What Hospice Feels Like

What Hospice Feels Like

Over the summer, we had our first (and hopefully only) experience with hospice.  I’m choosing to talk about it now because it was simply too raw then.

While my grandpas (one from complications of Alzheimer’s and one from complications of diabetes) had drawn out journeys at the end of their lives….we haven’t done the hospice thing. While we knew both of those grandpas were dying, we were not transferred to hospice to wait and make them comfortable.

Hospice can be long (and it’s not always for end of life, so we read….I’ve yet to hear of someone in hospice who didn’t die).  Our stay was just a few days.

I was blessed to be at the hospital when the doctor first mentioned hospice comfort care for Gram (one of God’s small blessings).  While it was hard to hear, we sort of knew it was coming.  They weren’t finding anything “fixable” for her- and she was declining. However, hearing the doctor’s recommendation that she be moved to hospice meant we were really losing her. She wasn’t coming home from the hospital.

The doctor mentioning comfort care gave us the urgency to bring the family up to say goodbye. It meant finding a way to get everyone here “one last time.” It was a huge blessing to bring my uncle up to see his mother. We had to make the situation work (we borrowed a handicapped van from our pastor), and we spent like 12 hours in the car in one day to make it work – but it was a blessing for him to say goodbye to her.

But moving her to hospice was a hard blow. Even though I knew it was happening, something about walking into the hospice wing was hard.

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The hospice wing is different from the rest of the hospital.  It’s quiet.  Since all the patients are only receiving medicine to make them comfortable, there is no beeping of IVs and machines. They come in like once a day to check vitals – no constant monitoring. It’s also much nicer than the rest of the hospital. There was a family room with comfortable chairs where you could sit and talk or cry.  The walls and floors seemed warm and homey covered in wood. There were flowers on the door.

But while hospice is quiet and warm, it’s also cold and deafening.

You just sit there waiting. It’s almost torturous. You saw others pacing in the hallway, having a hard time just sitting there and waiting. You would occasionally hear the whelping cries of others when their loved one passed.  Or a nurse would come shut all the doors to the room, and you knew they would be taking a body off the floor.  Being surrounded by death was heavy.

We spent days just sitting there watching her breathe.  Hoping she was comfortable.  Holding her hand.  Talking to her as she laid there. We had friends come visit.  We chose to believe she was “with us” even though she wasn’t conscious.  We talked about old memories.  We laughed.  I played her music.  I sang to her. I actually started reading a book to her one night while I was there.

As her breathing got shallow and started to rattle, which we read were signs that the end is drawing near, it was impossible for me to leave her.  I couldn’t leave her there alone.  I spent two nights and three days straight there.  I slept in the chair next to her bed.  I didn’t want her to be alone when she left this world.

I prayed about it, and God had given me a peace that I may not be there when she took her final breathe, but what mattered were all the times I had been there. But I felt like I needed to stay by her side.  Tyler brought me clothes and a blanket. Rachel and my coworker Leanna brought me coffee.  The nurses made us comfortable too, bringing us trays of food and extra pillows.  They even gave us the adjoining room to hers so we had a spare bed and a shower to use. It was a blessing.

One of my friends posted on Instagram that when her husband was in the hospital and he was afraid he might die- that he reminded her “how Jesus loves me better, longer, and deeper than he ever could.”

And I know that as much as Gram loved us, that Jesus loves us more.  And as much as we loved her, He loves her more. And He was with her during her life and during those days in hospice.  We had to wait for Him to take her.  And while that was painful, it was beautiful.  It was beautiful to watch her peacefully pass. To know she wasn’t feeling any pain.  It was beautiful to feel the love poured on us by family and friends.

Hospice was hard.  I don’t wish it on anyone. I wish we could all live forever and not ever lose anyone we love.  But if you have to face hospice, know that it’s a blessing to see your loved one peaceful in their final days.

 

Sorry for the heavy post today, but I wanted to talk about our hospice experience. Life isn’t always fun, but it’s always beautiful.


Caught Up

Caught Up

In the midst of everything this week, I’ve been in a sort of fog.  Not sleeping well (well, until I got some Ambien from the doctor), running around making plans, being off work for a few days….it’s been not normal.

Some things have been REALLY crazy.  Like the morning when I woke up to all of the cattle in our land (which isn’t our cattle…our neighbor uses our land for his cattle)…and they were all in my yard instead of behind the fence.

 

And then I saw this picture of my grandparents at their wedding.  They are GORGEOUS. Obviously where I get my good looks. 🙂  However, this is strange because these grandparents were never married to each other in my lifetime….so seeing them like this is weird.

One awesome thing was getting such nice cards, texts, meals, and flowers from friends.  These two were special- a beautiful flower arrangement from my friend Cristi, and a plant from Alden.  I love them!

And in other strange news, I was going to the bathroom the other night and Mikey disappeared.  He is usually found at my feet or digging in the laundry (boy loves dirty laundry).  I found him in our shower. ha!

 

So life attempts to return to normal now.  We shall see.


Remembering Gram

Remembering Gram

Gloria Meneses, 80, a resident of Hackett passed away peacefully Thursday, July 16, 2015, at Mercy Hospice Care Center in Fort Smith. She was born Feb. 12, 1935, in Chicago, the beloved only child of Jack and Libby Gordon. She was married to Bud Grossman, and then to Richard Meneses. He preceded her in death in 1997 after many years of love, travel and adventure. Gloria spent her career working in human resources for various companies in Chicago. She relocated to Hot Springs after her husband’s death to live with her family, where she became an active member of Hot Springs Baptist Church. After moving to Hackett, she joined First Baptist Church inGreenwood.

