Tag Archives: hospice

Casting Off

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mother portrait

A new cycle was beginning.

Jean, our hospice nurse, spent time examining mother. She spoke with confidence and gentleness to my mother. Everything had changed. Since the episode a night earlier, Mother was now too weak to leave her bed. She was confined by her own weakness. Her world began to change. Only days earlier, she had sat in her wheel chair, eaten a normal meal and laughed with us in another room. That was to be her last foray outside of her bedroom and her last burst of energy. Everything was shrinking – her appetite, her mobility, and her own body. But her mind was still quite acute. There was no way I was giving up on her. I still thought she and I could get her through this, despite what the doctors and hospice said.

After Jean took time to get acquainted with Mother, she asked all of us to join her in another room. The mood was sombre as we listened intently. Now we were in the world of hospice, a very foreign country to all of us. Already installed in Mother’s room was the humming oxygen machine to assist her breathing when needed. We had refused bringing in a hospital bed, wanting mother to be in her own usual bed.

Jean explained what it meant to have palliative care. She showed us the powerful drugs, like morphine and lorazepam (for anxiety) that would be available for Mother to help ease her through the process. Luckily, Mom was not in pain, and we were grateful for this. Jean warned us that we should not count on our memory to remember when and how much medication Mother was given. We should have a journal. My brother, the ever organized and with a Navy pilot thoroughness, prepared the journal for us.

I made the decision immediately that I would be the only one to give Mother the heavy drugs. I was still her protector and wanted to prevent her from being drugged unnecessarily. Then we learned of the array of other hospice workers who would be available to help. Ever polite and grateful, we walked Jean to the door, thanking her along the way.

When the door closed, we stood stunned but coping. Bill and Judy would soon be returning back home, but they knew they would never again hear Mother’s cheery voice or see her smile. Each took private time with her, holding back tears as best they could until they left the room. They also knew that this would be difficult for Richard and for me and asked us to call whenever we needed help, no matter the time of day or night.

The four of us talked as Mother rested, still with her ever faithful Siamese cat by her side. We agreed on the plans for the funeral and who would be called in Ann Arbor. This would be the key part bill and Judy would play as we held vigil. As we talked, Judy continued knitting the pretty pink afghan she had been making for Mother as a Christmas gift. The afghan was only partially made.

On the morning that Bill and Judy departed, I stood in the kitchen alone with my brother. He said, “Judy cast off the afghan last night and is leaving it for mother just as it is.” She cast off, a knitting term that was a kind of closure on the item being made. Casting off is also letting the ship or boat be free to go out to sea. Mother was casting off her life as she knew it, and we were with her. The destination seemed certain, but the final journey was not yet charted. That was to be revealed to all of us, along with the ethereal lessons and miracles.

Judy left the afghan draped over Mother’s shoulders as she laid in bed. I tried to keep it there as much as I could, placing it to warm her neck. It was a parting gift made with love. At the time Mom took her last breath, that pink afghan was still warming her. But then, Mother had cast off permanently. She was sailing through clear and vibrant seas, and free at last. Soon she would bring us along.

The Light. She Saw the Light.

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mother portrait

As I stood by mother’s bedside, talking to her and trying to reassure her, I was distraught. We brought her home and promised her that we would not send her back to the hospital and now the worst had happened. We did not yet have everything hospice would provide to help her and, from what I was witnessing, she could die at any moment. I felt helpless and wanted to cradle her in my arms for safe keeping. I kept telling her I loved her and everything would be okay. Even if she didn’t respond; I knew she would hear me on some level.

Over the years, I had many times felt that it was up to me to save mother. It was, of course, a foolish thought, but one that carried a shared agreement between us. She and I would both do our best, so we could enjoy more time, laughs and adventures together.

Now, I found myself running in and out of her room, down to the kitchen to get anything I thought might make her feel better – peppermint tea, cool water. I held her hand and talked quietly to her, I used some of my Reiki energy, moving slowly over her body and calling forth all healing. I prayed. I chanted my mantra.

In short order, Bill and Judy heard the commotion and came from their bedroom on the third floor and met up with me in the hallway. I don’t know why I hadn’t wakened them before. They would surely have helped.

“What’s going on?” they asked urgently. I told them I thought it was possible Mom was dying. It was the first time that they saw her in this state, even though it had been happening frequently in the hospital. They gathered around Mother’s bed, talking with her and trying to soothe her. Now they saw firsthand how grave the situation was. I told them I would call hospice and see if they could help.

As I spoke with hospice, I explained that mother had not yet been admitted to their system. She was scheduled for this the next day.
It never occurred to us that one day would make such a difference. We had none of the powerful drugs hospice would bring the next day. I begged them to tell me what to do. They did their best. We were all helpless. They suggested we dial 911. We all said no. We were on our own and frightened beyond measure. Mother would have to make herself live through that long night. And she did. But something happened to her that night that I did not, at the time, fully understand.

When Mother was again able to speak, she looked up at the ceiling and repeatedly pointed to something. “The light” she said, wistfully, “Look at the light.” She smiled slightly and turned to me. She thought that I could share what she saw. I could not, but I was very familiar with these words as a common statement made by those who have had near death experiences. They usually saw a light not describable in this world and one that brought enormous peace.

I believe now with certainty that, during that night, my mother parted the thin veil separating life and death, as we termed it. She had crossed into the Light of Eternal and Divine Love. Now everything would be different for all of us. Now she would be teaching and showing us, in her own way, that she had already seen where she was going.