Hospice Heroes

To Sis:

“You’re bright-eyed and bushy tailed this morning.”

“You’re a fighter, aren’t you?”

“People will miss you, but it’s okay to go.”

As I watched the Hospice nurse do her job, I was amazed at how good she was at it.

To Me:

“Have you eaten anything today?”

“You can call me at any time.”

“I can only do this job if I remain detached.”

I believe it. Watching your loved one die in front of your eyes is the hardest thing ever in my life so far.  Knowing that it’s coming, knowing that you were the one to make the decision of no more hospitals, of honoring the DNR that you signed, oh, so many years ago, knowing that three different doctors had told you that the quality of life was about to get a lot worse, and how violent it is to bring someone back when they are coding. It was more info than I ever wanted to know.

Now here I was again, the second time around in hospice care, but this time, so much more working against her.  I’d signed on for this. I’d volunteered to be her durable power of attorney after my brother decided he didn’t want the job.

Five and a half years had passed since I went to Iowa to get her, where she was so over-medicated, she could barely shuffle to the dining room of the assisted living facility, where she stood in the shower but didn’t remember how to clean herself, where she couldn’t choose from the lunch menu and ended up eating a big cookie the size of a lunch plate since our mother, who lived with her, wanted her to have something in her stomach.

Sis weighed fifty-some pounds more in Iowa than she ended up weighing here.  No more giant cookies, no more Ambien, no more anti-psychotic drug that caused a persistent rocking motion that she couldn’t control.

My sister came back to life for a couple of years. She could carry on a conversation, she could tell me when she didn’t like something, she could ask me questions.

Then the decline over the years, both mentally and physically, increased, my decline as well. I could no longer walk her around the yard.  My back couldn’t take the lunging forward. I was afraid she would fall, even with the gait belt around her waist.  I couldn’t control her, and pulling her back up was getting harder to do.

Hospitals, over and over again. Eventually, I called 9-1-1 instead of trying to take her in myself.

When the walks stopped, she got weaker. The last time I took her out, for a flu shot, it was clear that she wasn’t going to be able to walk back to the car with her walker. I borrowed a wheel chair, only to find a delivery van parked across the blue striped handicap lines, blocking our path to the passenger door of my car. I yelled at him, loud and clear until he moved.  That was the beginning of November.

My other sis assumed she’d be hosting Thanksgiving again, but I put my foot down. Barb hadn’t been with family on Thanksgiving for four years.  It was my turn to host so that she could come.

That was just over three weeks ago. Who would have ever thought that she would be gone now?

Life is short. Don’t wait to say the important stuff. Give everyone some grace (except van driver). Take lots of photos. Use the pretty dishes. Sing those Beatles songs to your dying sister.

She will hear them all.

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