Sharon Hostler


“We are having more conversations now about what patients want for their end of life, by far, than they have had in their lives to this point,” my friend said. “The problem is that’s way too late.”

Atul Gawande, “Letting Go,” The New Yorker, August 2, 2010

We’re at it again. Another admission. This time It’s a nursing home for my 90-year-old, bourbon-sipping, Pall Mall-smoking mother. The nurse’s aide has the same ritual questions. ”Who is your doctor?” “Do you have any allergies?” “What about advanced medical directives?”

Mother responds. ”Yes, dammit. I sign that damn goldenrod form every month! Don’t worry. I am not lingering! Oh Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! You’ll get the bed back soon enough.”

The aide continues. “Your religion? Your funeral home?”

Mother erupts. ”What about my choice of salad dressing … that’s a hell of lot more relevant to my quality of life!”

I interrupt. “Hill and Wood on High Street in Charlottesville. She’s done all the paperwork.”

“Yeah, but I ‘m not going to be burned in that damn furnace.”

“… but you said before you did want to be cremated.”

“… well, I’ve been having nightmares, you know, about hearing my fat sizzle like bacon when I am sliding into the fire. It’s creepy. No damn furnace!!”

“Okay, I’ll call and change it. So where do you want to be buried? In the cemetery back in Rutland with Daddy or somewhere down here?”

“Absolutely not! Not lying next to that cheating son-of-a-bitch Hop Hostler. He was still a damn good-looking dude when he died at 36 … you remember, he was really something else.”

“Come on, Mom,” I wheedle. “Let’s get this admission stuff finished. I need to get back to the hospital for rounds.”

“Of course, Missy”, she hisses. “Can’t interfere with her highness and her rounds … so sorry to be dying here …”

The aide tries to be soothing. “Now, now, Mrs. Hostler …”

“Okay. I’ve got it. No cremation … you want a burial ….”

“But nowhere near your god-damned Father. What if there is a resurrection? He wouldn’t have anything to do with this sorry bag of bones, the bastard!”

“Okay, then somewhere down here …”

“Hop’d just leave me high and dry like always, that damn snake in the grass … a real sexy snake, though.”

* * * * *