The young man carries his possessions in a brown paper bag and a shoebox. I notice him when I board the coach at Greenville. His name is Marvin, and he wears a pale blue shirt and baggy yellow pants, no jacket despite the nippy January afternoon. He tells a friendly, brown-faced woman in the seat across the aisle from him that he has been traveling for over thirty hours, since Detroit, and that he is 23 years old and has been in prison since he was 16. I wonder what he was in for. Drugs probably. Packed away during the 90s when tough laws cleaned the streets of rubbish so the increasingly wealthy folk felt free to go out and spend their fortunes. Now the prisons, like most everyone else, are going broke and slipping loose the nonviolents, as an economy measure.
Maybe you’re freaked out. Your loved one is hospitalized. Maybe it’s
a surprise, a shock. Maybe s/he’s in critical condition in an
intensive care unit. Maybe
terminal. Maybe there’s a decision you have to
make—perhaps a life-and-death decision. How prepared are
You and your family assemble at the
hospital—a foreboding environment. A teeming, technical,
yet bland place where time moves strangely and what lies
ahead is not explained. you’re left alone with your
languishing loved one, your uncertainties, doubts, and
fears. To ensure that your family’s best interests are
served, you must proactively unearth all kinds of
information by asking endless questions, up front,
of virtually every person who interacts with you in a professional
capacity. To ensure
that your loved one doesn’t languish, you must have that
information before each next choice point—some moment
that practically begs for a decision. how do you get it?
How do you know what
to ask for? How do you anticipate when the next choice point may occur?
offers a compilation of guidance you won’t find
elsewhere. My experience during and after two terminal
hospitalizations taught me that healthcare
establishments neither talk about nor offer the
information you most need to know—especially what you
need to know to help you in your hours and days of need,
whether your loved one is terminal or hospitalized for
less severe conditions. To the limited extent that
institutions talk about matters vital to you, their
communication is not offered in advance; it usually
coincides with some
disconcerting or agonizing choice point.
If you are your loved one’s
designated personal representative (known also as proxy,
agent, surrogate, or Medical power of Attorney) and your
family’s values are like mine, communing with your loved
one, receiving direction from your loved one, and
emotional shocks are among your family’s most vital interests.
need help in making a life-and-death decision. But if
you’re not sure what death’s onset looks like, you won’t
know that a
life-and-death decision may be looming.
hospitalizations fifteen months apart and totaling
almost six weeks, my family received virtually zero
advance notice of things to come, let alone any guid
ance. Without notification of what was likely or
possible to happen, we experienced repeated, deep,
destabilizing—and unnecessary—shocks. Our equilibrium
suffered, and important opportunities were foreclosed,
vanishing opportunities to commune with and receive
treatment direction from our loved ones. Without
guidance, our best interests were not served by
providers or by institutional staff and representatives.
Rather, we had to discover for ourselves how to have our
best interests served, moment by moment, time and
again—during the most urgent, stressful, and vulnerable
of our lives.
Sir William Simon
Hennessy desired fresh blood. His belly absorbed the first
glass in one swallow, a quick pick-up as a precursor to the
dayâs feedings. He wiped the remaining cream under his chin
and tossed the damp towel into the tub. A fresh sea scent of
eau du toilette was splashed on his neck and clean face,
followed by running a fine-tooth comb through his full head of
short, white hair.
"Bring her to me," he ordered to the two men waiting in the next room. He stepped
out of the bathroom and turned to the dresser, slipping a
cherry red ruby onto his pinky finger and a second gold ring
on his index finger, delicately engraved with the emblem Scotland Forever. He had no need for watches. To the
precise minute, he could accurately estimate the time of day.
Time was the crystal clear reflection of Sir William,
inescapable and eternal, conforming to his body like an old,
favourite wrinkled leather jacket.