The following words and poetry were written by Charles Van Riper and appeared in Hospice News from the Hospice of Greater Kalamazoo (July, 1994), and is reprinted below with the permission of the author's son, John Van Riper.

Writing and Reminiscing Clarify Thoughts about Dying

I am not sure that I'm ready to accept Hospice but I really don't know much about their services. I've always coped by myself, fought my battles as best I could and done so rather successfully. I, of course, can see that with further deterioration I may not be able to continue this approach!

Last February Dr. Charles Van Riper made the decision to bring Hospice into his life. As the former Chairman of the Department of Speech and Audiology at Western Michigan University, he had indeed fought many battles successfully. But, recognizing that his time was running out, he began preparing for the final adventure in his life.

One of the virtues of dying is that you're never bored by it. Each day brings its new surprises, losses and gains.

His Hospice nurse, Maureen Metty, RN, SSJ, soon learned that he has been a lifelong and prolific writer of both fiction and professional publications. She has encouraged his putting onto paper his ruminations about his life and his on-going clarifications of his approaching death.

The best gift from dying has been the release from combat. No longer do I try to win, or to sharpen my skills for doing so. What have I to win, to yet accomplish? Kicking another's old paper bag? Kicking my own? No, now is the time for peace, unguarded peace.

Jim Van Riper came from New Jersey to be with his Grandfather. This spring they repeated a cherished tradition -- they flew a kite together. Jim accompanies Dr. Van Riper to his Secret Garden and leaves him there alone, to think and understand.

Death has no sting when you have lived the good life, have done all the things you desired to do and have no unfinished projects. Others have consumed my essence and I am but an empty husk. Yes, it is time to die.

Jim and his family treasure their heritage in writing.

Let me call again to the value in letting one die at home among his familiar sights and memories. At the moment I sit beneath a 160 year old clock ticking out the seconds on the fireplace mantel. Six generations have heard that ticking and I've been reassured I'm not in a sterile hospital room. I'm at home! Thank you! Please sit down and be merry before we die.

Other Late-life Thoughts

of Dr. Charles Van Riper

A Curio

A curio, the old man sits
Behind a phantom rope that bears a sign:
'Admire, but do not touch."

He does not hunger much
For youth, acclaim, or even love
But for another's hand upon his own
For arms around his neck, a hug or such,
For these he hungers when alone.

He wonders how it came to be
That old age equals leprosy.


Death! Dance with me!
Take me in your boney arms and this time squeeze the last air pocket from my skin sack.
Why need you play with me before the consummation?
Tracing your pain tipped fingers up my chest and down my arms to define this moment's agony?
Racing the pulse until it smooths or stops? I hear your soft macabre chuckle when I gasp but always you let me go essentially unscathed.
Go for what? Go so you can play with me again, next time in the dark reaches of the night? Or eating a mouthful of food? Or with my nose within a rose?
Anytime will do, but do it, Death.
Too long prolonged, dying will lose its essential dignity.
I am ready, Death. Dance with me!


I find this business of dying almost as fascinating as I've discovered living. Even when in the soft hands of Hospice you do not turn up your toes and just succumb. Dying takes time that you may begrudge, wishing for the promise of deep peace, but no good things are won so easily. There will be pains to endure, disappointments to accept and losses of function, that chameleonlike, must be turned into brilliant challenges. I do not resent this situation, it makes my last days interesting ones.

But there are the delightful things too that come my way. A lot of people really like me and seem to find it easier to express their feelings under my present circumstances. When my grandson, Jim, from New Jersey tucks me into my hospital bed for the night, he holds my hand a long, long time and tells me how he hopes I will ring him in the wee hours if I need anything. Old friends regale me with good memories. We laugh a lot. I am blessed to be dying here in this very old house free from pain and anxiety and full of love for everyone and everything.

A Sun

For reasons that I do not know,
I am a sun, a small, small sun
Whose warmth helps others grow,
Bear fruit and seed
So other human suns
May glow.

added May 2, 1999