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.
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.