Jeanne, I'm sorry I'm out of the loop, and don't know what's "up" with your back.......I hope you do write a post on how to do a hospital visit. I cringe away from them too often I think......Have you read "On Vit, On Parle" by Victor Hugo? I think of that poem so often as it brilliantly sums up all the big and little things we do everyday and ends with "Puis, le vast et profond silence de la mort."I am glad to say I do know today that my thoracic spine (mid-back) does not have a compression fracture or tumor; nothing to worry about, then. I see that doctor Wednesday to explore options for decreasing the pain. His usual options are physical therapy, exercise. Meanwhile I'm reading about how rats are cured with vibration therapy to the spine, things like that that my insurance probably won't pay for. As for now, my relief is incredible. I am very attached to this body, in fact, that's what I was going to write about.
Last week I did not pay a hospital visit to my friend Tina, who had let the hospital know she did not want visitors, and had not called me when she went in. I imagine she is too tired and sick (COPD, heart) to want to entertain anyone. So I put together a basket of foolish things, including a pretty little book of haiku with paintings that even a very sick person could lift. And a rather fun card that didn't say "Get well" or any sentimentalism. Tina is not a sentimental person.
I have had the unwelcome privilege of countless hospitalizations these last years. I probably could count them if I sat down with Tom and tried, but who cares. Here's what I learned from a patient's point of view.
1. Please don't expect me to entertain you. Don't sit down in silence in my room looking tired and bored. I can't rest while people are doing that.
2. Don't come empty-handed. A good thing to bring is something light to read, a tabloid, a Reader's Digest, I don't care. Maybe I don't have the daily newspaper. It doesn't matter if you bring the right thing; it's the thought that counts.
3. Don't worry about my diet. The hospital is already imposing grim dietary regulations on me. Bring me chocolate. Fritos would be acceptable too.
4. Or bring a flower, best if it's from your garden, in a little throwaway vase. Or a little cucumber facial cream.
5. Stand by the bed where I can see you without effort and entertain me with light anecdotes about the news, what the kids did, whatever you and I talk about, thrift-store sales, whatever.
6. Ten to fifteen minutes of this is probably enough. But maybe I'm animated and want to talk a lot, or have you walk me in the halls, be willing to do that. It is rather insulting to be visited briskly by someone who has an appointment for cocktails at six and is just crossing you off their list.
7. Feel free to lightly hold my feet or massage them. I mean, if I know you that well. If I know you that well you could bring a little fleece throw or something for a gift. Hospitals are always cold.
8. If I am conscious, talk to me, not my spouse, friend, whoever else is there. At least in part.
So, the idea is, just pay attention to the fact that I'm sick and probably tired and scared. It is wonderful that you visited at all. All you have to do is the three things that characterize Zen:
And while you're paying attention, notice if I say the TV remote doesn't work, or the nurses never answer the call (does it work?) or I can't get another pillow. Maybe there's a little something you could do.
You will, of course, feel obliged to ask me how I am doing. I may very well not have much of an answer besides, "I'm bored, they won't let me sleep, I hope to go home." Or I might want to ramble on about my MRI. In general, it really is the thought that counts. When people visit, it makes us feel like we still have a place in the world, like maybe when we die it will matter. And as to your own anxiety making a visit like this, well, there must be people who are so used to it (ministers, maybe) that they don't get a little chill when something reminds them of mortality. As the guys say, suck it up.
And that takes me back to the Victor Hugo poem Karen mentioned. Here is a link to it in French, with English translation between the lines. It is a very beautiful summation of this crazy life, and the final peace of death. Which may not necessarily be the dark.