When we think about those folks who are lovingly cared for in hospice, we generally think of them as being old. In our minds, people live to a ripe old age before leaving this world. But the truth is that from the moment we are born we are old enough to die. Sadly, some of our hospice patients are far younger than we who care for them. This is a story of one of these young hospice patients. To ensure the young man’s anonymity, I’ll simply call him “Quick Draw.”
To Quick Draw’s way of thinking, he should have been born in the Old West of the 1880’s. He should have been a cowboy. Among the high points of his all too short life was his visit to Tombstone, Arizona, the site of the gunfight at the OK corral.
This information was shared with the Friends of Hospice, who generously agreed to finance a family visit to the site. Sadly, Quick Draw’s health was such that they could not make the trip. However, the Friends refused to give up on Quick Draw’s dream.
Throughout the country there are Old West re-enactors, who dress in period costumes and fire six shooters and Winchesters – at small targets, not at the Clanton boys. In Eastern Washington there is such a group. I phoned one of these folks, hoping that he would take Quick Draw out for a little target practice. He not only agreed to do this, but he arranged for a shootout in Dayton, Washington. There, Quick Draw was met by 30 or 40 cowboys and cowgirls, the latter dressed in hoop skirts with six shooters strapped to their sides.
Quick Draw was in his element, and had the time of his all-too-short life. Once the contest was over, he even had the opportunity to try out his own shooting skills. This was a morning that Quick Draw’s family will never forget. When we reported the event to the Friends of Hospice Board, one member asked, “Is there anything we can do to thank these people?” I jokingly replied, “Is there money in the Friend’s budget for bullets?”
This story reminds us of something that is very critical. Families, be the patient old or young, often wait far too long to enroll their loved one in hospice services. Often they wait until their father/mother/child/sibling is actively dying. Because Quick Draw’s family did not do this, he was well served over a long period of time, which included this experience of a lifetime.
Guest blog by:
Friends of Hospice
and Hospice Volunteer