Bruce was 65 years old when referred to Hospice for lung cancer. He and Peggy had been married for 45 years. Bruce was mild mannered, but Peggy was a fighter. Peggy recounted the day their doctor told them that Bruce’s cancer was terminal. “When the doctor told us his cancer was in his bone, I told the doctor, ‘You might think I’m weak, but I’m not as weak as you think I am. I’ll have my cry and then I’ll come back fighting and I’ll make him fight too.” He asked me how I could be so sure and I told him, ‘You just wait and see.’” Peggy continued, “I allowed Bruce two or three weeks for his pity party, then I told him, ‘Get dressed. You’re going out.’ Love has to be tough sometimes. Love won’t allow it.”
Peggy understood the difference between normal grief and resignation. You allow normal grief but you intervene when you suspect resignation. You might question Peggy’s timing and interventions, but I don’t think you can question her love and intentions. Peggy’s love for Bruce reminds me of a quote I heard years ago, “God loves us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to let us stay that way.”
I believe that many of us have misconceptions about the nature of love. Therefore, we sometimes don’t recognize real love when it shows up because sometimes it shows up with a stern determined expression and speaks frankly. It doesn’t even hesitate making us feel uncomfortable at times. And real love doesn’t passively stand by and watch someone continue on a self-destructive course, because love is dedicated to the highest good of another and its goal is always their personal and spiritual growth and welfare.
And love cares enough to speak the truth. But I’ve noticed that in the Bible, “truth” is typically combined with “mercy.” Wise King Solomon exhorted his son, “Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3-4).
There’s a good reason why truth needs to be accompanied by mercy, because truth without mercy can crush and discourage a person, but on the other hand, mercy without truth can cripple and demoralize a person. Thankfully, the Apostle Paul gave us some excellent advice, that when followed, will safely guide us: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”(Ephesians 4:29)
People, as with love, also frequently have misconceptions about hospice. The general public sometimes thinks that we only talk about death and dying. Sure, its part of what we do, but not all we do. Our desire for our patients is “acceptance without resignation,” for them to live the best they can with the situations they are presented with. We believe that with each successive stage of life, and terminal illness, that we are presented with corresponding developmental questions and challenges.
But life’s questions sometimes show up disguised as sighs, “What else can I do! “ “What good am I?” “What’s the use?” “I don’t know why God has me here.” We believe that when we change our sighs into questions and seek the answers, we continue to live until the day we die.
“Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:5-6).
Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center – Hospice and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 740-356-2525.