The case manager shared with me that she felt the patient was dealing with an intense emotional issue and wondered if I could talk to him since I had been visiting him regularly. He seemed reluctant to speak about it. So, on my next visit I asked, “Do you have any unfinished business?” He quickly replied rather emphatically “No!”
We sat quietly for a while and then he asked “Like what?” I shared that sometimes there are issues in our lives that we feel we should resolve. After another long period of silence, he tearfully shared that he and his son had not spoken for a very long time. He reported that he had tried to reach his son who lived out of state and that his son would not return his phone calls and a letter he sent was returned unopened. I asked if his son knew how sick he was and he replied, “I don’t think so.” I asked if it might be helpful if I called his son. He immediately responded in the affirmative.
With consent from the case manager and social worker, I made the call early the next day. The son answered the phone, and became defensive as soon as I identified myself. He asked, “Do you know what that old man did to me?” I responded that I did not know the details, but that his father was desperately ill and earnestly desired to see him. His next question was a bit surprising – he asked “How would I get there?” I replied that he could fly in. He responded, “I don’t fly!” I suggested he drive even though it was quite a distance. He said he’d think about it. Within the hour he called back and said he would start driving that evening – a 16-hour trip. He demanded that I be present when he arrived. I informed the hospice team and the family of the development.
When the son arrived, I met him outside the home. He told me, “If that old man starts in on me, I’m leaving and that’s that!” We entered the home and the patient was seated on the couch – he saw his son and immediately started to sob, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” I quietly slipped out the back door.
At the patient’s funeral, the son thanked me for calling him. He confided that the morning I called he was expecting a call from a colleague and if he had looked at the area code of the incoming call, he probably would not have answered the phone. He and his father had reconciled and he expressed his deep appreciation for the hospice services provided. He said, “I’m really glad I answered the phone.”
-by Steven B., Volunteer