Monday, February 14, 2011

Thoughts while sitting at my aunt's bedside...

--Life is short.
--I want to be the kind of Christian, the kind of aunt, the kind of friend, the kind of woman that my aunt was.
--This process, while exceedingly sad, is also unbelievably beautiful. She has been surrounded by love from family and friends around the clock through this whole process. The memories that have been shared, the powerful sincerity with which feelings have been expressed to my aunt and between family and friends, the outpouring of affection and emotion, all of this process is filled with beauty befitting my aunt. I am honored and grateful to be here.
--In the first conversation alone that I had with my aunt after she decided to enter hospice care, I felt like I couldn't find the words I wanted to say to her. I felt awkward, and worried that I might say the wrong thing. She was so graceful in saying to me, "Sarah, I know, what do you say at a time like this?" I am so grateful that I had the chance in the days afterward to become more comfortable, find the right words and time to say them. I am so grateful to have the chance to hold her hand, stroke her arm, give her sips of water and moisten her lips, change the washcloth on her head. I was able to feed her a popsicle, holding her hand and helping her to bring it to her mouth, and for some reason, thinking of helping her eat that popsicle is bringing fresh tears to my eyes. I am so grateful (sorry if I am overusing that phrase) to have the opportunity to care for her.
--I love her voice. It has been ever present in my life, from the day I was born. It is unique, and sweet, and it expresses such kindness and caring into her final days. I marvel at the way she has responded to nurses and doctors, always a sweet "Thank you" or "That's good" despite the amount of effort that it took to say it. I don't want to forget her voice.
--She was able to visit with most all of her family and friends, either in person or on the phone. She cheerfully greeted everyone, even if she had been in a deep sleep moments before. I held the phone to her ear when she spoke to her brother, my Uncle Gordon. Hearing her cheerfully say, "Hi, brother!" is something I will always remember.
--We take turns sitting by her bedside, so when we are not there, we are in the hallway outside her room where we have set up camp. Spending lengths of time with my family, and getting to know her friends better was such a blessing, and so very comforting.
--The social worker from hospice met with my mom, my sister, Aunt Shirley's best friend, and me yesterday. The guidance and comfort that she gave us was invaluable. One thing that she shared with us was her experience with patients as they near the very end. She said that many people have told her that their loved ones start talking to people, saying the names of people that have already passed away. It was her belief that when someone dies, they are transitioned from earth to heaven by their loved ones that have gone before them To think that my Aunt Shirley is being prepared for and escorted to heaven by her mom, dad and brother is such a comforting thought.
--Another thing that the social worker suggested for us to do is to always greet Aunt Shirley when we arrive for a visit, even if we are fearful of disturbing her from a sleep. It is comforting for to know that we are here, and sometimes, even if she can't respond, she might be listening. My mom and dad spent the night at the hospital with my aunt last night. Mornings are usually the time when my aunt is the most awake and talks the most. This morning she was mostly sleeping. A couple of times she tried to talk but couldn't. My parents told my sister, Lisa, and I this when we arrived at the hospital at noon today, so we didn't expect much when we walked in to greet Aunt Shirley and found her sleeping. We said, "Hi, Aunt Shirley. It's Lisa and Sarah. We've come to visit you." To our surprise, she opened her eyes, looked at us, and said "That's nice!" Such a sweet, unexpected blessing.
--Along those lines, we also say goodbye to her when we go. Last night before we left, my sister and I went in together again. We said, "Aunt Shirley, it's Lisa and Sarah. We are going to be going home for the night now. We just wanted to say that you are such an amazing aunt, and you are our role model, and we love you so much." She looked at us with a big smile, and said "I know you do. I love you too." Again, such a sweet blessing from her that I will treasure.
--I know that not everyone gets to say goodbye to their loved ones in this way. I know how fortunate we are, and I am so very grateful to be by her side tonight.
--I love you, Aunt Shirley

1 comment:

Monkee said...

Wow! This must be so hard for you and your family. I will be praying for all of you!!