Consequently, it is not the time I spend with her that haunts me, but the hours away from her at night. It is here that I conjure up images of sitting on her lap while she taught me to read the newspaper at a precocious age or memories of her loving but fiery temperament. I cannot put away from my mind the way she loved us and her grandchildren and the memories of how I both pleased and disappointed her. This same vibrant and sacrificial life and the withered old woman in the bed are one, and it breaks my heart to know that she is soon to be taken away from us. I am both angry at her dying; and disgusted at myself for mourning my imminent loss while she still draws breathe and suffers so behind her failing veil of flesh.

Let it be said without equivocation: There is something grotesquely warped about a society such as ours that is so steeped in denial that it fumbles its coming to terms with death like some bloodless and sterile footnote utterly foreign to the human condition. Everything about the greater culture we inhabit is fixated on the young and nubile, while even the aging are portrayed as uber-vibrant grey haired- caricatures of the young. Death equates itself to defeat and is imprisoned in the dank corridor of our consciousness – that abyss we dare not gaze into lest it draw us into her inescapable maw. Science promises us years, but is silent on the content in which to fill those years. And ultimately, death takes us all: either in benign resignation or kicking and screaming through the fog draped path to the Undiscovered Country — fated to return no more to our weeping loves.

It is in sifting through the pots and pans of a life that one learns a wisdom hard-won. Old pictures of people we never knew or have long forgotten and tarnished knick-knacks in drawers that once meant something, held some vital purpose, or fulfilled some pleasure, all ring hollow. What was valued or highly prized so effortlessly passes into a trashcan without the least cry of resistance. Soon the treasures will be carted off or sold for a pittance, but the mundane stuff of a life will vanish and only the life itself will have meaning to those who linger but are soon to follow apace. We who believe in something greater than death will find solace in our hopes for we know that the summation of all life is more than pots, pans and pictures. As for my mother, Carole Ann Fairman, who has loved us more than her own life, I pray that as you enter into the Fair Pavilions, please glance back and survey the beauty you have left behind you. Until then, be at peace in the knowledge that we are there with you, bearing witness to a life of inestimable value.

Glenn Fairman returns from the wilderness and writes from Highland, Ca.
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71 Responses to A Hospice Tale

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    I encountered something like this nearly 30 years ago. At my paternal grandmother’s funeral, her newly widowed husband (his memory blasted a few years earlier by a sickness that also took away one of his legs) was wondering where she was. Luckily, I was not responsible for taking care of him, so I basically decided I wasn’t going back there as long as he was alive so that I wouldn’t have to see him like that again.

  2. faba calculo says:


    how my heart goes out to you, your family, and your mother. Mine is, admittedly, a transitional grief, and, most likely, within a few days, I’ll hardly give your family a thought. I’m almost as sorry for this sordid fact as I am over your and your mother’s travails.

    Transitory though it may be, right now, with every fiber of my being, I wish I had some potent words of comfort I could offer, some curative action I could take, or some guarantee of future solace I could give you.

    Both of my parents yet live, so I have no experience in the kind of pain your family is experiencing. But my sister-in-law is now having to deal with her parents slow decline, and it is enough to make me realize that the glimmer of light I see when I stare down that particular tunnel is the approach of nothing good.

    From what I read, you are a believer. May that belief well up mightier in you now than ever before, grant peace to your nights, and slowly reclaim the happiness of your days when this is as over as it can be.

    I am not a believer. But should there indeed be a love that created and rules the universe, should it be waiting on the other side of death in order to take our departed loved ones into its arms, and should those your mother has loved and who died ahead of her even now be preparing to rejoice with her at their reunion, no man shall ever be happier to have been so wrong.

  3. Donna N. says:

    Reading this has just hurt my heart! I retired last year; my last 4-5 years was as a Hospice Nurse. Apparently it’s been a few months, I hope that you have found some Peace. I hear your anger, and anguish over your mother’s dying and death. I worry that you may not have gotten the support that you needed, then. All I can say is, I firmly believe that you [all] did the right thing. Death is always very hard, even for the nurse. When it is a parent, you realize that you are now an orphan. But, I was Blessed, daily, to help people Die in their homes, most often, and usually the way that they wanted. Our Society no longer knows how to deal with the end of Life. I am sorry for your loss.

    • oldguy says:

      Even being 78 yrs. old I am not prepared for Everyman’s journey. But I wish to go like Edward G. Robinson did in “Soylent Green”.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    Thank you Donna. It was with reservation that I revisited this piece. My father-in-law is undergoing the same endgame as I write. Those nurses of the hospice were invaluable, since they understood the rhythm and the seasons that attend death. My mother died soon after this was written and in this archive you will find “Requiem for a Sacrificial Life” –my mother’s eulogy. Thank you again.

