"Down," I repeated.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Chaplain's Deathbed Conversation Revealing
Dying Priest Breaks Silence
Concerned for Future of Dying
9.16.2010 by Winsip Custer CPW News Service
"Dying is big business," said Father Ignatius Loyola Capone of Austin, Texas, "and during my years as a Hospice Chaplain, I can tell you about my concerns. Someone has to do it even if I don't have much time. Write fast," he said as his Hospice nurse administered a vial of Roxanol, a powerful opiate pain kill.
"I'm telling it straight," he said. "Straight as an arrow, dope or no dope."
Father Capone outlined what he felt were the current issues facing the business of dying. He made a surprisingly detailed account of the history of the Hospice movement as truth or legend has transmitted it.
"I was a chaplain for thirty five years. Military. Hospital. Police. Businesses. Hospice. Doctors don't like dying people. There's no future in it. Who can blame them? Undertakers like dying people and believe me I know cause I worked with them all my life. We chaplains all knew that Hospice was created in the middle ages when the Knights Templars were leading caravans of religious pilgrims on trips to the Holy Land. People died along the way and people needed to be comforted in their time of grief," said Father Capone whose tiny DeLuxe truck camper was parked down by Zilker Park near a row of Waste Management Inc. dumpsters. My mind kept visualizing the dumpsters as the RN, I will call her Miss Libby, laid a clean, wet cloth across his forehead.
"So I'm thinking....Middle Ages....Crusades....Holy Land. Who could afford to ride from France to Jerusalem under armed escort for a holy pilgrimage before they die? Not the milk maid. Not the mule skinner or goat gutter. No. It was the wealthy. The Nobles, that's who. The Knights....I think of them as being kind of like Derek Prince of Blackwater....selling security and a hotel room to die in with some religious ceremony thrown in. So this made them fabulously wealthy and they even created a bank to shuffle funds between home and Acre of Haifa. Then when they got too big for their britches and were flying way above the radar the Vicar of Rome said "man are we ever missing an opportunity here." So they pulled a hostile takeover and transferred the Templars funds to the Knights of Malta and the travel, hospitality and dying business kept right on going," said Father Capone as he reached for a plastic tumbler of ice water with green flex-pleated straw sticking out. He took a long sip and Libby wiped his lips.
"So I'm seeing a pattern here. My Papa, bless his humble heart, never had any insurance. He said 'When I die I want it to be a sad day for everyone,' and that's how it was with most of the serfs and that's why we priests were so appreciated, respected and needed. Now I'm not sure. I know that physicians shouldn't own a cemetery and it probably wasn't a good idea that the Church own the hospitals and cemeteries along the pilgrim route to the Holy Land, but somebody's gotta do it. Add to that the selling of indulgences...money for time spent out of hell and that's way too much funny business for me. They might as well have owned a packing plant with a long conveyor belt, don't you see what I mean?" I nodded and reached out and took his out stretched hand.
"Would you prefer talking to another priest at this time?" I asked him. "Sxxx NO!" he fired back.
"So I have a doctor friend, right? Now I know that he owns a fifty percent share in a grave yard and embalming place with that shyster lawyer...you know the one."
"The one on TV whose always baiting the families with sick babies?" I asked.
"No not him, he actually gives a damn," he said. He gave me a name.
"That sorry bastard represents only the mega wealthy and he knows damn well that in Texas a doctor cannot own more than a 10% share of a funeral home without putting a sign up in his waiting room letting everybody know. Calls me a 'plaintiff's lawyer' and I call him by the name he believes he deserves. God. I used to see him at the coffee shop. "There's the plaintiff's lawyer," he'd say and I'd shoot back "Hello, chief Scribe and Pharisee". He'd always pick up my tab so I'd order an extra side of bacon just to get at him...but it got to me, too, Cholesterol went through the roof...and so here I am. So do you think that there's a sign in Doc's waiting room? Would you want to have your surgeon cut out your spleen knowing that if the thing goes haywire that he'll bury his mistake and make a profit in the process. I tell you there something kinky about the whole deal."
Father Ignatius' breathing was increasingly labored but he was remarkably lucid.
"Like the brightness of a light bulb before is goes completely out," said Libby.
Libby pointed at the purple patches of skin around his ankles. A solemn expression on her face. "He's had this before and I thought the time was close, but he's rallied. Tough as nails. He may again," she said as Father Ignatius rolled to his left.
"I know it won't be long now little lady, what the heck you think I was born yesterday? I've been around the Horn and the Horn's jabbed me in the ass a few times. That alixir is pretty good stuff isn't it? What? You don't think I know what that is. Now give a dying man the pleasure of keepin' it light and hopeful while I...while I spill my guts."
Libby and I looked at each other and smiled. "Okay Padre, spill on."
"Where was I?" he asked. "Oh yea....dyin'. Dyin'. So I'm at a the office of the Texas Hospital Association at a training event for chaplains the year I retired and I'm lookin' at the wall. I see the photo of the CEO of Parkland in Dallas....you know...where JFK was taken like that would do the poor boy any good. And I'm lookin' at the CEO of Columbia Healthcare. One's a for-profit guy and other's a not-for-profit guy and I'm thinkin'...and the Hospital Association represents both hospitals? Guess who gets the better representation! It's the same with dying you see. There was no Knight for the milk maid's dying mother, just her sisters and brothers and close kin and the little old lady at the end of the trail who seemed to know something about helping people in times like that. Like you Libby. It's sun god worship."
"It's what?" I asked.
"Sun god worship. Whenever you see people not caring for others it's sun god worship....pyramidal....the Egyptians, the Myans....the ruling elite sit atop the pyramid and run things and you get in their way and they pop you and roll you down stairs. The Mayans went bye-bye. The Egyptians? Hello. Groups that share power last. Them that don't die out. It's just that simple. So Jesus came down. Down. You hear me?" he asked.
"Down," I repeated.
"Down here to be with us....with me. Keep writin' I don't have time to make judgements. I'm leavin' that up to God Almighty. It's his job anyway. Now people just go to the funeral home for their funeral and I used to think that's okay, but then the best dang Hospice in the area, a non-profit, loses a dozen of its best nurses overnight. Went to work for a new company. Paid them two dollars more an hour. I think, Great! All those warm fuzzy personal relationships with the pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem....bye, bye, baby...I just got a raise. So long sucker. So much for 'I just like to help people.'"
"I'm not going anywhere," said Libby.
"Isn't that just like it sweet Libby? So long, you're on your own....oh, there'll be another Erik Prince to come along later, maybe. Good luck. So I go over to the Secretary of State's office to see what I can find out about this new company and damned if it's not a mortician whose company was hiring unlicensed morticians for their embalmings. I called every damn one of those dedicated nurses and told them who they were working for and then I sent them each a CD of Night of the Living Dead. There was one I never trusted. She'd call me to come in just to keep the family in the other room. I slipped down the hallway. The bedroom door was open and she was rapid-fire-pushing the morphine pump. Had an important lunch date at noon. Maybe it was her way of showing kindness...relieving the pain.....but how the hell would I know? She was dating the mortician's son."
"Hey, Libby," said Father Ignatius. "I could use some more Roxanol. You dating the mortician's son?" he asked.