Archive for category Hospice

About that…

Yeah, so remember that “D word” that I wrote about yesterday? Death? Well, it claimed yet another yesterday.

My hospice patient.

Today I grieve a beautiful person and soul – a mother, friend, grandmother and nurse.

I knew it was going to happen soon, I just never expected it to be THIS soon. Ah, this has sparked so many thoughts and emotions. I’ve read book after book on death and dying, thought about how it applies to my own life and how I live it, but I never really thought about how it would affect me when one of my patient’s passed on. It’s difficult to write a narrative about something like this when I’m only thinking in bits and pieces. While this is fresh on my mind I thought I’d share of few of my mental fragments with you, I’m sure many of you can relate. So here we go…

I drove over to visit her today and it was when I was checking in with the nurses that I found out she had passed away yesterday – on the 2nd just before one in the afternoon. This was exactly the time I was trying to leave my house to go see her (but couldn’t because of my un-plowed street). If only I could’ve made it…

Just after I found out… denial: “Wow, I’m dealing with this really well… Well, I knew this was bound to happen… Just move on I guess…”

A little later: “Wow, I’m actually kind of sad about this… I really felt connected to this woman and loved every minute of caring for her. I just wish I would’ve been able to spend more time with her…”

Later yet: “She seemed to respond so well to me and she remembered me and was much more coherent on Monday… I mean she really seemed better and was so responsive! … I wonder if I would’ve been able to have more time with her if she would’ve still died…”

Anger sets in: “Dang you Son-in-Law for telling her it was OK for her to go, for telling her that you would take care of her babies, for reassuring her and comforting her with your love, and thanking her for giving you your wife! At the time you said it I celebrated your act of compassion and kindness but how could you do that? She would’ve hung on if you hadn’t…”

Transitioning to sadness: “Gosh, when she asked for water and I held up the sponge for her to drink from, I thought she was feeling stronger… remember when I was sitting there just talking to her, to let her know that I was there and that she was safe? Remember when I was just sitting there talking, hoping to comfort her and then she starting responding? Wasn’t that funny when she said…. And how cute was she when she was holding and stroking her stuffed plush puppy?”

“Oh how I enjoyed being with her and serving her, it felt so good to be there for her and for her daughter, who was clearly so appreciative…”

And then the tears came.

I grieve the loss of this beautiful woman who touched my heart in a matter of two long afternoons/evenings together. I celebrate the life of a woman who, as a nurse, touched countless lives. I grieve the loss of a mother, a grandmother, whose family will now be missing such a loved piece. I celebrate how much she meant to her loved ones, I celebrate that she could be near them when she passed…

but still, I grieve.

And I will for a few days. I will let myself grieve and remember the sweet, funny, difficult, and moving moments I was able to share with this precious soul. I’m thankful to the bottom of my heart that no matter how difficult this is, I was able to serve her while I could. I’m so thankful I made serving her a priority, even over my studies, because this is a lesson I will never forget.

So I will grieve. I will mourn. And I will celebrate. And then I will move on and carry this experience with me for the rest of my life as I care for more and more patients, and I will never forget the painful beauty of becoming attached to someone and letting them into your heart.

Sleep sweet, Miss P.

…more to come…


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The D Word

It’s that word no one likes to utter or even think about.

The word most of us have experienced through our family or friends and pray to God doesn’t happen to us.

At least not until we’re like 120.

And asleep.


Note: I’ve been sitting with a hospice patient lately (more on that in a future post – many reflections), so this is fresh on my mind and I feel it sets the stage for what I want to talk about later. I know, it’s a weird topic but I like talking about it, so you can just read it and deal, or go read something else. 😉

A lot of people get really uncomfortable even reading the word “death.” It used to horrify me. I would lay awake at night praying because I was so scared that I might die in my sleep and I was terrified about what might come after. A lot of people still feel this way… why do you think we have horror films?

Anyway, I’m not scared anymore. Over the past few years I’ve become a lot more comfortable with “it”… you know, death.  In some weird way I almost find it comforting. A couple semesters ago I took a grief and loss class as an elective for my nursing program. It was deep, intense, dark, and sparked some passionately emotional and spiritual discussions. I loved it. I had never really considered what I actually thought about death or what the word/concept/idea made me feel/think. Nor had I ever really discussed this with anyone. Because, well, people don’t talk about it. The only people that really do are those fire & brimstone preachers trying to get their congregations to believe in Jesus for the sake of “fire insurance.”

Anyway, during that class all I thought about was death and what it meant to me. If you hung out with me at all during that time I probably talked to you about it and/or asked you what you were passionate about. You see, to me, death is simple… it will happen. It’s ever-present, ever-near, and we never know when it will come. I could die tomorrow. The real question to me becomes – am I OK with that? Am I the person I want to be mentally/emotionally/spiritually/experientially when I die? If we all look deep inside, we probably have some ideal of who/what we want to be on our deathbeds (you know, when we’re like 120). I thought long and hard about the person I want to be. Wrote it down, actually. In detail. And I figured – if this person I’ve written about is who I really want to be, I’ve got some work to do! I’ve got to get busy living and growing and changing now because I never know when my day will come.

So rather than a dark cloud of tears and black funeral garb, death became to me a motivator. Death is a reason to live. It’s the punctuation at the end of my life and I want to die with an exclamation mark emphasizing a life well-lived, not a “…” trailing off into nothingness. So death now gives me purpose. Without the fact of death, what is there to live for? What we would find to be joyful for? Why would I bask in the beauty of a blizzard, or the delicious chill of a crisp winter morning? What meaning would any of that have if it were to last forever? And really the same applies to pain and sadness… I would never appreciate my “good” days if it weren’t for the crippling ones. I would never know joy if I’d never walked through the depths of depression. So now I live to grow into my death – to become the spiritually rich, confident, hopeful, loving, accomplished woman I want to be on the day the Lord takes me home.

I could write another 10 pages on this topic but I’ll sign off for now.

I’m going to go drink a beer with my husband. Tonight I think I’ll toast to this beautiful day of life my sweet Savior blessed me with — it’s Him above anyone or anything else who gives me reason to look toward, not fear, death.

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