  5. Glenn — I have traveled that same road, watching my mother’s passing, trying to switch from giving her blood pressure pills to feeding her pain pills, trying to quit helping her live and instead working at helping her die. I still feel guilty about that, as if feeding her vitamins would have stopped the whole process. She died here in my house and I still feel her here — I ran across her straw garden hat the other day and it took my breath away. The first sensation I had when she finally left was the same as the lostness I felt when, as a small child, I couldn’t find her in the supermarket — complete terror. They say we should not have to bury our children — true, but burying our parents isn’t much easier.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I was luckier. My mother had a stroke and died a few days later, and in any case lived with my sister (who as a nurse was better able to take care of her). My father’s death, of course, was even more sudden. So I’ve never faced this sort of thing — though as I and those I know get older, who knows what will happen?

      The late Andrew Offutt once mentioned his mother’s death, noting that it took long enough for the family to prepare for what was about to happen, but not so long as to overly prolong the suffering.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      That is one of the most touching, straightforward, and articulate descriptions of this heartbreaking process that I’ve ever read. And I honestly can’t think of any words to say to a man who is all of our dear friend. We’re there if you need us, Glenn. You and your wife are in our thoughts.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I understand what you mean here. I’ve always felt so helpless to deal with such sadness. You can express your own sorrow over it, but it’s nothing like what that person feels. I suppose sometimes a good hug might help.

  6. Glenn Fairman says:

    I asked Brad to rerun this piece from 2014 in order to remember what time steals from our memories, and to remind myself that the guilt and recriminations that we heap upon our consciences are heir to all men. Moreover, my wife Darla has entered into hospice for the duration of her life, and we must steel ourselves for the wave that is to follow. Thank you for enduring this shriek in the night for my sake.

    • Tom Riehl Tom Riehl says:

      As all I can substantively do, Glenn, is read this and appreciate your fulsome praise of life and God’s eloquence, I’m glad to do my part. Prayers for you and yours.

    • Robert Hillmann says:

      My prayers are with you as you and your family gather around Darla in this chapter of her life and yours. My God bless you all. I travelled this same road with my father several years ago. While the pain of those days has subsided greatly over the years, in my quiet times I can still remember and feel the sting, the sadness and finally the relief that he was beyond pain and reborn into eternity.

  7. Lucia says:

    Many hospice nurses will tell you that they have witnessed patients talking to invisible dead people, mostly family members, close to the end. My own mother had similar visitations one night, and complained that they were keeping her awake by their chattering. The point is that nobody really dies alone, even if physically by themselves.

    Psalm 23 said that the Lord accompanies us even through the Valley of Death. If your mother was a believer, she was more likely feeling His presence while mentally coming to terms with her departure. I hope you can take comfort from that.

    I lost my father before my mother passed away and the difference was stark. Once Mom left this world, I felt a gulf between me and her that was permanent and impossible to bridge. When Dad left, I could rely on Mom being home. When Mom left, she was really gone. I felt like a 60 year old orphan.

    I hate Death with a passion. It is the last Enemy. It tortures us with unspeakable misery before it robs us of our loved ones, our dignity and our precious life. But it cannot take our soul, the essence of who we are. As believers, we belong to the Lord, and live forever with Him.

    I know where Mom sleeps and waits for the resurrection day. When her spirit flew away, I sensed her joy at being released from her painful body. She was happy to go and knew I would be following her when my time came. Back when she was still coherent, I asked her to save a seat for me in heaven.

    My prayers are for you and your beloved wife.

    • Glenn Fairman says:

      Several days before Darla passed, she and my daughter were in her room and my wife informed Melinda that a black and a white man were with them and that they were wearing black. Melinda reassured Darla that they were the only ones there and that she was hallucinating. Darla continued to insist that she had seen them.

      After Darla left us on that early Saturday evening, we called the service that would take her away for cremation. When they arrived several hours hence, a black and a white man wearing black coveralls entered our home and spirited her away. It was only several days later when I spoke to my daughter that she relayed this tale to me—I nearly fell out of my chair.

      It is interesting to note that several days before her passing, Darla told me as I lay beside her in bed that Melinda was there. Since it was 2:00 AM, I told her that Mel was home with her husband. Darla insisted that her daughter was crying in the upstairs room above us. I dismissed it as a hallucination.

      On the night she died, I walked upstairs and Melinda was crying in that upstairs living room that we seldom use. Coincidences? Perhaps.

      There are many things in heaven and earth that confound our philosophies. Whether the veil of time is pulled aside for those on the cusp of eternity, and the gift of prophecy is granted those entering into the Fair Pavilions, who can say? Indeed, Forever is but a breath away for us all, and we err to our own detriment when we fall into our complacent presumption that burns and blows away like so much chaff in the night breeze.

