You never know just who might be listening

As a lawyer and a gerontologist, I appreciate the importance of advance medical directives that describe a person’s wishes in the event they become incapacitated.

I volunteered my services at the Montefiore Senior Center in 1994 and 1995 to assist seniors who wanted to prepare these documents.

Most of the people who sought my help understood the purpose of advance directives. They came to their appointments well prepared, knowing what they wanted and who they wished to appoint as their durable power of attorney.

One afternoon a short, well-dressed gentleman appeared at the door of my office. He wore a gray Homburg and a heavy woolen overcoat.

“So,” he said in a thick accent, “what are you giving away?” I invited him to take a seat and described the legal documents I was drafting.

“But, what do we need them for?” he asked. As I spoke about incapacity and life support, his eyes grew wide behind his thick glasses.

“No, no, no,” he shook his head. “I don’t need anything like that.” He got up to leave.

“But what if you are in an accident?” I asked as he moved toward the exit. “What if you are in an irreversible coma and have to be put on a breathing machine?”

He paused at the doorway, turned and then walked back to where I was standing. He touched my arm and motioned for me to bend down close to him.

“Shash, young lady,” he whispered feverishly. “Shash still. Watch how you talk.” He pointed toward the ceiling. “He might hear you. You never know. He might hear you, with your crazy talk, and it could give Him ideas about things He could do to me.”

Carole Priven
Carole Priven

Carole Priven is a resident of San Francisco. She is an attorney and gerontologist and volunteers as a traumatic grief and loss counselor.