By: E&P Staff
Art Buchwald discussed his hospice experience in a column released today by Tribune Media Services.
His daughter had announced July 1 that her father had flown to Martha’s Vineyard that day after he defied the odds and didn’t die in the hospice.
“Most people who enter a hospice depart by a different door than the one they came in,” Buchwald wrote today. “(T)he average time a person spends here is two to three weeks.”
He added: “Hospices have never gotten much attention, because people relate them to death. People are afraid of the mystery of death. Relatives and friends are initially afraid to visit. … The thing that kept [visitors] going was that I was always upbeat. I knew I was getting into something very serious, but I didn’t want my friends to worry.”
Buchwald continued: “People took a lot of interest in what was going on, first with me, then with the hospice as a whole. We celebrated birthdays here and fed the goldfish. There was no reason the fish had to die just because I was going to.
“Of course, people want to talk about death if you give them permission. I always give people permission to discuss it. I discovered it made them very happy to be able to share fears and questions about dying.
“During the past five months, people kept asking me, ‘What is it like to die?’
“I answered, ‘I don’t know, because I haven’t died. I thought I was going to, but then something changed.’
The columnist concluded: “I had such a good time at the hospice. I am going to miss it. I don’t know how long I’ll be around, but I do think I won’t be in a hospice this summer. If nothing else, I made an awful lot of people happy. Dying isn’t hard. Getting paid by Medicaid is.”
Buchwald, whose political humor won him the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is writing a book about his hospice experience.