      • Gibblet says:

        Each of us is required to live his numbered days in our earthly bodies in time as a straight line, so to speak. God, being Spirit, is not bound by the parameters He established for our earthly existence. It is conceivable then, that our spirit is not bound by the same parameters as our flesh regarding time. If we would live more in the spirit while in this earthly tent then the weight of this life would not be so great. Yes, I know I sound like a nut.
        May you continue to be blessed, Glenn, with memories of your dear wife.

        • Lucia says:

          Not nutty at all, Gibblet. I was wondering if I was the one who was sounding like a nut. Thank you, Glenn, for sharing those private moments. May the Lord comfort your heart.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          You only sound like a nut because that great spiritual truth has been lost to materialism and feelgoodism.

  8. Maddox says:

    Having recently experienced the long dying of my Mother I understand your words far better than I would wish. The pain of her loss was mixed with guilt of wishing for death to hurry. It is one of the hardest things we endure but with the assurance we will see them again we bear it.
    Any words I could put here would be inadequate for you as you see your wife suffer. I offer my prayers that God will give you comfort and strength.

  9. Glenn Fairman says:

    It is a terrible thing to observe the end of life agonies of a loved one in hospice. The labored breathing that comes with essentially drowning in one’s own saliva is something that I pray I can forget in time. Throughout the last hours, which were merciful in their relative brevity, my daughter Melinda and son Aaron prayed with me beside her bed, while Melinda administered drugs to ease the suffering. Despite being in the throes of sorrow, they acquitted themselves in a manner that made me proud to call them my own. We did well, Darla.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      You apparently have exceptional children. You will never forget the look of suffering. What you will remember are the good times with renewed pathos and joy and, perhaps more importantly, to see that aspect of all things that is beyond the mask of either joy or sorrow. As they say, we are spirits in a material world. God bless you in your sorry, Glenn.

  10. Glenn Fairman says:

    For those of you whom have lost a loved one, the most daunting task seems to be navigating the emotional minefield of the family home. Everywhere one turns lurks a velvet dagger that thrusts itself into the fresh wound — that forces you to revisit the amputation.

    Some people go mad or compose shrines to set the memory into some unchanging stone-like object to be worshipped; others try to fill the painful void with anything and everything. Still, others would flee the home altogether, and in fleeing the demon pass headlong into some new conflagration.

    The ambiguity of grief makes this process of what to conserve and what to jettison a perilous journey, and like all journeys, courage would seem to be the ruling virtue. Indeed, if one cannot have a clear head in these matters, at the very least one should pray for a semblance of patience in accommodating the new day at hand. Allowing the grief to pass through and excavate you, and not to fully encase you as some dusty icon, would seem to be the best road to travel here, but I may be wrong.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Starting this February 1, the family home has (mostly) been cleaned out and we have found a renter (father long since passed on and mother now in assisted living). Having been nearly the sole person tasked with this, and having been able to preserve a few things for my own home that were useful and/or memorable, I got used to this slow process that is part looting, part disposal, and part preservation.

      But my older brother could barely step into the home. The home is death. The family that once lived there and brought life there is long gone. I dealt with it piece by piece. I had little choice.

      It quickly becomes apparent that, at least in our circumstances, there was no desire nor practical way to build a shrine to our parents. We have however saved a few things that bring good memories or that were simply important to us. I can definitely see why anyone would want to move — lock, stock, and barrel — out of a house thick with memories.

      At the end of the day you have to separate out what is important to you and what was important only to that person. But if you’ve got room — hell, keep it all and make these kinds of decisions at a later date. Grieve, but whatever you keep, wherever you live, nurture your own place and space. There is no need to live with ghosts. Material things are just material things. Let them serve you, but not the other way around.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I can’t recall specifically what was done with my father’s things after his death, but we certainly didn’t get rid of the furniture (and, in fact, I still have some furniture — a dresser, two chests of drawers, and three bookcases — that my sister says he made himself). Some of his books remained, too (my brother, as an army officer via ROTC, took the set of Lee’s Lieutenants). Of course, we children ddin’t have quite the same reaction to the loss as an adult would. My mother may have gotten rid of his clothes and some other personal stuff.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          My cousin (an Eagle Scout, as my father was) took most of my father’s scouting stuff and is making a sort of shrine/display out of them. Speaking of books, I found a first edition Grant autobiography in the attic while cleaning out things. It’s likely worth at least $600.00 (the pair of volumes). It’s in great shape. You can bet that before anything was donated or put in a garage sale, I went through the books fairly thoroughly. Even then, my mother went through a pretty robust purging stage after my father died. She sold and otherwise dispensed with a lot of family heirlooms. But that’s life. For her, there were memories to be dispensed with. Again, that is the reality of life.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I eventually got a set of Lee’s Lieutenats for myself, but had to pay a good sum of money. On the other hand, I got his 4-volume biography of Lee at a library sale for 40 cents a volume. When we moved from a house to an apartment in 1976, a lot of books had to be left behind, and after that I imagine we had little if any left from my father’s collection.

