2012-01-12 / General Stories


(Life Lessons from Hospice Patients)

Got an Extra Lung?

Mary Beth was a delightful lady. She possessed a remarkable spirit of gratitude and a sharp sense of humor. She loved to laugh, and did so frequently.

Suffering from end stage COPD, she had to be careful to limit her activity and take her breathing treatments religiously. She was on continuous oxygen and was often short of breath.

One day just before Christmas, I walked into her room to find her in bed taking one of those frequent nebulizer treatments.

“How are you today, Mary Beth?” I asked.

She turned and noticed me. I could see a smile spreading across her face underneath the mask.

“Well, honey, I’ve been better,” she said. Even her eyes began to grin. “But I know what I want for Christmas. Got an extra lung? I only need one.”

She smiled. I tried not to laugh, knowing it could set off a giggle-frenzy that would not help her breathing at all. She would probably rather have laughed, and paid the price.

My youngest daughter has one of those irresistible, highly contagious laughs. Once she gets going, look out. The whole room will soon be shaking. That’s a gift.

A friend of mine once said change happens when he can begin to laugh at the stupid things he does. I have changes I need to make. Maybe learning to laugh at myself will help.

“Got an extra lung?” Nope. But I’ll take one of those terrific Mary Beth laughs. To go, please.

I’d like to pass it along.

Gary Roe is the Chaplain of Southern Care Hospice and is interim Minister at First Baptist Church in Lexington

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