“I hope you had the time of your life” Green Day
I quit doing hospice work after Kip died. Kip was my older son’s best friend, and he’d been in and out of my house for four or five years.
“Hi Mom, how ya doing?” he’d say, as he limped into the front room. He’d had his knee replaced after he’d been hit by a car…what a goof…playing chicken. The reason he had to have his knee replaced was because the doctors found cancer in his bone when they set it.
Kip always smiled. And he was madly in love with Sarah. Sarah is one of those perfectly modeled humans, a living Barbie Doll. Kip often wondered to me privately what I thought Sarah saw in him. I tried to assure him of his strengths and wonders, but being a young, innocent male, he was still somewhat insecure about his own worth.
In July of ’98, my older son John came to me and said, “Kip and Sarah and I are going to San Diego. Sarah has a modeling opportunity.” I’ve never been one to stifle my children, so I wasn’t too worried about the three of them taking off together. Two days before they were to leave, Kip came to me and said, “My back hurts, bad. Can you help me out, mom?”
I unfolded my massage table and told him to take off his shirt and hop on. I began working where he told me it hurt, and suddenly I felt it…concrete…the cancer was back.
“Kip,” I asked him gently, “is the cancer completely gone from you body?”
“Oh yeah”, he replied. “I’m cured.”
There is a lot of responsibility that goes with being a licensed massage therapist. One thing I take very seriously is not to diagnose. After all, I’d only had just a bit of anatomy and physiology in my training. And diagnosing could cost me my license. But as a Reiki person, I knew what I felt, and I was concerned for this loving “son” who was so much a part of my life.
“Have fun in San Diego!” I yelled as they pulled out of my driveway a couple of days later. I was waving furiously. I watched them round the corner and tears rolled down my face, because I knew in my heart it was the last trip Kip would take.
Shortly after they came back, (son John and Kippie had bought Speedos, and walked in the ocean in San Diego…and I have pictures to prove it!…hee hee…good for them!), Kip’s parents took him to Salt Lake City, because the pain in his back hadn’t abated. The diagnosis was grim; bone cancer, widespread, and they should prepare for his imminent death.
Nineteen year old boys shouldn’t have to die this way.
As a hospice volunteer, I’d been ushering people to their deaths for five or six years. So far, they had all been over 55, so at least they, for the most part, had had some type of life to live. But Kippie…my “son” Kippie…I agreed in my heart that I would take on the responsibility of ushering Kip out. I didn’t like it, but it was something I knew I had to do.
I put on my cheery face several weeks later when I visited Kip at home in his hospital bed.. He was completely bald from the chemotherapy that the doctors thought might work. It didn’t work.
“Hi babe!” I said as I peeked into his room. He was groggy from some meds, but he opened one eye and said, “Hi mom. I’m OK. How are you?”
“I’m OK, too!” I high fived him and left the room, again the tears streaming down my face. I didn’t want him to see that.
The meds started wearing off after a couple of days, and Kip and his parents started hoping for the best…life for Kip. I knew better, but I hoped too. I thought to myself, “Maybe we can beat this! Together, aren’t all things possible?”
Being a good little hospice volunteer, I jumped into my role of making sure Kip and his immediate family’s needs were met. One day when I was over visiting, I asked Kip,”What would you like to do that you’ve never done before?”
“I always wanted to travel”, he replied. I knew that was impossible, after all, he couldn’t even get out of bed without help. But then I thought of the Internet. And I got excited! Kippie could travel on the Internet!
I immediately emailed the incredible Mikie. “Mikie” I said…”how can we get Kip on the net…easy and cheap?”
“Web TV” Mikie said. “It’s not perfect, but would do the trick. Easy, easy, lemon squeezy.”
I began to approach everyone I knew…”Hey, do you know anyone who has a Web TV unit that they are not using? It’s for a good cause.”
And in truth, it only took me three days of hounding people and networking to find the most kind people who actually took the time out of their busy schedules to go out to Kip’s house and set up a “demo” unit for him. (Officially thanking Gil and Pat and Curt, who introduced me to them, one more time. What a difference your kindness made!)
Web TV is an imperfect model at best. However, it connected Kip to the world. I’d stop by each day on my way home from work, and as he became weaker and weaker, I’d access and read his email to him, and respond to the writers for him. “Tell them thanks”, he’d wheeze. (I hounded all my friends to write to him.) “Hey!” he’d ask, “Can you find that deer hunting site for me again? I don’t think I’ll make the deer hunt this year. But I’d like to. Mom, I just want to go deer hunting one more time.” My heart bled.
Kips birthday came around, October 20. His parents planned a huge party for him, and all his friends stopped by. October in Southern Utah is generally mild and this day was exceedingly pleasant. Kip didn’t know there was a party planned, so I was sent to his room to help him dress.
“Today is my birthday” he told me. I agreed. “There are people here?” he asked.
“Yes” I replied.
“I don’t want them to see me this way.”
“Oh, baby”…I couldn’t help it…the tears started flowing again. I closed the door to his room, walked around to the head of his hospital bed and put my hands on his lovely bald head.
“I don’t want to die,” he said.
My tears were plopping down on the top of his head. I held him in my hands. “I don’t want you to die, either, but I just don’t know what to do about this!”
“I really don’t want to die.” he said.
I was crying harder and could barely speak, but again I said…”You have no choice. The cancer is now pervasive. I don’t know how to stop it, do you?”
“No,” he said, “But could you please stop crying on my head?”
Snorting and laughing through my tears, I asked him what I should do instead.
“Turn on the Web TV. I want to talk to those who aren’t here. Cause they can’t see me this way.” And we spent the the next hour ignoring the people in his front yard. It wasn’t because we were rude, it was because Kip was dying, and he wanted to go deer hunting, and talk to his Internet friends for a few more moments.
Birth days and death days, sometimes they fall awfully close together.
Isn’t the net cool? However you access it, by whatever means…Mac…PC…Web
TV…isn’t the net cool?
Be well, world. Life is too short…
And Kip, I hope you had the time of your life. Love, Mom.