To the loved ones of hospice patients:
I cannot begin to express the amount of gratitude I feel because I was allowed to care for your loved one. You might not realize this, but, I walked this journey with you. Of course, your grief far surpasses anything I could every feel, but your pain has become intertwined with my own. Please do not ever be mistaken that I ever once left a visit emotionless. I may have hidden my own tears and sadness from your eyes, but I couldn’t hide them from my own.
Hospice is familiar to me, as I have had my own parent on hospice. I am acutely aware of the roller coaster of emotions that comes along with it. You see, many years ago, my father was diagnosed with a form of brain cancer that is brutally lethal and fiercely aggressive. The diagnosis from the start was dismal, but, he fought through a few rounds of radiation and chemotherapy. He subjected himself to an almost barbaric brain surgery, for which he was partially awake, not once, but twice. The hope was just to buy him time… and not much at that. Weeks, but, he was willing to go through it.
Post surgery, the nurses bandaged his head. My father was as tough as nails and because of that and his thick accent, a piece of tape with “The Terminator” was across the front. He fought hard. But, that once strong man who emigrated to the United States with a few dollars in his pocket in search of a new life, was now faced with a battle he was quickly losing. Words like end of life and hospice were thrown around in conversation as if they had a right to be included. At the time, hearing them infuriated me. What was my mom thinking?
My father’s decline was lightning fast and it was painfully obvious that medications were of no use. So, a few days before Christmas, she made a decision to go with hospice. As I am reliving this memory for the sake of this blog, I can still feel the swirling of anger and sadness in the pit of my stomach. I was not a nurse at the time and could not possibly begin to understand the profound benefits of hospice. I left my parent’s house quite angrily that night. My mom was just giving up on him.
Social workers and counselors all wanted us to have family meetings and for the sake of my mom, I went. I was frustrated and so hurt. Nothing seemed to make any sense. You aren’t going to give him food or water? All medications are done? What I didn’t understand was just how far down his journey my father really was. My dad passed just a few days after being admitted to hospice. Looking back, I’m now angry and frustrated for other reasons. His quality of life could have been so miraculously better had he been admitted to hospice sooner. Talk about regrets.
When our eyes meet and I tell you that I understand, I really do.
My role now is so different – let me help you through what I couldn’t face at the time. Allow me to guide you along a path that will lead to loss, but, to make that path as peaceful as possible. Permit me to do what I did not allow others to do for me. In doing so, maybe I can spare you many years of confusion and pain.
When you are ready……..I will be here.