Journey Into Wholeness
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
In my previous post “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine: Song about Ordinary Happiness” I wrote about dying persons whose lives were well lived. Unfortunately, not everyone lives a fulfilled life. Even so, every dying person has something to teach the living.
One day a nurse informed me of a new patient who declared at the time of hospice admission that she refused to be taken care of by anyone other than white staff. The patient whom we call Ruth was a white woman in her 9o’s, a successful business woman who was wealthy and highly educated. It seemed that Ruth had done quit well for herself, especially for a woman of her generation, yet she was a very angry person.
Many of our hospice aides were African Americans, so Ruth refused their care. Since hospice was not going to accommodate her demands, Ruth hired private care givers who took turns to stay with her around the clock. Except for the hired staff very few people visited her, if any.
Most of our nurses were white, so we didn’t think Ruth would have a problem with them. But she gave such a hard time for the nurses that on many days I saw them coming out of her room in tears. Ruth was not only a racist but also a mean person. As a result, she alienated herself from everyone.
Ruth’s heart must have been filled with fear and pain, since fear breeds hate and pain breads anger. Her life was a life of tragedy. Even though she was wealthy, educated, and successful, her life was not well lived. She lived angry and died the same way. When we die, we can’t hide how we’ve lived.
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself. ” Eleanor Roosevelt said. What I learned from Ruth is this: If we want to die peacefully with our hearts filled with love, that’s the way we must live.