The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Back From Seattle

So...just got back from Seattle, where I attended the Norwescon, SF convention. Used to be my favorite. Still a lot of fun, but I noticed that I kept to myself a lot more this year. Did have a chance to see some very good friends. Charles Johnson, up in Seattle...we might collaborate on a short story. I'm kinda in awe of Chuck, but this would be an opportunity to learn massively. Think I'll take it.

I had a chance to see another friend who just had 80% of his liver removed. He is an extraordinary man of high accomplishment, and it would really hurt if he didn't make it. It's tough going to see someone, with the suspicion lurking in the back of your mind that this might be the last time. Well, I just heard back from him, and his doctor is VERY optimistic. I'm praying so...
Well, career things are really cooking right now. Just got my notes from Fox Searchlight on GOOD HOUSE, apparently HANNIBAL is about to happen, I'll hear back on SHADOW VALLEY soon (already got paid!) and IN THE NIGHT OF THE HEAT is cooking along. Oh! And I'm developing the movie pitch for CASANEGRA and another project I'll talk about in a couple of weeks. Great.
On the physical level, my travel workout now seems to be
A) Jumprope/Flowfit (sets of 100 jumps as fast as possible, followed by a set of FlowFit. Repeat 5-10 times.)
B) Cards. (Shuffle deck, each suit designated to a different exercise: HIndu Squats, Hindu Pushups, Tablemaker [back bridge variant], and Situps). Deal the cards, and do the number of reps on the card.

Afterwards, the 15-minute yoga form.
On alternate days, I need to do just yoga. But A and B alternate on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I can REALLY feel it in my body if I don't get those Yoga-Only days.
Question For the Day: Have you ever made a "Good-Bye" visit to someone you love, and what is the most important thing to say or do?


Pagan Topologist said...

I made a "good bye" visit to my father in 1997. I took a friend who had never met him. He was really pleased that my friend came with me and that he was still regarded as part of the ongoing life of the family and circle of friends, and not being isolated with just family in his last few weeks. I do not know whether most people facing death in the near term would react that way or not, but it made him happy.


suzanne said...

yes two
mother and father
mother in a coma
but the next to the last visit
was a real
real good
good-bye visit
(I made her potato pancakes)

father last visit
no longer knew me
so no one in there
to say good-bye to

that's up there
as one of the worst
you know
when a parent
no longer recognizes you
her/his child

Anonymous said...

My experience was similar to Suzanne's. My mother suffered from Alzheimer's. It was a long series of goodbye visits, as slowly first knowledge of who the grandchildren were and then who we her children were faded from her memory.

Marty S

Shawn said...

Two years of my life was a goodbye visit, because my mother's heart was doing its best to kill her. She had a lot of good living in those two years, and I'm glad I was able/willing to make the sacrifice of being there during them.

The actual last visit, I didn't know was going to be the last one. Hospitalized with a serious complication, but I thought there would be at least a couple more weeks; she passed away in the middle of the night because she took off the oxygen feed that she'd lived with for two years.

This may sound harsh, but make sure that you can be happy with what you did on the visit, after they pass away. If you don't do/say what -you- need to, you're going to be the one who lives with it afterwards.

LaVeda H. Mason said...

Tell them you love them [if you do, of course]. It's the things not said, but deeply felt, that are the most regretted when someone dies.

Also, do your best to do the right thing by them, even if it's inconvenient, or uncomfortable [I'm thinking about visiting, etc. when your loved one is transitioning]. When everything is finished, you'll have no regrets to live with - like Shawn said :)

Reluctant Lawyer said...

I've never made a "good bye" visit, but I've recently started thinking about taking a proactive step along those lines with my son. I've slowly started making a list of all the things that I would want him to know that I may not get a chance to tell him. I'm healthy, but no one knows the hour of their own death.

Kai Jones said...

Four years ago when my mother was dying, she took the whole family (27 people) to Jamaica for a week.

We talked about her fears of dying (she was afraid of the pain, mostly, since she was dying of cancer) and what she wanted to do if there were time in the last few weeks. When we returned she went into the hospital, then hospice, and died 2 weeks later.

I didn't need to tell her anything, because I'd told her all along, and that's what I do for the people who are important to me. But letting her talk to me apparently meant a lot.

Aisha La Estudia said...

Good bye visits sound so uncomfortable. Working on an ambulance for years, I watched many goodbyes... Usually it depends on the person. Do you or the sick family member believe in a happy afterlife? It always seems so simple and comforting in this case.
The saddest good byes seem to be for those whose life seems cut short. My brother died in infancy and his good bye story has stayed with me as clear as if were yesterday. It also changed the course of my father's life and my life. Because of the nurses who stood by with compassion as my brother breathed his last, my father is now a home health nurse bringing hospice to the homes of the sick and dying. My father used to be a biologist.
On the ambulance, I developed the theory that dying is as important of an event in one's life as being born, perhaps moreso. Therefore, even a stranger being comforting and listening to someone's story is infinately more important.

Kami said...


Some of it is dependent on religious views meshing between the two souls, at least in part. Since my father and I had different views, it was most important to just be there as much as I could. He didn't want to be alone, and I didn't want him to be alone.

