Share the Wealth with Emma Shaw
by Mark Chmiel
Death is not the antithesis of life but rather the teacher of life. It has been my true honor to accompany individuals and families as they face the fear, pain, peace, and inevitability of saying goodbye. I look forward to sharing stories of the challenges faced as a hospice social worker, the insights I’ve gained, and ultimately the death (and life) lessons that I hold so dear. Holding hands at the end of life has offered a road-map of a good death and ultimately, how I aspire to live. Join me for stories of absurdity, anguish, reconciliation, and peace.
My work with hospice began at the age of 18 as a volunteer, just one year after my grandmother died on hospice services. Dying individuals accompanied me as I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies and Spanish. I spent my first 6 years after college serving the homeless in a community-based medical respite facility in Washington, D.C. When internal and external resources began to run low, I re-fueled with around the world travel and my Master of Social Work degree from Washington University. I have been working at Seasons Hospice for the past 2.5 years.
Join us this Sunday 8 November–potluck begins at 6:00 p.m., and Emma begins sharing at 6:45. We gather at the home of Lindsay Sihilling, 3136 Lackland Avenue, Saint Louis 63116.
Like a G
Progressive neurodegenerative disease they call it.
Of what this will be like
Of how it would take me
Of how I would take it.
“Like a G” he says.
“I wanna die like a G.”
No tubes and holes.
No machines replacing
the lungs that once
shouted with anger and exclaimed with joy.
No holes to drain the food that
my mouth used to chew and savor.
“I wanna die like a G”
It’s about time this world turned you bitter –
the short hand it dealt you.
Three kids before you were grown yourself.
Minimum wage to reward the hardest of labor.
The world assuming your a gangsta
All the while knowing you define gangster –
Bravery despite fear,
Authenticity despite convention,
Respect despite stereotypes.
I walk in and his gold smile lights up the room.
“How you doin’?” he asks. “Plans for the Fourth?”
He used to cook,
used to BBQ,
used to party,
used to go outside.
Now bed is his life.
But this thought is in my head
not his mouth.
He jokes and turns lovingly to his wife:
“Did you eat lunch baby? You have to take care of yourself.”
First grandchild brought home
and laid in arms he can’t lift.
“What a fucked up world” I think
but joy and tears light up his face,
“What a blessed man I am.”
“The end won’t be pretty” I say.
“No tubes?” I ask again. “No holes?”
“I wanna die like a G” he repeats.
This world can turn us bitter
Box us in
Teach us to hate
our concrete cell
but then that’s how we die –
Joke’s on us.
Like a tree that cannot be contained
by the concrete barriers man constructs,
Life can be so raw,
We can be life.
Live like a G.