    • pst4usa says:

      Glen, you have my deepest condolences. This may be the wrong thing to write at this point, but your words hit home with me. I had a nephew that died at the age of two, he was being raised in our house since my sister left her husband before my nephew was born, (physically abusive). Well he was more like a little brother, I was eight at the time, and 45 years later, we were cleaning our house, (many, many houses layer). I came across a toy wooden train I had made for him and at first it hit me harder than I thought possible. But then it was a chance to remember the little guy and I smiled because I had not thought of him in so long.
      I know that this does not even come close to your loss, but the idea that each little memory will need to be dealt with in its own way, and when they are able to be dealt with in joy and happiness, the memories will become a blessing. May Gob bless you with only joyous and happy memories upon those times you are confronted with objects that hold strong memories, soon.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        That’s a touching story, Pat. And there’s nothing to be said against it in regards to handling memories spawned by physical possessions. Myself, I think children fall into a different category than spouses, friends, or parents who pass on. Children have an innocence that most of us adults have long given up.

        Still, my advice is do not be a prisoner either to the memories or the remaining “stuff.” Set aside and keep what you need to keep. But we can become too maudlin. That’s just my opinion, of course.

        One of the favorite family artifacts, if you will, is an old green frog that used to belong to my grandpa. It’s an ordinary-looking frog that is sitting on its legs. But turn the frog over and you get a sort of anatomically-correct frog in that you have no doubt he is a male. Yes, grandpa was a dirty old man to some extent. That frog still makes me laugh. But I didn’t keep it.

        But if you’ve ever seen my home-office, you know I’ve kept a LOT of stuff. Just no novelty frogs.

  11. Glenn Fairman says:

    “Having been nearly the sole person tasked with this, and having been able to preserve a few things for my own home that were useful and/or memorable, I got used to this slow process that is part looting, part disposal, and part preservation.”

    The best description ever given of this miserable act. In searching with my daughter tonight through Darla’s files, I happened upon the divorce papers she had prepared when we hit the rocks 15 years ago. If you do not think the past can come upon you and stab your heart like a knife, disabuse yourself of this right now. Some things are best left among the dead. Thank you all for your commentary. “Whether you grasp the armrests or let your hands lie in your lap, the dentist’s drill drills on.”

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Good thing those papers were never needed. But I can imagine what it must be like to come across them unexpectedly.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Coming across old divorce papers sounds like a scene right out of The Twilight Zone.

      “Glenn Fairman. Tasked with sorting through old and beloved mementoes finds a file that time had forgotten. Upon opening that envelope after all these years, he’ll take a small ride in The Twilight Zone where the postmark is ‘anything is possible.’

      Rippling waves tear the screen and fade-to-blur as Glenn goes back. He patches a few things up, making a few small alterations in old decisions perhaps that were long-forgotten. And then fast-forward to the end of this episode when he once again pulls the “divorce” letter out of the envelope, after having time-warped back. It’s now a most heartfelt love letter to him from her. No talk at all of divorce.

      And isn’t that how it ended up anyway? If the contents of our hearts can cross time and space and can be received, do we not partake in just a little of this as we sort through the detritus?

  12. Lucia says:

    Family secrets are revealed during these times of sifting and sorting, for better or worse. I’ve gotten to know my parents in a deeper way than they would’ve wanted me to know them, but since I’m older and have made many of my own mistakes, I understand them better too.

    My husband panicked when I brought home a carload of stuff every time I made the trip to clean out Mom’s house. I had to sort them at home and for awhile we felt invaded by unwanted household goods and memorabilia. I kept some things that meant the most to me, including some of my grandmother’s things. The last chore was dividing up the family photos, which I scanned, copied and made into more albums for family members who wanted them. My father’s military service was an album unto itself.

    I side with Brad’s advice to go slow, be brave, and don’t feel obligated to clutter up your life. There will be a time when somebody will have to decide about your own things. Sometime I wish I could get rid of everything except what’s necessary and live like a monk.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      We had a large division of family photos after my mother’s death. I don’t know exactly where they all came from, but at the wake we looked them over and made our choices as to what we wanted kept. One of mine features the sign leading to Port Lane (no doubt renamed since), the facility my father helped construct in South Viet Nam which was named for him after he was killed. Another is my Uncle Truman reviewing his troops with President Eisenhower (the Bashams are the Republican side of my family).