For others I just always said 'we'll meet again' and never pushed the context, though we had an understanding that we're friends and of course, if we can, we'll meet for more fun later. And I made sure to touch them--hugs, hold hands, kisses on the cheek. Physical contact is so precious. It will be so, so hard to give up my body, as it is for everyone. While we have bodies, it's nice to touch each other, to have that reassurance of yes, we're real and together right now, and to communicate both the fragility and strength of physical life.

Anonymous said...

"I've never made a 'good bye' visit,"

Same here - I guess I'm lucky? I just haven't had any deaths that close yet.

"but I've recently started thinking about taking a proactive step along those lines with my son. I've slowly started making a list of all the things that I would want him to know that I may not get a chance to tell him. I'm healthy, but no one knows the hour of their own death."

I don't have kids but I told my parents the stuff I'd want my next of kin to know. First I told them my organ donation and funeral type wishes, then I found out I also needed to answer the "hospice cat on deathbed: yes or no?" question.

Anonymous said...

I, fortunately, have not had to say good bye in that way just yet. However, I did learn something about saying good-bye from my Father when my Grandmother was dying after a car accident. He said that giving her his ok to go was important. He sensed that she was hanging on even though she was comatose and organs were failing, because he was there. He told her that it was ok to go, ok to rest now and a few minutes later she was gone. I know that took an amazing amount of courage on his part. I hope I can be that brave when I need to be.

mjholt said...

I have had so many "good bye" visits I am boggled by it. I had two pointed ones in 2007, and missed one. As pagan topologist said, a dying person is still part of the ongoing life of friends and family.

A man I had worked with over ten years or more was very pragmatic about the whole process. I knew he was terminally ill, and he just said, "hey, if you want to see me again, ever, it has to be these days." I took the first day offered, and the next day he went into hospice, so there wouldn't have been another chance. Same thing happened six months later in December, with a woman I know. In that case her husband told me the inevitable truth. She was very spacey on pain pills and the chemicals that the body pushed into the brain during the dying process, but it was (strangely) delightful to see her and be with her for an hour or so.

However, this summer I did not get to say "good bye" to a wonderful friend, a woman with whom I did not share an active social network. So when her condition deteriorated at the end, I was not informed. I knew it was very hard for her to have visitors, and when we spoke on the phone I knew that for her she was living in the moment, and likely would not remember that we had talked. Her partner, rather seems to have excluded women friends who are not lesbians from the circle. I knew this was happening, and decided that I was OK with that, too. I could cherish my friend from afar, but there still is a little sting.

Several other people died and I was OK with missing that last visit, because of distance or other circumstance. I would have preferred to have seen them all one more time.

People are living until they are dead. I want to see my friends before they die because we are both sharing living. If they die while I am there, that's OK. I've been with two humans when they died, the first one was a stranger to me, to whom I was giving CPR while the medics took 15 minutes to travel 1000 feet. Truly. The other person was my father. We just sat with him at the end. The reason that I feel it's OK if someone dies while I am there is that my father's doctors asked me if I was alright if he died when I wasn't there.

Interesting question. I had to dig a little for the answer and I came to 'yes'. Making the decision that it is OK not to be there freed me up to realize that it is OK to be there too.

Reluctant Lawyer, I hope that you will say what you want to say to your son. I had a life changing conversation with my mother (26 years ago) in a hospital two weeks before she died. She said to me that the one thing that she wanted to give me she couldn't -- inner peace. I honestly don't know how I took that, but I went off and thought about it. I had been thrashing about after a painful divorce and a couple of post-divorce relationships, and I had not realized how much pain I must have radiated. It wasn't a light bulb turning on, but she put me on a path that I might have otherwise missed. I had done other "work," but that simple wish changed my life. I know/hope/believe that I thanked her for that, and told her that I was working on it.

Thanks Steve for the question.

Anonymous said...

Your life is changing and the things you once got from Norwestcon are no longer needed. You still enjoy but your energy is different then before. Thanks for the time you spent with me /us.


Mark Jones said...

I made what I really feared would be a good-bye visit last August when I flew from Oregon back to Virginia to see my father the night before he underwent open heart surgery. It was unplanned and I feared the worst. Flew all day, then drove for several hours to get there--racing down rural highways at way over the posted speed limit to get there.

It went fine, in the end. He's home and recovered now. But I was really afraid that if he went into surgery before I could see him I might have missed my last chance. And I wanted to tell him I loved him and that I couldn't express how much I admired him and appreciated his fathering.

I did get to say it. And for that matter, I've said it to him before and will again. But you can't say it too often.

Dan Moran said...

As a culture we worry too much about death, ours and those around us. Keep your head up and enjoy yourself. The dying don't deserve your pity; they're just doing what you're going to do, a little earlier. If there's another side you'll see them there, and if there's not, living well is the best way you can honor their memories.

I don't want to pretend to enlightenment I don't have, but I think in this area I've mostly gotten it right over the course of my life. I've had relatively few "say goodbye" moments -- and haven't needed them. My relationships are complete -- there's nothing I need to say that's unsaid, at least on my end.