The Holiday

The great part of my job, are the people that I get to meet every day. Some of my Client’s I’ve had just for a few short days, others I have had for years. You get to watch their ups and downs, happy and sad days, their joys and their overwhelming grief.

Today was a grief day. My first visit was with a husband who just lost his wife four days ago. He is sweet, loving and very hard of hearing. He lost her very suddenly and his tears spill over talking with me this morning. They were married over seventy years and he was her primary caregiver. Suzie, one of our nurses stated they were screaming “I love you!” when they finally were reunited last Wednesday. Today he talked about her and the sadness he felt. It is a long time to be with someone and he told me he isn’t interested in the holiday. I completely understood.

My next visit was with a woman that I am attached to. She is smarter than anyone I know, an avid reader of all things, super intelligent and respected by many. She states she is a non-practicing Jew and has taught me about the war in her country and has broken down for me what each side believes in, all the while being non-judgemental. We discuss books she is reading on tape, her eye sight poor and fading. I always feel that her reading vastly differs from my fluff reading but she never judges and I told her all about The Orphan Train when I was reading it. She also ordered it on tape. She taught in Israel, NYU and has many students still come and visit her. She keeps me on my visits ways too long and I like to just hear her speak.

Today, she is very weak and had a tough weekend. She is waiting for her father to come and get her and she tells me right away that there is an intruder in her house, with a gun. I tell her that I would not be here if there was someone bad in her home, but she doesn’t believe me. Her daughter arrives and we both calmly tell her that she is ok and safe. Even with her garbled speech, she tells us “I’m grateful for you both”. She also tells us, “I am a slave and need to be set free”. For some reason, that makes the daughter cry. I’m not sure if she will make it to this holiday and it’s always hard to say goodbye. She is in very good hands with her family and our staff.

The last visit was with a woman who’s apartment is 104 degrees. Ok, maybe 100 degrees. I honestly tell her is it too hot in here but she has had some side-effects of her cancer making her cold. She has told me for the tenth time that God is not coming for her and that she is ready to go. Like now. She could care less about this holiday and wants us to stop fussing over her. She is tiny, forgetful and a powerhouse of the family. I tell her that I understand and her daughter just nods her head.

I was talking with my friend Leanne and we both agreed the holidays are hard for people and I could feel everyone’s grief today. I think of my own grief of not taking Mom out for Thanksgiving. He own statements of wanting to die. I miss her own pumpkin pies, her buns and listening to her open the oven door and making the gravy. Her memories are gone of our family filled holidays.

All three of them stay with me today and I understand their feelings 100%. I’m wishing them peace tonight and to all of you that are also not interested in the holiday coming up, I get it. It’s hard for me too.


The Blessing


Today, I got to spend a few hours with Mom at lunch time. I got a call late last night, that she was sick at dinner time and I wanted to see how she was doing today. I also brought her some cards for her to sign for her friends in Starbuck. I have been behind on sending them, her friends have been so good about sending cards and little notes for her. We read them and put them up on her wall, so she can see them.

Today, I am very impressed that she wants to sign her name. We practiced a little after lunch so she would get in right. She hasn’t had to write her name in a long while. Her first attempt was impressive, she just kept forgetting to put the e on the end of her name. The very last attempt, she strangely started to write Marie, hence that is her middle name. She was very concerned that they look awful. I explained to her that her friends will not care, they just like hearing from her. She took great pride in her handwriting.

We talked about Thanksgiving coming up and I told her that I would come and we could eat together. All those years of cooking for family. I will most likely bring her a plate from our house, I’m not sure if I could get her in our car or if she would tolerate the ride. Back in her room, she wants to crawl in her bed and I sit in her chair and we watch each other. I think that has been her biggest past time lately, she just watching me. She has her blue dog and the aide, Alice tells me that she has had a good day and Mickey, the activity aide states that she pinched her butt today. All is good.

As I sit in her brown chair, I think of all the people who have helped me in the last few weeks. I think it is important to acknowledge the people that are such a blessing in your life and how thankful you are for their help.

My mom’s hairdresser who is her “hair advocate”. She had a fit when she found out hospice washed her hair, after she just did it. Without charging Mom, she fixed it when they don’t do her hair the way she thinks it should be done. Mom always liked having her hair done.

My Mom’s new social worker, Sheila Mattson. She answers complicated questions with ease and on occasion, has to explain things to me over and over. Medicare, M.A. and hospice together is a complicated mess. She is calm and determined, which I love. She and I calculated how many pads my Mom would go through, because M.A. will pay for it. I still think its funny we are estimating that like math wizards.

The man named Steve, who is a volunteer at Clare Bridge and works at General Mills. Staff explained to me this week, that he comes every other Wednesday and that he really adores my Mom and looks after her because she reminds him of his own Mom. Since my brother is not involved, I love that she has a male figure that she can talk to. I have met him once, but I don’t go up on Wednesday nights, because it is our church night. I love the fact that he looks after her.

All of my friends who ask about her when they see me. I have always felt that to inquire, means that you care. All of our parents are getting older and sometimes, just the fact that one of us is going through something, we can learn from the shared experience. It is so hard to watch our parents get older.

To my neighbor Mary, who took the girls to Grandfriends Day yesterday. My Mom would have loved to go to any event at school. I know that she would not want to miss anything if she could help it. The other Grandma could not attend and the girls wanted to ask Mary and she said YES! I know that they were proud to have Mary go. Thank you Mary!

I’m thankful that I get to share my experience. This week, I was interviewed by a college student regarding hospice care. It is such an important field of nursing and I know that Jessica will get an A on her paper! Good luck Jessica!

I have said this before, but my Mom’s hospice nurse is an angel. I think you are lucky to connect with someone and that they also provide such loving care to your mother is a bonus. I love that she always hugs her and my Mom responds to her.

I’m also thankful that I never started smoking. If I had, I would be up to two packs a day by now.

I can honestly say that I am also thankful for my Mom’s ex-roommates daughter. I saw her today at lunch time. She ignores me and I am ok with that. She reminds me that its ok not to follow rules so closely and that Mom’s end of life care should be celebrated and that there are no rules. Eat candy, have nuts and drink coffee until you can’t take another breath. Isn’t this disease awful enough to limit what they can enjoy? She still makes me want to have a glass a wine after I see her though.

I am blessed to have a wonderful husband and two girls who love their mother-in-law and Grandma, no matter if she forgets their names. I love the smile that they can get out of her.

Thank you to Sophia’s choir director, Barb. She has been organizing Sophia’s All District Choir to come and sing for Mom and the residents. Sophia sang at Orchestra Hall last week and we were talking about how Mom would have loved to see Sophia sing. We talked about bringing the singers to Mom and like magic….we have December 4th on the calendar for a private concert. Is that just amazing? I know that she will love hearing them sing. Thank you to all who helped plan this.

Lastly, I received a beautiful letter from my Dad’s side of the family. It was from a cousin of Dad’s who reads my blog and lives in Florida. She wrote at the end, “I pray the Lord is with you and your family in the days ahead”. Thank you Phyllis…I hope so too. Day #67 of hospice care.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!