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Lucia, your gesture of making photo albums for family members is above and beyond the call of duty. I once had hopes of scanning in the massive collection of 35 mm slides my father took over the years and maybe authoring a DVD or something like that. The reality of the reserves of energy available in regards to cleaning out, preserving, organizing etc., are effected by the overall feeling inside the heart. And the heart can become scarred. Even so, it must be protected. I didn’t have the “heart” to throw some things out. But at some point, you realize that unless someone else wants to take possession of something, and unless you want to store it somewhere, you’ve got to make some hard decisions.

      My mother did a pretty thorough (ruthless, at times) job of decluttering the house over the 13 years since my father passed on. Still, there was lots of clutter. And it would be a service to one’s family to not leave it all to them to sort out. Have some fun decluttering while one is alive. Certainly one of my own rules was that for every item taken in from the treasure of family heirlooms I would have to dispense with something. And a lot of my old stuff has since gone to Goodwill.

      Of course, one of the reasons we don’t declutter while we are still alive is that it’s a lot of work and it forces us to look at our own mortality. I swear, I think some people plan to live forever through their clutter, not unlike the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt who cluttered their tombs will all kinds of stuff….not to mention the often massive scale of the tombs themselves.

      • Lucia says:

        I took on the job of copying the family photos because I was the only relative who knew who was whom. My brothers are 10 and 8 years younger than me and have no memory of my father’s military service, our grandparents, cousins or aunts, uncles, etc. They were pleased and grateful that I provided a connection to their past. They also learned about the side of Dad that they never knew about. It was a bit expensive with ink, photo paper and time, but I’m retired and don’t have much to do in the winter anyway. Now I’m done doing albums for the family and don’t wish to do any more.

      • glenn fairman says:

        Darla was a semi-hoarder and kept many things that should have been tossed. While going through her drawers, something I was loathe to do, I found an unopened box of condoms– circa 2010. Since I have been neutered since the late 80’s, this caused me more than a little distress. Now there were many ways to account for this—-bachelorette parties, baby shower prizes, or perhaps they belonged to a friend or my son, but these surprises from beyond are not what a grieving husband should see. We should take care that what we conserve is not misinterpreted at best or can lead our loved ones on a trail to a place from which it is impossible to return unscathed.

        • Gibblet says:

          “I found an unopened box of condoms”

          I’m going to beat Brad to the punch, and point out that “unopened” is the operative word here. Too bad….. balloon animals can be so much fun to make and share. Although, you would want to be selective with whom you share a balloon animal made from a condom.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Bryan and I (Bryan is the younger brother) kept expecting to run into a poker stash of some kind as we cleaned out the family house. My father played a monthly game with friends and usually did okay. We figured it quite possible that we’d find a couple hundred dollar bills stocked away here or there.

          Actually, going through all the stuff — mother’s and father’s — we found absolutely nothing even remotely incriminating. I’m sort of disappointed. Hey, if dad had spent some wild weekend with Jackie Kennedy on one of his business trips back east, I would have found that interesting.

          But no Jackie Kennedy. No heaps of condoms. Just lots and lots of mementos-cum-junk.

          My advice, Glenn, is cherish the things you choose to cherish and let go of the rest. Don’t let any ghosts eat you up. You seem like a pretty nice guy to me. Don’t guilt-trip yourself. Don’t wade in regrets. Cherish the good things and put the rest down to the inevitable messy tapestry of life. Peace, joy, and good things for you always from here on out.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            And after all, as Glen himself noted, there are perfectly innocent possible explanations for them. Who knows now?

            I seem to recall that my father was familiar with a lot of card games, including cribbage, gin rummy, and poker, though he wasn’t much (if any) of a gambler. My own card-game experience tends more to pinochle (we did a lot of that in college) and hearts. I did learn to shuffle properly, which not everyone I know learned how to do.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Cribbage is a very fine game. As is gin rummy…which arguably requires more skill (certainly a very good memory…the computer beats me regularly, even on a fairly easy setting).

    • Gibblet says:

      ” Sometime I wish I could get rid of everything except what’s necessary and live like a monk.”

      Lucia, I couldn’t agree more. The problem I’ve found is with the word “necessary”. It can be qualified and quantified depending on the season, the mood, and the opinions of one’s spouse.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I think the real baggage exists in our brains. The outward forms are a manifestation of that. On the other hand, people tend to have different definitions of, and tolerances for, clutter. At the end of the day, I think the filter is:

        + Is there a reasonable chance you will use that item some day?

        + Is there a reasonable chance that you will be able to find it when you do?

        A lot of items can’t pass this test.

        • Gibblet says:

          My husband probably thinks my guitars and conga drums are clutter. I’m convinced that his motorcycle and all the periphery that goes with it definitely are. If either of us used our toys more often, they could then be considered more than clutter. Although, I suppose for now they might qualify as “art”.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Lucia, I couldn’t agree more.

