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St. Mary's, hospice partner on play project

The end of life subject can be a taboo one, but it doesn't have to be. It can actually be helpful and ease the stress for family members.

Hospice of the Red River Valley and St. Mary's Innovis Health have partnered to present Dying Days: Questions at the End of Life. The presentation, they guarantee, is not depressing but instead is more along the lines of the recent comedy "The Bucket List," starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

"The hurdle is trying to explain the energy in this," Hospice's Joy Crouch said.

Two years ago, the St. Mary's Medical Ethics Committee began to see a tremendous need for patients and families to be informed about end of life needs, she continued.

So the group planned and planned and eventually came up with the April 29 event.

With two presentations at 2 and at 7, each one will feature three scenes of a short play by local playwright/songwriter Rick Kratzke.

The first scene will answer the question "Why did I allow those treatments to be done to me?"

The second scene visits "What could I have done differently to ensure quality of life to the end of my life?"

And lastly, the drama ends with "How could I have been better prepared to deal with end of life issues?"

Between each scene, a panel will "talk about what they have just seen," Crouch explained.

The panel will consist of Dr. John Thomas, Hospice of the Red River Valley medical director; Father Jerry Rogers, Holy Rosary; Rebecca Wilson, attorney with Vogel Law Firm; Michelle Waslaski, social worker with Hospice of the Red River Valley; and a family member.

The play takes the audience through the dying days of Mr. Smith. He's in a hospital bed, trying to cope with his illness, and to cope with things going on around him -- like the nurse that seems more interested in what's on television, and his son from out-of-state flying in to rant and rave that there's more the family should be doing, second guessing his mother's decision to let her husband of 40 years die peacefully.

"It's very much a replication of what we've seen," Crouch said of the play. "It doesn't have to be that way."

After the performances and panel discusses, there will also be a time for audience questions.

The seminars are presented through a grant from the Dakota Medical Foundation and the Hospice Education Institute.

She said the unique presentation is "really compelling" and a first in the area. It is free and open to the public.

"We don't know when the end of life is," Crouch said. It could be in 50 years. It could be tomorrow.

"Everyone dies, and not necessarily when they're old, or at the end of a long illness."

The presentation is Tuesday, April 29, at 2 and 7 p.m. in the Holmes Theatre. Anyone who needs transportation can contact St. Mary's Pastoral Care at 847-5611, ext. 1109.