Gloria was small, but she lived a life full of big adventures, traveling to Egypt, Japan, China and going on many cruises. She loved Neil Diamond and loved going to concerts. Her family was her pride and joy, and she was often found at dance recitals, sporting events and school functions. Her heart overflowed with love; she was surrounded by friends and was an adoptive grandma to many.

She is survived by her children (and their spouses), Neil Grossman of Hot Springs and Linda (Roy) Selvidge of Hackett, previously of Hot Springs; two grandchildren, Brittney (Tyler) Lee of Hackett and Sandy (Dwayne) Gordon of Hot Springs; along with three great-grandchildren, Caitlyn, Gavin and Luke Gordon of Hot Springs.

In addition to her husband, she was preceded in death by her parents and her best friend, Linda McKim.

The family invites friends to come celebrate Gloria’s life at 2 p.m. Tuesday at First Baptist Church in Greenwood. Burial will be at Mountain View Cemetery in Hackett under the direction of McConnell Funeral Home in Greenwood.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Alzheimer’s Association, 2408 S. 51st Court, Suite F, Fort Smith, AR 72903.

To sign an online guestbook, please visit www.mcconnellfh.com.

 


Ladybug Ladybug, Fly Away Home

Ladybug Ladybug, Fly Away Home

Gram is still with us.  She is in hospice.  But these are some thoughts about her that I want to share.

Gram, I’ve always loved you.

I remember adventures at your house from a young age. Traveling from Arkansas to Chicago by plane made you seem fancy and exotic.  Looking back now, you were a simple lady working at a trucking company…but to me, you were my fancy Grandma that lived in Chicago. Everything about you was so unique. Your small walk-up apartment was full of memories – from the strange textured painting of a barn (what was that doing in a Chicago apartment?) to the tiny diorama of a forest that I would study for what seemed like hours.  Then there was my favorite: the disco elephant. Yes, it’s a mirror covered elephant.  It’s sitting in my house- and I’m lucky to have it.  You told me that it came from Egypt and was supposed to face the door and bring good luck.

You were a funny grandma.  I have no memories whatsoever of you ever cooking.  All I remember is you peeling sweet potatoes and chopping onions and celery for Thanksgiving.  I’m sure at some point in your life you cooked, but that was not what you passed on to me.

You passed on your social skills to me.  You were a social butterfly (well, before your brain trauma changed you so years ago). Everyone loved you. I remember when you joined the church in Hot Springs and how active you became.  I hardly ever saw you because you were lunching, going to movies, going to shows, and always with friends.  You were a great listener, so I understood how easily you made friends.

Thank you for always being my confidant.  You were always on my side.  I never for a moment doubted that.

We spent so much time together after you moved to Hot Springs.  Watching scary movies and eating popcorn.  Going out for Chinese food dinners.  Taking trips together. Those times when we lived in Branson that you would come stay with me while mom went home. Lots of fun times.  I think I get my love of eating good food and traveling from you.  You went on so many adventures with Grandpa.  I heard of countless cruises, trips to Egpyt, China. You lived a great life.

I know these last few years have been tough.  Your body has betrayed you, and your accident didn’t help either- bringing on dementia, confusion, and trouble walking. You’ve been in so much pain, but you always wanted to go and do- be where we were.

I regret that you’ll never get to hold your great grand baby.  I know that for the 5 years I’ve been married, you’ve told me its ok to wait for kids. To explore and enjoy each other. However, I’m sad to think you’ll never know your great grand baby.  I just knew you would teach them your out-of-tune song about ladybugs. “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home…”

One of my favorite memories of you is the time I was most proud of you- when you were baptized.  You had converted to Christianity from a lifetime of Judaism…and you were terrified of being baptised.  You couldn’t swim!  But we practiced in the pool (and after several near drownings) you were baptized.  I was so proud of you that day. I’m proud of you now, too. You’ve fought so hard.  You are so feisty and have such a spirit about you.

But I want you to know that we don’t want you to suffer anymore.  I don’t want to let you go, but I have to let you fly, little Ladybug.

On Sunday everyone came to see you.  You hardly opened your eyes, and you didn’t talk much, so I don’t know how much you knew about our visits. But we were all there telling you how much we love you.  Holding your hand.  And we will be there until God takes you away from here. I love you, Gram.  I’m not ready for our journey to end. It breaks my heart to think of a Thanksgiving without you there to gnaw on the leftover turkey carcass.  Or a Christmas without you complaining about waiting to open your gifts.  You always hated that we went youngest to oldest, because that meant you went last.  Or a New Years without you saying “I haven’t seen you all year!” on January 1.  Or a birthday when you don’t pester me about what to get me. Or not being able to read your chicken scratch handwriting in your card. How did you get such bad penmanship? I love that you listed your education on Facebook as the School of Hard Knocks. I love that you loved to play games and were up for just about anything. One of my favorite memories of you was convincing you to play Chubby Bunny all by yourself one night just because we had marshmallows in the pantry.

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But I guess that’s the beauty of all of this, it makes us appreciate those small memories even more. You were a wonderful Grandma. Thank you for pouring into my life and loving me completely. I hope you knew how much I love you.