Sunday, January 30, 2011

Last Rites and The Importance of Cheerfulness

The relative I visited last week is recovering slowly, as I expected.  The doctor said the blood work and the prognosis were good.

So I was amazed when the priest came in rattling his vials of oil for Last Rites.  I rapidly father-son-holy-ghosted, pausing to ascertain whether the Sign of the Cross  was left-to-right or right-to-left.  Fortunately I remembered correctly, as I didn't want to participate in a witches' sabbath.  Then I zipped the lips as in a silent movie. I didn't believe it was time for Last Rites.  I listened to the mouthings of "Lord have mercy!" by the non-Catholic relative who called the priest.

The rest of us did not say the responses.  We were too stunned by the extravagant gesture of the sacrament. Apparently Last Rites can be called for someone very ill, but it is more usual for the terminally ill or dying.

Certainly I didn't like all that talk of death for my confused

"Cheery-bye!"  I said to the priest.

The problem with the meddling, non-Catholic Last Rites organizer, whom I will refer to as Mr. Death, is that he is a depressive.  He insensitively exaggerates the severity of her illness to her (which is severe enough at her age) and does not expect her to walk or eat, the major goals right now. He scorns the goals.

So we are in the waiting room while our relative has surgery and he is talking about a divorce that happened in the '70s.

"Can you forgive his infidelities?  He didn't pay a penny of child support."

Ancient history, and besides, they made a deal that each would financially support the child he or she had custody of.  The family was split.  Sad, isn't it?  But it was many years ago AND people moved on.      

I tried to explain that these are human problems, common.

"I'm sure she has forgiven him."

"She hasn't."

I'm thinking, She's a Catholic.  What about those Last Rites?

Mr. Death is suspicious of the rest of us. He seems to think we are there to get her to change her will.  Love doesn't come into it for him. He talks only about her money.  He is obsessed with selling the house and talks about it in front of her. Charming. The rest of us hope she will be able to return home and have attempted to explain to him that a washer and dryer could be installed on the first floor so everything could be on one level.  

Mr. Death. (whining):  "When I think of what she used to be able to do.  And they're cutting her nutrition bag by a third." 

Me:  "That's a good thing.  It's been less than a week since the surgery and she's eating on her own."

Different points-of-view, eh?

I'm sure I'll be back next week, but I have a different schedule now.  I'm there only when Mr. Death is not.

The importance of cheerfulness cannot be overestimated  in that gloomy hospital.


Anonymous said...

In the 18th century the main role of the doctor was to be hopeful. To act out hope. Ellen

Frisbee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Frisbee said...

The doctors do seem more hopeful overall.

Some of the nurses on the post-surgery ward were very good. Unfortunately it's been appalling this last week. We need the nurses, but there's clearly a shortage or some would be out on their can.

All those good nurses we read about in lit, but once we're actually IN the hospital... care varies from facility to facility, however.

Very frustrating.