        I also see the merit in living as a monk (or nun, as the case may be…not sure where “transgenders” reside, but I’m sure it’s a silly place).

        One of the most difficult aspects of living as a monk is first and foremost living as a monk in your mind. Even monks can in no way dispense with property and with surrounding themselves with all kinds of “stuff.” They have long bastardized and fudged the rules of property (particularly in the Franciscan Order) by saying the property belongs to someone else.

        We similarly live in a world in which it is all but impossible to not be surrounded with “stuff.” And so that we don’t make the errors of many of the hypocritical religious orders, we need to come to peace with the “stuff.” It’s never going away. Much of it is extremely inexpensive and useful. And taking a vow of poverty is most likely going to be hypocritical when anyone can take advantage of the wide world of civic or free “stuff” that is available…even if just visiting a local museum or hopping on the bus (which might not be free, but near enough).

        Do you absolutely need the latest revision of the iPhone? Does your current phone reduce to the status of “junk” in your eyes because there is something newer? Then you understand what I mean by first living as a monk in your mind. Stuff can be wonderful and useful. But have you made of it an idol?

        Our Order of the Monk of the Mind will first of all pay penance by finding something old and discarded and refurbishing it and making it useful again. Our Order of the Monk of the Mind will not engage in mental masturbation and narcissism by elevating “charity” to simply giving “free stuff” to others….and thus exacerbating the cycle of all the maladies of Homo Economicus. Instead, we will spread the gospel that Old Things Still Have Their Uses.

        We will appreciate the usefulness and artful craft of the “stuff.” In fact, a devout Monk or Nun in the Order of the Monk of the Mind could produce a thriving business selling all kinds of artfully made “stuff.” It’s not the “stuff” that is the problem. It’s our attitude toward it, neither elevating it to an idol via the sin of making a golden calf of “newness” nor making and idol of our supposed “planet-saving” self-regarding narcissism by infusing our “stuff” with crunchy-con meaning that is pure inflated hype.

        Used book stores and flee markets are amongst the Stations of the Cross of the Order of the Monk of the Mind. There are others as well.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          We have the problem that Elizabeth, now that she no longer works, has too much time on her hands. She reads the books we buy much faster than I do because I spend so much time on the computer. Nor can she go out on her own to get more (such as at the library), because she needs help getting in and out of the car. Ours is very much a symbiotic relationship.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            As you know, Elizabeth is more than welcome to post here and submit thoughts/reviews on the books she has read. It is normal and natural for those who have moved past the “Snowflake” stage of their lives to send more time in various forms of contemplation…including reading books of all sorts.

            My problem is regards to books is that so many of them bore me. It’s really difficult for me to find something worthy of reading. And unlike our Dear Mr. Kung who can find great pleasure in re-reading the classics, I’m generally a “been there, done that” sort of person in regards to books (although not in regards to good movies).

            As we all approach the winter of our lives, it’s paramount we focus our time on the things that are meaningful to us and let all the other stuff roll off like water off a duck’s back. I think it was Jung who simplified the ages of man into at least four chapters, including a “warrior” chapter when we are in our young middle age.

            I think most of this is baloney or just plain obvious. Someone who is 75 isn’t likely going to be storming too many castle walls. But such simplistic psychologizing overlooks the bigger truth: We tend to build our own castle walls, moats, gates, etc. The error of youth is trying to remake every damn thing instead of learning first that there may be a damn good reason that wall is there.

            We live in a culture that is literally crazy-making. It is true that no man (or woman) is an island and that culture necessarily has a very powerful hold on us. And yet it is the privilege of wisdom (that often comes with age, but not always) to re-write or ignore many of the silly affectations that define “normal.” And there has never been a better time than now to reevaluate what is “normal,” at least in regards to this current vulgar culture.

            The life of the mind is a good thing. I hope Elizabeth enjoys her books and can give us a few good recommendations.

            • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

              As we all approach the winter of our lives, it’s paramount we focus our time on the things that are meaningful to us and let all the other stuff roll off like water off a duck’s back

              When I was young, I enjoyed associating with older people as I figured, unless they were complete idiots, they must have gained a certain amount of wisdom through experience. And I wished to gain from this wisdom. A short-cut, if you will.

              It is normal and natural for those who have moved past the “Snowflake” stage of their lives to send more time in various forms of contemplation

              As a wise person once mentioned to me, “It is passing strange how one gains virtue as one gains age.”

              It should be noted that much of the gained virtue is the result of the natural decline of the body. A gain of virtue through a loss of physical capacity.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                A gain of virtue also tends to come with increasing income. Alfie Dolittle was right that the poor often can’t afford morals (or more easily think they can’t).

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                A gain of virtue also tends to come with increasing income.

