Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Book Store/Library (06/03/10)
TITLE: Meg's Story
By Carol Hall
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There we were, Meg and I sitting at the bistro style dining room set, the ones with the elevated table and chairs which are so difficult to climb upon when you’re 78 years old, five foot two and recovering from the ravages of Chemotherapy. The set belonged to Meg’s daughter. In fact everything in Meg’s environment belonged to her daughter. She now lived under the constant care of her youngest child when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December of 2009.
Until December, Meg was living independently, thriving actually, in her own apartment. She drove herself to Mass faithfully three times per week, played cards at the seniors centre on Monday and swam on Tuesdays. Friday mornings always found her Saul’s getting her hair washed and set, but that was back when she had hair and a driver’s license.
Now, above her green dancing Irish eyes was a rug of fuzzy gray fur, resulting from the injections introduced to fight the cancer. It appears from my medical records, these substances only succeeded causing the flight of her hair: She has less than three months to live and that’s why I’m visiting. I am a community based palliative care Occupational Therapist. Typically we enable folks to perform their jobs of daily living, doing things for themselves as safely and independently as possible in light of an injury or illness. However, in the context of terminal illness we attempt to assist client’s to live each day to their fullest amidst the betrayal of their physical and mental abilities. In short, I come along side in the grey zone where folks are working at living well while dying with dignity.
In my privileged and sacred years of experience, I have come to learn that the occupation of dying has a different set of job demands unique to each of my clients. My role is to help them identify what they’d like to be doing with their limited time and capacities and enable them to achieve their goals. For Meg, her primary goal isn’t to walk with more grace or get a wig to hide the fuzz. It’s not even about having her own possessions around her. Her goal is figuring out how to get to the library!
“Don’t get me wrong” she says with her Irish lilt, “I appreciate people bringing me books but there’s nothing I like better than to walk into the library and smell all that wonderful paper. Listen to the deafening quietness. Feel the solemn stillness and experience the intoxication of abundant adventures waiting to be imbibed. I want to pick out books that I’d like to read, not what they’ve enjoyed or think I’d like!” With an impish grin and a face rounded out by steroids she beams, “I’m like a kid in a candy store when I go to the library, except its better. I don’t have to spend money and I can choose whatever I want. The variety is endless plus there are no calories or cavities to worry about!”
As I drive away from my visit that sunny afternoon, I’m thankful for helping Meg and her daughter identify that the kindest thing her worried daughter could do this week is not to police her medication, bowel movements or enforce the use of the cane. Instead, she is aware that they are allowed to enjoy doing life together which will include taking her mom to the library for a few hours and waiting patiently to let her choose her own books.
What will Meg achieve? She’ll have met her goal of acquiring a level of emancipation from her imposed limitations through print and the imaginations it will conjure up. Through reading she can exercise the freedom of choice and control the variety of excursions she’ll take. Despite her failing body, she can travel to exotic places. Regardless of her swollen feet she can dance.
As I pull up to visit my next palliative client, I reflect and pray for Meg. I envision her four months from now, in a transformed setting with a transformed body free of pain, tears and limitations. She is standing in the midst of more books that I can imagine, breathing in the fragrance and knowing she has eternity to linger over writings to her hearts delight.
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