Hobart was fifty-four years old when referred to Hospice for brain cancer. He and his wife, Gail, lived alone in their large one-hundred year old home. Well, they don’t actually live alone. They have four, or are there five, beige apple-headed Chihuahuas? They look so much alike, that if I don’t see them all together, I lose count. One is the self-appointed guard of the house and the leader of the pack; but according to Gail, “They all like to pile into Hobart’s bed, especially when the floor is cold.”
Hobart had been a truck driver for over eighteen years, delivering shipments to “Big Lots” stores, primarily in the Midwest and Canada. One day I asked Hobart and Gail how they were coping with the changes. I wish you could have seen the expression on Hobart’s face when Gail said, “The most difficult thing for me is having Hobart around the house all the time. Since he was on the road so much I got used to having my solitude and I enjoyed it.”
Well, there is a time for a professional to share personal experiences with a client; when you think it might be therapeutically beneficial. I thought Hobart could use a little validation, and seeing how a guy should never leave his wing man, I suggested, “Join the crowd. I know how you feel.” I told him about the time I decided to take a day off work. I hadn’t told my wife about my plans, so when I stayed in bed longer than usual, she asked, “Aren’t you going to work today?” I answered, “No, I thought I’d take the day off.” She looked disappointed and said, “But I was planning on taking the day off. But if you’re going to take the day off I may as well go to work. Sometimes I just like to have a whole day at home alone.” You should have seen the expression on my face!
My and Hobart’s experiences inspired me to do a little personal informal research. At the risk of sounding sexist, I discovered that most women; and I say “most”, when they need to push the reset button, like to retreat into their home with no one around. One coworker shared that her mother frequently asks her retired father, “Can’t you find someone to go outside and play with”. Hobart and I concluded that, even though we can’t fully comprehend why our presence could be so intrusive and disappointing, that we should just accept it; as if we have a choice in the matter.
Over the span of several weeks and several home visits, I became impressed with Hobart’s even-temperedness. He never appeared to be angry or question God about his illness; but I imagine he had his days. So I asked Hobart, “What is it that helps you cope so well?” He reflected for a minute and then replied, “That’s a good question”. He then proceeded to answer, “I’ve had a good life. I have four children and grandchildren. I have my faith. We were promised the resurrection. And when the supreme creator of the universe promises you something, you can count on it. So that’s what I look to.”
Hobart’s response reminds me of a verse that one of our hospital ward clerks passed on to me years ago, titled “What Cancer Cannot Do”: “Cancer is so limited. It cannot cripple love. It cannot shatter hope. It cannot erode faith. It cannot eat away peace. It cannot destroy confidence. It cannot kill friendship. It cannot silence courage. It cannot invade the soul. It cannot reduce eternal life. It cannot quench the Spirit. It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection. “
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to his purpose…If God is for us, who can be against us?…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ. Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword…Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come….shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28-39)
Loren Hardin is a hospice social worker at Southern Ohio Medical Center and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 740-356-2525