I am writing this from Iowa, where I’ve been almost a week since I made an emergency visit. You see, my mother is slipping away and preparing to transition on. She has been in an assisted living facility with dementia for over three years now but last weekend she had a mild stroke. So her physical body is shutting down. She’s been under the care of Hospice for over a month or so as well.
If you have never had the experience of the loving care of Hospice services, I can tell you that they are a such a gift for anyone experiencing the loss of a loved one. Since I know that this is not “the end,” I don’t think of it as a loss exactly, and even so, the experience is still emotionally draining at times.
My main goal is to bring joy to my mom’s last days here and keep her comfortable. Hospice provides many tools in which to keep her physical body comfortable but it is the human element that they provide that is making all the difference in this transitional time: the countless volunteers who sit and talk to her when I’m not around, the visits from the nursing team, the spiritual counselor, and the social worker who arranged for me to get a guitar so I can play and sing for my mom, amongst other things. Imagine a world where we all had this kind of care whenever we were sick!
In this joy ride of transitioning, we’ve had some laughs along the way so far. My mom loves beer but due to her health, it’s been at least over 3 years since she’d had any. The Hospice team provides little sponges on sticks that one can dip into different liquids to wet the patient’s mouth and provide some liquid nourishment. So I asked about the beer and they said, “Absolutely give her what she loves!” So we got a six-pack! 🙂 While she’s not chugging it down, she was so delighted and filled with joy at the taste of that beer!
Yesterday was also another joyful day. Hospice has a music therapist who came over with her guitar and songbooks in hand. When she learned that I loved to sing, we ended up singing together beautiful duets next to my mom’s bed for over an hour. My uncle came in about half way through and added his humorous musical talent of real-life story lyrics to famous songs. While my mom kept her eyes closed during the jam session, she was smiling all the way through it. And we were laughing and feeling good, too!
Later, as I was reflecting on our day, I couldn’t help but remind myself that this is how it’s meant to be. Life is supposed to be fun. It is all about joy and love and that doesn’t stop when one is the middle of “dying.” Since I know in my soul that this is not the end for my mom, I use the word “dying” loosely. I prefer to say she’s transitioning. So while she makes her way, I’m intending joyful, peaceful, comfortable and happy times. In fact, I’m intending that after she goes, too.
Now where’s that beer?