Friday, February 11, 2011

Hospice...finding the way

I wrote a bit about my Hospice experiences yesterday and in the night, realized what I am enjoying is being an advocate for those who can't speak for themselves or who have no family close by. As I walked this morning in the dreary rain, I was reflecting on my dad's last few months with us and was hoping that we helped him on his way in a way that he wanted. The whole of Hospice, for me, is living and dying with dignity and in peace. I am trying to learn how to handle that so I can be graceful, (and yes, I realize that Teresa and graceful in the same sentence is truly an oxymoron) when confronting the necessity of leaving family and friends.

Dad told us for several months that he would take his own life when the time was right for him. And that would be when the pain was too great and when he was ready to meet Him. We talked. We cried. We argued. But, he had warned us that the day his light was not on when we woke up, we should not allow Alex to go visit grandpa before going to school. That day arrived and I went down instead.

Dad was in his chair and waiting for me...we were both early risers. He asked that I call the ambulance, after all. He decided he didn't want to die in our home because it would leave bad memories. The ambulance came. Dad was in the ER and I had his "do not resuscitate" with me and showed the doctor but he put the paddles on dad to try to revive him and I know that my father heard me screaming, "Leave him alone. He is ready to go...NOW!" They did leave him alone and I know my dad did not go quietly as he'd wanted...had he stayed home, in his comfy chair, he would have passed from the overdose of meds that he had told us he would eventually give himself. Of course, dad wouldn't have been surprised that I was there next to him, screaming....he would have just thought that Teresa was being Teresa and trying to get folks to do what she said!

My dad didn't go quietly but he had tried so hard to go his way. He had begged his doctor to help him leave this earth, which the doctor couldn't and wouldn't do. He had begged us to help him on his way...and we couldn't and wouldn't do that for him, either. So, he talked through how he would do it himself and Lord knows, no one should have to do this alone. And so, a road I began walking with my father is helping me heal as I volunteer. I still miss the old coot.

I find it peaceful to give just a few moments of peace to families and individuals struggling with how/when/if their lives or the life of someone they love, will end. When my time is up, I want to be ready and go quietly and with dignity and this is what I find permeating Hospice, its staff and its philosophy. I sat in a room with 40 individuals receiving chemo the other day and was amazed at the jokes, the laughing and the enjoyment of just being. Being reminded that there is a joy in every moment lived, even when having a crappy painful time, makes me realize how blessed my life is. I have had cancer and survived...I fought and won. With help, caring, empathy and good will, many of these Hospice patients and their family members will win and survive. If they don't survive, hopefully they will have special memories of laughs and experiences that are special to them.

I was called yesterday to see if I could take a Hospice patient to a casino about 45 minutes from here. I agreed and when I got off the phone, I laughed my butt off. Someone is a Hospice patient, living the best life she can and trying to enjoy every moment she can. Why wouldn't I agree to take someone to enjoy a couple of hours outside of whatever uncomfortable ugliness she may be experiencing? I can. I will. It makes me smile...a huge return on time spent.

Back to dad...after he died, we returned home to be greeted with the police in our driveway. They came to check that we had not hurt my father. Elder abuse is rampant. Fortunately, my dad's doctor, our neighbors, our family, our church and our neighbors had seen us caring for dad for years. He was a cranky old man but we loved him. And I know we never thanked the people enough who visited dad, brought him meals and took the time to hold his hand while we were at work. I want to do it right next time.

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