The Longest Hospice Patient

Cheryl Wilfong

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DeathWhen my father was dying, I wanted to practice a “charnel ground” meditation, or the closest version I could offer. I didn’t leave his bedside. I interviewed him for three mornings, taking notes so that I could write his obituary. I stayed as close to his body as possible by setting up his dialysis exchanges four times a day. On the final morning, I was in his bedroom at five a.m., draining liquid out of his abdomen. As the liter of sterile replacement solution flowed into his abdomen, I yoked my breath to his. Every time he breathed in, I breathed in. Every time he breathed out, I breathed out, sighing—“ahh”—as if to confirm that he had lived a long, satisfactory life.

When the dialysis exchange was finished, I went back to bed, meditated for a few minutes, then dozed. An hour later, my sister woke me up. Our father was dead.

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