The newspaper story in this post was written by a hospice patient of ours after her Volunteer, Ellen, did a hand casting for her and her husband. Our patient was so moved by it, she wrote a lovely article in one of our local newspapers.
A Heart ‘n Home Volunteer scheduled to visit with and take one of our sweet, hospice patients to visit her sister, who lived just down the road. This patient had been able to drive herself up until the week prior. The sister was in a poor state of health, so making weekly visits was very important to our patient. This went on for a couple of weeks, until the patient and Volunteer both noticed that the sister was really starting to decline. Unknown to the Volunteer and patient, one of their visits fell on the day the sister took her last breath. Because of the compassion of the Heart ‘n Home Volunteer, the patient was able to see, comfort, and be a sense of presence to her sister through her final hours.
Shortly after our patient’s sister passed away, we held a Celebration of Life in our Meridian office. The Volunteer brought our patient so she could grieve, honor, and celebrate her sister. The Volunteer sat with her through the whole thing and provided companionship in the sincerest of ways. Seeing the two of them in the room together – the Volunteer lightly touching the patients arm as a means of saying, “I’m here,” was one of the most beautiful and inspiring things I have ever seen.
Because of the Volunteer, our patient was able to visit with her sister at a time most precious and seek comfort in her passing through celebration. A moment definitely made possible by hospice.
If there was a way I could describe my mom in one word, I’d use the word “fighter.” As a woman who had 9 children, she fought for us our entire lives. She fought traffic to get us to our appointments; she fought the societal standards to give us the best lives possible; and frequently, especially as teenagers, she fought with us. My mom fought long and hard, and never lost a single battle. Not a single person mentioned the words “giving up” when it came time for hospice – even though she wasn’t on hospice services for very long.
Two or three days prior to my mom dying, there were several people coming to and going from our house, making calls, and bringing food. My siblings flew in from out of town and we stayed as physically close as possible to her and each other as we could. We slept in chairs, on the floor, and doubled up in beds because we didn’t want to be alone. We dared not even to go to the store alone! We sat, stewed, waited, watched, and prayed. The night before my mom died, one of her oldest friends, Denise, came over to sit with her so that my siblings and I could
go to dinner together. We went to Old Juan’s Cantina and for the first twenty minutes or so, we sat quietly. Worrying … we checked our phones for updates from Denise. Our food arrived and we relaxed a little and did what we do best … EAT! We went back to mom’s house and nestled into our beds, trying our best to sleep. That was Sunday night.
Monday morning came and I had to go into work. My boss told me to stay home – he’d go into the shop and open up, but I was determined to continue as if everything was normal. I left the house at 8:30 a.m. and arrived at the store by 9:15 a.m. By 10:30 a.m. my sister texted me to come home. I called one of my employees to cover for me and left the minute he arrived. I drove 85 mph the entire way home, pulled into the driveway, and saw everyone already crying – I had missed it. I was so angry with myself; so disappointed that I had let her down and wasn’t there for her. I threw my purse across the room. I threw off my sunglasses, collapsed at the foot of her bed, and wailed. I cried for me. I cried for her. I cried for us. I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was my mom’s hospice nurse. She said, “Wait, look!” I looked up and my mom took one last breath and then she was gone. She waited for me to get home before she truly went. Even in the last moments of her life … she was taking care of me. She waited for me, because she knew I’d be disappointed in myself if I missed it. She waited for me, because she wanted me to be there with her.
I didn’t know exactly how hospice could take care of a patient and their family until I started working for Heart ‘n Home. I didn’t realize how important care for social and spiritual pain was. I didn’t realize the impact they could have on a death. My mom had a good death – she was surrounded by her kids.
I am really passionate about hospice because I’ve been on the receiving end and it allowed my mom to remain comfortable in her home with our family. My mom passed away on February 17, 2014. She was a late referral from the hospital during her last visit there. She was having a pain crisis. My mom had already beaten the Ovarian Cancer, had gone back to work, and gone back to having a life when it reared its ugly head once more. Only this time, it took her from us. My parents gave each of my siblings a gift – they gave us each other. Hospice gave my siblings and me the resources and education we needed to be a family, and to not have to be her nurses. Hospice gave us the comfort of our home while taking care of our mom. Hospice gave my mom her last wish – to be with her kids, to have her grandchildren laughing, and to have a cartoon playing in the background. Hospice is a gift. I’m grateful to be a part of it.
Fruitland Volunteer Coordinator
My mom fought to live with courage and determination. We spent months going to treatments three days a week, transfusions, and ER visits because her will to live was so strong. I could see things were not going well and that treatments were not helping, but she wanted to fight and it was her battle … I was just there to support and do all I could to help.
One day, we went to treatment and could hardly get her out of the car and into the house. She was so weak, so tired, and her life was fading. Her cancer clinic could not bring themselves to tell her that treatments were not working, but I knew. I believe they wanted her to make the choice, knowing she did not want to die. Sometimes making choices is out of our hands. As caregivers, we must often take situations into our own hands and know hospice is ours to use.
I called for hospice, and even though we only had hospice for less than 24 hours, our hospice Nurse brought a calmness and understanding of what was needed. My mom was in discomfort from pressure on her lungs. She did not share this or possibly didn’t realize it herself. Her Nurse immediately identified the problem and took the necessary steps to alleviate her pain. My mom opened her eyes, smiled at her Nurse, and said, “I love you!” At that moment, my mom knew she would be comfortable and could finally relax. As a family, we were able to be together peacefully. She had a calm night and passed quietly onto her next journey the following day.
With hospice we received understanding, assurance, and direction at a time when our emotions and stress were high. All we wanted for Mom was peace, comfort, and for her to pass in her own home surrounded by the ones she loved. My only regret is that we did not have hospice sooner. Hospice brings comfort and kindness in your darkest hour. Hospice made this time possible with my mom.