written on 8/8/14 after the “Five Minute Friday” prompt: BEGIN
(Five Minute Friday is a community wherein a one-word prompt is announced over at Kate Motaung’s site and then whoever wants to write about it does. A free-write for five minutes flat: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.)
NOTE: This wasn’t a true FMF… I went way over 5 minutes and I did edit.
My grandma is at the beginning of a very interesting journey for herself. I imagine it’s scary to stand on the edge of the totally unknown. She is at the beginning of her journey in hospice. Hospice. The very word signals the end of life; the time in which one particular person and those around that person all prepare for the end. Hospice is the title of the last chapter in someone’s life. In a way, it is a doomsday calling. In a way, it is dark and depressing and hopeless and … I don’t know… forlorn?
Hospice. When I hear that word, I picture that sixty-something- year-old woman J and I knew when several years ago: her 80-something-year-old mother by her side, nursing her and tending to her flesh and blood’s every need. Just as she did when her daughter was an infant. It just didn’t seem right, to be that way. That sweet woman was lying in her hospital bed in the middle of the living room, a light blanket covering her, her mind incoherent and wasting away by the second. A blank slate that once held a lifetime of experiences, thoughts and prayers.
She died that night. We sat with her and prayed with her and her mom; I think we brought them a meal or groceries or something as well. What do you do when someone is in that type of situation? What is there to do or say that can possibly help or comfort? But, anyway, we tried. And… then she died that night. After we left. I was one of the last people to see that woman before the left this world and entered Eternity.
So that is what Hospice has been in my mind. The End.
And yet here is my grandma. My snow-white-haired, spunky, talkative, opinionated, always-been-full-of-fear Grandma. As she calls herself, she is “Ancient.” She’ll be 84 in November. Her sister and her brother both died when they were 84. She feels like a ticking time bomb. She says she is at peace with what is happening, with what is going to happen. Actually, her words are that she is “fine with it.” She talks about how she has a great family, “the best I could ever ask for,” and she has signed a bright fluorescent pink document that spells out her wishes in the event of another medical emergency. Front and center at the top of the page is a checked box next to the words
“Do not resuscitate (CPR). Do not attempt any life-saving interventions of any kind.”
That was what got me yesterday. When I was at her house and read those words as I was putting that paper back on the counter so anyone visiting would see it. “Do not resuscitate.” So that means if I am with her and she starts failing, starts losing her breath, starts… dying… in front of me… I am not supposed to help her in any way. I’m supposed to hold her and try to be a comfort to her of some sort and I am to let her go.
Hospice. Yesterday was the beginning of it. She got her new menu of drugs to add on to her original menu. Morphine is the main one she’s on now. It’s supposed to help her with her pain. Supposed to help ease her into whatever is on its way next.
Last night I dreamed I read the book that the hospice lady Lara Beth talked about. “Gone From My Sight” is the title. Lara Beth told us it describes someone’s journey through the last few months of their life– what happens when their body is shutting down incrementally, what that looks like, what to expect next, etc. I dreamed I read it and it was only a bunch of pictures from my grandma’s life. It wasn’t a worded story at all, it was just a photo album. Of my grandmother. Pictures of her at various ages and stages of her life. But all the pages were blurry toward the end of the book so I couldn’t see what was going on there.
Begin. That’s the word of today. Begin.
Yet all I can think of is that this Begins the End.
I will miss her when she’s gone.
And my girls will miss her when she’s gone, too.
And of course my mom. And my uncle.
…and that makes me sad.
(See poem “Gone From My Sight” by Henry Van Dyke)
**Note: My grandmother passed away 3 days after I wrote this.
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What about you?
What does the word “hospice” evoke in you? What about the word “begin”? Have you yet experienced the loss of someone very dear to you? Would you care to share about any of this?
Please feel free to share your journey in the comment section below.