Sunday, February 1, 2009


I usually describe myself as "the least spiritual person" I know. I am a proud third-generation atheist (it was great to hear Obama include "non-believers" in his list of people of different spiritual persuasions). But recently a number of people have commented on my calmness and acceptance as spiritual marks. I suppose it's all in the eye of the beholder.

Before I came into hospice, when I was still thinking mainly in terms of cures and doctors and hospitals, I went through several periods of deep depression. I felt that I just wanted to die, without going through all the steps it takes to get there. I think the turning point was that wonderful doctor at Beth Israel in October (whose name I wish I could remember) who was the first person to honestly answer my question: "Without a lung transplant, what's going to happen to me?" I think most doctors would talk all around the question, but she looked me in the eyes and replied, "Let's face it, without a lung transplant you don't have a very long life expectancy." Some people might think this would crash all my hope--instead, it let me know exactly what I was dealing with. It led me to talk with the palliative care team and to referral to hospice. It took away all the dishonesty that so often surrounds people with serious illnesses.

I can see now that this is a process...that my body will know what to do. Already, I know there are some days I can barely venture out of bed. I suppose there will be more of them, and I need to work at getting stuff set up so I can do more in bed. When Ann comes on Tuesday we really have to work at getting the mess on the bed organized. I already have a storage box (which Julie found for me) to keep stuff like current books, magazines, and newspapers, grooming stuff like hand lotion, my glasses case, the TV remote, etc., but things do seem to get strewn all over. I also have a bed table (which Marty bought) where I can eat meals, set up the computer, pay bills, etc. It sounds a lot more organized than it is, but I really have to work at getting it that way before I find myself even less able to be out of bed.

The one day at a time stuff really makes sense. Today, I can already feel, will be a good day. There's the Sunday morning papers to look forward to, Marty coming so we can do the Sunday New York Times crossword, and Chris and Shery's coming and bringing lunch. Later, there's even the Super Bowl, although it's "just a game" without the Giants. So, there's lots to enjoy. I don't need gods or prayers to make it happen (although I accept gracefully whenever anyone offers to pray for me--it couldn't hurt!)

I do have a somewhat funny story about someone praying for me. A few weeks ago one of my housecleaners (they are a lovely crew of three Brazilian women) asked me in very broken English if she could pray for me. It took me a few minutes to even figure out what she was asking, but once I figured it out I said yes, thinking she would go to church and light a candle or something. I wouldn't have had any problem with that, but it was quite startling when, instead, she burst into loud, ecstatic, beseeching Portuguese, with frequent references to "Jesu Cristo" and practically a laying on of hands, which seemed to go on forever while I both writhed in embarrassment and tried to act appreciative! Fortunately, she hasn't asked again. That's the kind of spirituality I don't need!

But if someone says "You're in my prayers" (as Nancy, the chaplain, often does), or "I'll light a candle for you," or whatever, I try to take it in the spirit in which it was offered. I don't see the point in getting into an argument about it. I just go on firm in my own belief that, when I am ready, I will go back into the eternal sleep that ended with my birth and will resume with my death. Until then, I've got lots of things I want to do, and I'm going to try to do as many of them as I can.


  1. Very nice, Judi. So moving. Thank you.

  2. Judi, that's one of the many things I've always appreciated about you - your no-nonsense stand toward religion(I was really pleased that Obama mentioned us non-believers, too). And yet when I visited you, your inner peace with your situation was quite clear, even startling, and it did feel "of the spirit." I really appreciate your candor in talking about the process.

  3. Hi Judi,

    You are such an amazing person. And an amazing writer. A Jewish tradition is that people live on after death through the memories of others and you will have that in spades. Eternal really for the body of work you are leaving (& still creating).

    Love, Jim

  4. Your in my prayers, too. Thank you for your openness.
    Chaplain Finley