Blonde On The Prairie: Live in Love, Live Until You Die

I have a secret. Only my uber-close friends know about it and still they don’t accept it. Some of you have the same secret. I thought I could keep it forever but working at Hospice has taught me it’s time to share it.

I’m not actively dying but I’m not actively living either. I can make myself appear busy and Lord knows I can speak how busy I am. That’s not part of the secret. That’s part of the lie. We lie to ourselves more often than we tell ourselves the truth. That’s why we’re a universe of people with struggles. We believe the lies and discard the truths.

Hearing the word, “Hospice” probably brings most of you to think of one thing and one thing only. Death. Before working at Hospice I had a very intimate, personal experience with the organization as my father-in-law, Keith Ingstad, prepared to pass. Hospice nurses taught us how to be his caregivers. The nurses also cared about us. They made Dad comfortable allowing him to enjoy his days and nights –free of pain. They assured him that everyone was on board with how to care for any symptoms that may pop up. They allowed him to pass at his daughter’s home –tucked in a beautiful room with walls oozing love.

Now that I work for Hospice I travel to and fro at times speaking about what Hospice is, what Hospice does, who can use Hospice and the magnificent benefits of allowing them to help. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been speaking at churches and universities. That’s when I spoke words that spoke back to me. My secret has to be exposed.

In my presentation I speak a quote by the founder of the first Hospice. Her name is Dame Cicely Saunders. I invite you to Google search her on the computer as her history proves she was quite a magnificent soul. I spoke the following quote from her,
“You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”

Say the last seven words of that sentence out loud. Ready? “But also to live until you die.” To live until you die. To LIVE until you die. In my presentation I spoke it but had to look back down to my speech cheat sheet again and again. The word “LIVE” all of a sudden looked back at me in all capital letters.

My secret is that I appear an extrovert. I appear confident and sure of myself when I am anything but. You may see me in the grocery store smiling and that’s not fake. What may be fake is that the smile shows a sureness when really it’s pure unsureness. You may invite me to things and I rarely show up. I don’t feel like I fit in so it’s easier for me to be “too busy” than to allow myself to feel unworthy of your event, party or function. It’s not you. It’s the lie that so many of you feel too. It could be perceived that I am a private person. That’s true. But why am I so private? I have nothing to hide. I share details of my life that most people would take to their deaths right here in the newspaper each week. Maybe I just like being alone? Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve gotten so used to just doing things alone that I’ve talked myself into thinking I like to be alone?

Well-I married a man with the same secret. I came home from my Hospice presentation in all of my Jodi-ness and shared with him the lesson that popped out of my speech at me.

“I’m dying,” I belted out, hands flailing in the air!

“What’s wrong with you now,” he asked knowing full well this diabetes has me experiencing all sorts of symptoms from time to time?

“Neither one of us is living. We’re dying as we live instead of the other way around,” I angrily acknowledged agitatingly!

He asked that question most husbands ask their wives when we get all deep in subject matter. “Do you need a tampon?”

I shook my head and read him the quote. After discussing that we’re getting older and we need a social life we both agreed to walk out of the fort we have built around us.

When we make a plan together one of us holds the other accountable. A plan means nothing without an action and so Saturday night found us with another couple in Jamestown, N.D. We had been asked for over a year to join them for supper and then to their home to sing karaoke with their music machine. Being welcomed in to someone’s personal space must mean they want us there. My mind tried to talk me out of it. I won’t listen to that liar anymore. Watching that husband of mine sing, “Don’t be cruel” by Elvis but using his Louis Armstrong voice had us all doubled over in laughter. I sang backup to ‘My Girl” by the Temptations all the while mimicking the hand gestures the original group used. We didn’t drink, we didn’t talk about sports, farming, hunting or all the other subjects that make us feel like idiots. We were just a household of souls living this one night together as we die.

Hospice is not about death. It taught me how to live. And all because of a quote that spoke to me.

“You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”

My point is simple. Don’t have a secret that was kept as long as I kept mine. Live until you die instead of dying while you’re living. You don’t need a diagnosis for that. Most of us die a little bit every day – suppressed by a job we hate, a mate that we don’t appreciate and an attitude of complacency. Live in love, with friends, family and animals that crave you. There must be some peace in dying knowing you’ve lived. One day we’ll know for sure. You and I are worthy of this life-alive. Don’t believe the other lie. Thank you Hospice for teaching me.

Ingstad lives on the prairie near Valley City and writes this column for the Times-Record.