                It would appear that past a certain point, an increasing income leads to a decline in virtue for a large portion of the population. Note the debauchery of much of the aristocracy and super-rich throughout the ages.

                I would go so far as to say that for many, once basic needs and comforts are taken care of, (particularly if not earned) the inherent corruption of mankind manifests itself.

  13. Anniel says:

    Bear and I are trying to declutter and having a terrible time deciding who might want what. Bear had inherited a very expensive engraved pocket watch, complete with a pagecutter and the accoutrements that a very wealthy gentleman would have paid for in 1870. The Paris jeweler still has the purchase papers even. Bear decided which son should get it. Then we realized what a burden he was getting. He can’t wear it in public, he’d surely be robbed or killed for it. Nor can he display it in his home for the same reason. So that leaves a safety deposit box. I suppose he could go visit it once a year. The question then becomes, does he own it, or does it own him?

    We told him to sell it. It took a lot of thought , but I think he’s giving it to a museum. I hope so.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      A museum would be a suitable place for something like that. Fortunately, we don’t have anything like that — if we want to wear something, we can. (My own watch, unfortunately, no longer has a working snap so I can’t wear it anymore.) Going from a large house to an apartment is going to force us to get rid of a lot of stuff, which is exacerbated by the infestations of roaches and bedbugs. We’ll probably have to junk many things that should still be usable because of that.

  14. Lucia says:

    I understand how complicated these problems are. When I was dividing up my parents estate, I gave some things to our daughters that they were glad to take and had room to store them. My grandmother’s wedding silver went to the daughter with children so it could be passed down. That’s about it. Nobody has room for my grandmother’s hope chest or treadle sewing machine, or handmade dolls, nor do they want them. Yuk. What a burden these things have become.

    • Gibblet says:

      The Bible tells us to store up our treasures in Heaven. I suppose that means all the “things” we can do to honor God. The conundrum for me is the balance between being a good steward of what I’ve been given, and knowing that all things wordly are just dust waiting to happen. I’d like to give things to people who need it, but it is hard to find real material poverty. Who wants my old junk when they can go to Goodwill and get better stuff, or buy new things with their EBT card?

      The poverty I have discovered is that many people are in need of true friends. Eliminating the clutter from our lives can free up time and space to meet the true needs of others.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Yes, I agree. I think that’s well said. There is plenty of poverty today…almost none of it material. And it’s a great point that the plethora of material “stuff” ironically impoverishes us because it gets in the way of more wholesome and soulful pursuits.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Those dolls could be worth some money.

      • Glenn Fairman says:

        An interesting note regarding the deceased and their possessions: No sooner had Darla’s funeral service finished, but her Aunt Elaine came up to me and offered her condolences. In her next breath she asked me about a doll she had given Darla many years ago that had accrued in value. Her desire for it was palpable in her face. As she walked away, Darla’s own mother questioned me about a pair of Ugg boots she had given my wife for Christmas and the electric cart that I had renovated for Darla to use for no mean sum of money.

        I imagined braiding together a cord of whips and driving these vermin from the temple, but propriety dictated that I become a reed in the wind. My children, upon hearing of these quasi-outrages, were not so charitable in their opinions. My daughter offered that she would place it on ebay for her great aunt to bid on. She is indeed a chip off the old block.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I suppose this is no worse than taking a great deal of interest in the contents of the will, but there’s a suitable time and place for everything, and that wasn’t it. One wonders if they would have caught the reference.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          The nobler sympathies seem to have at least temporarily bypassed some of your in-laws.

          Allowing for the possibility of grief being expressed in a myriad of ways, I’d recommend less drastic measures than eBay for disposing of coveted family items. Craigslist should suffice.

          There are practical reasons why we three brothers have not fought over the small stuff (although the big-stuff has caused some need to keep braided cord handy in one instance, not involving the brothers): No one really has room for all the stuff and little of it is worth all that much.

          The general agreement working amongst the brothers is/was “If it means something to you, it’s yours. No questions asked.” This is surely an impractical, utopian scheme. But at least for the knick-knacks it has worked quite well. We brothers are not particularly noble people but it seemed absurd in the extreme to let even the possibility of bad feelings emerge over just so much “stuff.”

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Due to all our moves, by the time my mother died about all that was left were the photos. Those were pretty much allocated on the basis of “Who wants it?” In fact, my cousin Becky just put them all on her dining room table (the wake was held there because my mother was buried at Sweeden Missionary Baptist Church, which Becky attends) and everyone just looked them over to see what they wanted.

            I have no idea how my father’s stuff was allocated (I was a bit young to be making any choices myself). Much later Becky gave me a couple of his books from West Point that (a yearbook and a math text), which had been gathering dust in a workshop across the street from Lane’s Store. (The store went defunct after my grandpa died, though I think it may be operating now under a new name and ownership.)

