Notes from the Inside: I was wrong

Notes from the Inside features writing by inmates serving time in Iowa prisons. Little Village editors have made only minor adjustments for style.

Notes from the Inside
Founded in 2002 by the Iowa Medical and Classification Center, Project HOPE was the first prison hospice program established in Iowa. — illustration by Josh Carroll

When I was asked to join hospice for the first time, it was around five or six years ago.  I thought, “This is not for me.”  I am not the kind of person that deals with death first off. Second, “I am a manly man.”  This is not for me.  When I came to prison, dealing with the dying was the last thing I thought I would have to deal with.  I never thought I would have to sit at the bedside of a man who is going to make the transition into the afterlife.  Another reason I didn’t want to join hospice is that I thought you had to put on a front, show that you are macho and not weak in the eyes of the other population in prison. Well, I am learning that you don’t have to put on front to be a real man.

I would have to say you are more of a man by helping and being there for someone in his last day than by putting on a front and talking about what you have done or what you can do.  Talk is cheap. When you can tell someone what you have done to help another in the most trying time of their life proves that you are a man.

I didn’t come into this world alone. When my time comes to pass, I don’t want to leave the world alone either.

Again, when I was asked to join, I said, “No, this is not for me.  I am not going to join.  Never going to happen.”  Well, when you have Kim breathing down your neck for around 5 years asking when are you going to join and fellow brothers dropping off hospice applications, there is a point where you want to see what all the hype is about.  After talking to my mother about hospice, who was involved with the deaths of her mother (cancer), her brother (natural causes) who had Downs Syndrome, and her father (COPD and gallbladder infection), she told me that it was a blessing knowing she was by their bed and they did not die alone.  That got me thinking if my mother, who is my hero, can do it, why can’t I?  In addition, she said it is one of the biggest fulfillments as a person.

Another thing to think about for those of you that think you are too macho, scared or any other feeling that you might be feeling about hospice is the actual fact of dying. I was born on a certain date in a certain year, and I didn’t come into this world alone.  When my time comes to pass, I don’t want to leave the world alone either.  I don’t feel that anyone else should have to either!

I am really not sure how to end this article other than it is a blessing to be a hospice volunteer.  I am new at this, but I am learning what it is to make sacrifices and to be there for someone in a time of need. I am also learning to become less selfish and more selfless as a person.  The biggest thing that I have gained out of being with my first hospice patient is …life is what you make it.  How can I walk around with a frown or in a bad mood all the time when I go up to a dying man’s bed and see him with a smile. I know we humans take a lot of things for granted in this life. Being able to walk, talk, eat, see, hear, or able to go to sleep at night knowing there is a good chance that you are going to wake the next day.  Unless you are told that you only have a few months, weeks, or days to live, waking up to live another day is not on the forefront of your mind.  The list goes on!  The main thing I have learned is that you never know when it is going to be your time to go.  No one ever knows.  I don’t know when it’s going to be someone else’s turn to sit at my bedside and comfort me when I am the one taking my last breath.  I just pray a program like Project HOPE will take care of me.

By Josh. W.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 183

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