March 4, 2012
Maxine, “Max”, was referred to Hospice for end stage renal disease at age seventy-seven. Max was a very attractive lady, about five feet tall with silver-grey hair. She always wore large framed blue tinted glasses which, in my mind, made her look like a cute little hoot owl. When I asked Max for permission to write and publish her story I told her that I usually start out by describing each person in a way that the readers can visualize and identify with. Max, appearing concerned, requested “Just be nice to me.” With a smile I told Max, “But I do have to be honest and accurate”, then Max replied, “Well, I’m done for then! Just be gentle.” I hope this story is nice and gentle.
Max lived alone in her own home with support from her family and a hired caregiver. She’d been in nursing homes several times, but she always worked her way back home. Max was a fighter. I complimented Max during one of my visits. “Max, you don’t act old”, and she replied, “I don’t feel old inside. On a good day I feel sixteen inside. But you should see me on a bad day. Then I feel every year.” I told Max that I still see myself as being in my late twenties or early thirties; and with a wide grin she said, “I bet that when you look in the mirror it sure is a big disappointment then isn’t it?.” She seemed proud of herself.
One day I discovered that Max was “a little sneaky”. I received a call from Sue, Max’s hospice aid. Sue discovered that Max wasn’t taking the full dose of her prescribed medication. Max told Sue that it was because her family wasn’t giving it to her. So I paid Max a visit that afternoon to investigate the situation. I pointed out to Max that she had possession of her medications and that she could take them whenever she wanted. Being cornered she confessed, “Well, I really don’t like to take very much medication.” I responded, “Oh, I see. I fear I’ve underestimated your sneakiness.” She grinned and asked, “Do you really think I’m sneaky? I’m not sneaky!”
During another one of my visits Max confided, “My daughter and I aren’t talking to each other.” Her daughter from Louisiana had come to stay with her for a while, but decided to cut her visit short after they got into a heated argument. Her daughter was staying with her brother in town until she could book a flight back home. I asked Max, “Seeing that it might be the last time you see each other, do you really want to part on those terms?” Max replied, “It’s not my fault and besides, what can I do about it now?” I considered that a question that deserved an answer, so we talked about?
I told Max that their situation reminded me of a country music video by Travis Tritt, titled, “Foolish Pride”. I paraphrased the lyrics for Max but I’m quoting them for you: “She thinks that if she calls him it just shows weakness. So the hurt goes on with every tear she cries. Isn’t it sad to see a good love fall to pieces; chalk another heartbreak up to foolish pride…The stubborn souls are the losers here tonight…and while the bridges burn another hard hard lesson’s learned…chalk up another love lost due to foolish pride.”
Max and I talked about how in relationships there’s no such thing as a winner and a loser, either you both win or you both lose. We talked about how we can win an argument but lose a relationship. We talked about how all offenses don’t have to be settled, that they can be simply forgiven. We talked about how “love covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8). We talked about how sometimes all it takes is for someone to make the first move. When I left that day I challenged Max to make the first move. She made no commitment and I calculated it to be about a fifty-fifty chance that she would.
The next day, to my surprise, I received a call from Max’s daughter and it turned out that they’d both made the first move. When Max left a voice mail message on her son’s telephone asking her daughter to come over, her daughter was already on the way.
I realize that there are some relationships that aren’t reconcilable; that there are some broken relationships in which there really isn’t much love lost. But there are some in which much has been lost and which are worth trying to reconcile. Sometimes both sides are hoping and waiting for the other to make the first move. Let’s inventory our relationships and become willing to make the first move, for “The stubborn souls are the losers here tonight”.
Loren Hardin is a member of SOMC Hospice, part of Southern Ohio Medical Center. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.lorenhardin.com.