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Sounds pretty normal to me. I’ve basically become the repository of the photos…if only because I have the room and a place where they will remain at a relatively constant temperature and not subject to high heat or humidity.

  15. Lucia says:

    I like the idea of the flea markets. My hubby and I used to run our own table at flea markets years ago. We liked shopping at yard and estate sales for bargains and then reselling what we bought. Most of my grandmothers things are cheap and shabby and nobody but me would value them, except maybe somebody looking for turn of the century artifacts and pre-WW2 marbles made in Germany, etc. It takes energy to pack up things and set them up on a table, only to repack them at the end of the day and haul them home. So for the present I will enjoy them.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      A friend of mine used to make a living selling sunglasses at flea markets (this was in central Texas). I ran a dealers’ room table once at a local SF convention, which is one way to see just about everyone.

  16. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    It should be noted that much of the gained virtue is the result of the natural decline of the body. A gain of virtue through a loss of physical capacity.

    No doubt there is some truth to that, Mr. Kung.

    A gain of virtue also tends to come with increasing income. Alfie Dolittle was right that the poor often can’t afford morals (or more easily think they can’t).

    Such a weighty conversation pops up in the middle of A Hospice Tale. Who really has the answer to the cause of sin and crime? Certainly the Left looks at it thusly:

    1) If you vote Democrat, your sins are caused by being a victim of poverty, inequality, racism, or the intolerance of others.
    2) If you vote Republic, your sins are caused by the wish to exploit others (or the environment), all probably motivated by SIXHIRB (sexism, intolerance, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, racism, bigotry).

    I’m not making this up. And I’m not trying to be droll. This is pretty much the New Understanding of sin that now holds sway in our culture.

    The real answers in regards to sin and crime are much more complicated, of course. I would argue that no correlation exists between poverty and crime…that is, in terms of the supposed magical property of material wealth to dissolve sin. If poverty and crime were directly related, there should be almost no crime in the richer Western countries.

    Instead, what common sense and history clearly show us is that people’s attitudes and beliefs, not their material situation, is the cause of violence and crime. People are far poorer in many parts of India, but the crime rates there are almost certainly far lower than in Detroit where material wealth, relatively to most of the world, is abundant.

    Cultures may be rotten. Cultures may foster parasitism or they may foster the attitude that one must honestly work for one’s bread.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      There’s a death today that may be considered relevant. Norma McCorvey was a poor, pregnant single woman who sued the state of Texas over their abortion law — and became the Roe of Roe v. Wade (though she had given birth by the time the decision came down). For the next couple of decades she remained an abortion activist and was working for an abortionist when she changed, decided to give her life to Christ, and became a pro-life activist who regularly spoke at the March for Life. She just died, and the people choosing to remember her are pro-life activists. It’s a good reminder that redemption is possible for everyone.

      Incidentally, Sandra Cano (the Doe of Doe v. Bolton) also became a pro-life activist. In fact, she said that the case was her lawyer’s doing, not hers, and that she never got her abortion.

    • Gibblet says:

      A friend of mine who lived in a relatively (by India standards) poor area of New Dehli, assures me that violent crime in India is much worse than even the worst places in the United States (sorry, no statistics provided – just a recounting of personal experience). According to my friend, the Police in New Dehli will work with you only if you pay, or provide some other valuable “service”. Therefore, often, crime does not get reported.

      Is there a direct correlation between poverty and crime? I think not. There is more of a corellation between lack of morality and crime, I would propose, than poverty and crime. Morality is not something that must be purchased. It is chosen. Yet, morality often exacts a price that is not monetary, if one has the character to stand firm. An impoverished person, however – whether moral or not, and no matter where they live – is at a disadvantage where justice is concerned unless a benevolent entity fights on their behalf. And in a morally and/or materially impoverished society, corruption is always prevalent among those with power and authority. The eroding forces of this high level corruption can, and often do, take over society as a whole creating an environment of rampant crime where the “poor” and the “criminal” live in parasitic symbiotic relationship. Which is why a One World Government will be such a miserable system for all but a corrupt, elite few.

      A weighty subject, indeed, but it should be no suprise we ended up here. All roads lead to Rome, after all.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      As an addendum to my earlier comments, I will note that Hungary and Macedonia are complaining about the intervention of NGOs funded by George Soros in their politics. The Macedonians even blame their economic woes on him — and since Soros got his money through currency manipulation (generally betting against a country’s economy), it’s possible that he’s betting against their economy even as his minions push them to adopt harmful policies (as he has done in America, in fact).

      As long as monsters like the Creature from the Black Lagoon (aka Dr. Kermit Gosnell) are alive, it may be too much to say that Soros is the most evil person in the world. But he’s certainly way high up on the list.

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