In the turmoil of another holiday circus there came in the mail a letter from a hospice in North Carolina where someone dear to us had died in Room 9 a few months ago.
A page inside was titled simply, “Lessons I learned from hospice.” At the bottom was a name, Lynn Hamrick, Wendover Hospice Room 7.
The lessons she listed strike us as both true and important, a rare combination in this age of commercial hype and superficial socializing. They were like a stocking full of surprise gifts, which are often the most delightful.
With the hope that they could help make Christmas a little brighter for anyone, regardless of circumstances, we called to ask her permission to share them.
We found out that she is a 51-year-old former first-grade teacher from Shelby, N.C. She has multiple sclerosis and has been in hospice for many months. Her theme is straightforward: “Use the health you have.”
Take more pictures. Keep a journal. (A personalized scrap book would make a treasured gift.)
Laugh until you cry.
Cry until you laugh.
There is power in the gift of touch.
Proverbs 12:25. (The New International Version translates it: “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”)
Treasure mundane moments.
Stay up late. Get up early.
Look up old friends.
Forgive and forget.
Listen. Say what you want to say.
Being afraid is not the same thing as being a coward.
Call your mother. (And you don’t have to wait until a holiday to do it.)
Reading the obituaries does not kill you.
A good meal has nothing to do with food.
Play hard. Climb over a wall.
Never be afraid to ask for help.
When you treat the disease, you win some and you lose some. When you treat the person, you win every time.
Nurses are overworked and underpaid.
Editor’s note: Hospice, incidentally, has grown in importance in America. Total patients served has been increasing by about 4 percent a year. Hamick is in Wendover Hospice in Cleveland County, a county in which more than half of all deaths now happen under hospice care. Nationally, the figure was about 44 percent in 2012.
Be brave. Give generously.
Chocolate always makes things better.
Laughter is the best medicine.
Two good friends can make an ordinary day a party.
Do not carry tomorrow today.
Never give up. Don’t look back.
There is peace that passes all understanding.