Wednesday, June 22, 2016

a moment in the day: comfortable

It's late and I should turn over and go to sleep, but Stephen's watching that show about death, a topic humans can't get enough of. I forsake some sleep so I can watch it too. He makes us cookies in the toaster oven, and they're gluten-free and they taste like hard little rounds of sweet wood chips with tiny bursts of lovely, melty chocolate, and we sit in bed in front of the TV where terminal cancer patients lie in their own beds or their hospital beds. Doctors, palliative care specialists, grieving partners.

A doctor and the widower of a former patient talk about the delicate, impossible decisions they made about different rounds of chemotherapy. The doctor admits that he should have stopped treatment sooner and focused on making her comfortable. I'm struck by the fact that the two men, and particularly the widower, discuss this with elegance instead of rage, that the widower doesn't feel the need to lay blame.

Next to me, Stephen breathes and sniffs and eats his cookie. Under the covers, Nicholas works at grooming, occasionally pausing and giving my leg a little lick.

Shot of a woman in her hospital bed, the palliative care specialist saying, are you feeling comfortable, good, I'll be back later, shot of a woman in her hospital bed alone, being comfortable.

When I'm there, I want you to know, I don't just want to be comfortable. Promise me this, OK? I want to be engaged. Thinking about just lying there being comfortable while time drains away is a horror to me. One of the things that will torture you is that you won't know what to say to me, but just tell me a story of your life. Tell me that thing you know about the life of Mary Todd Lincoln. Set me up with a podcast about the size of black holes. Don't just leave the TV on - set me up with a marathon of Bugs Bunny. Read to me, read to me, read to me.


  1. Oh, sweetie.... This is so sad and beautifully done; the documentary - somehow - didn't make me cry, but this sure did. xo

  2. Thank you, sweetie. But, oops, I claimed that you were sniffling - maybe I was just hearing my own in double-time.

  3. I am so with you. I wonder if it's the pendulum swinging... For so long the quest was to extend life at all costs and there's been a shift to recognizing that comfort care can be preferable. Maybe, hopefully, your suggestion that comfortable isn't preferred, it's just preferable to suffering, but that engaged living is the life we all would want right up to the very end. Lovely writing, Gigi.