Monday, July 25, 2011

Preparing for the Journey

My dear mother-in-law, Queen Darl, is at the end of her journey here on earth. She has been in hospice care for about four months, after a loose prognosis of "months" to live. The grandchildren have been coming in for several weeks for a last visit. A week-ago-weekend, Charming and I went for a visit. Last Wednesday, I went with Blackeyed Susan, Alvin Fernald, and Don Quixote. Forget-me-not also came with one-year-old Tiger Lily, whom Grandma had never seen.

Grandma held court from her recliner. We gave her the news of the summer. She shared her peanut-butter and jelly sandwich with toddling Tiger Lily. We watched the Cubs game for awhile. Every once in awhile she would mention her situation, saying things like, "can you believe we're here already?"

By Friday she had taken a turn. A hospital bed was brought in, along with other equipment. Her episodes of incoherency were a little more frequent. We decided to come up again Saturday evening.

I was reading a Family Manual, published by the Hospice people. It told what to expect between three months and one month before death; then between one month and one week; and then in the days before death. I wanted to tell you two things I learned, that were so, so beautiful.

"You may notice your loved one often dropping off to sleep. However, they may not be sleeping. They are "doing business" with themselves." They are getting their life in order, assessing their life, determining if it was what they wanted their life to be, preparing for the journey to come. And later...

"You will notice that your loved one eats less and less, and eventually may stop eating altogether. But do not confuse this with starvation." Especially if they are a person of faith, their spiritual beliefs are becoming the focus of everything, and they no longer need food: their body is being sustained by their faith. They are literally "more there than here."

Aren't those beautiful thoughts? God made us so that we can be perfectly prepared to make the journey home. So many times people are sent to the hospital at the last, and medicated and fussed over so much that the person can't be alone with their own thoughts. This is why the hospice experience is so wonderful--it is truly "death with dignity."

Darl is going through some of the things on the last list, the one called "in the final hours/days." We had good, good visits this weekend, so if we don't quite make it when we're called again, it will be okay. We are just two hours away, and get almost hourly updates from her daughter Winnie.

One more thought: remember I told you that Charming was reading Plato on our vacation. One thing Plato wondered. If so many people believed that there was an afterlife, why, when the time came to face it, were people uneasy? Death should not be an enemy. Of course, we know that Jesus conquered death for all who believe. We have no fear of death. Our dear Darl says that she is ready for "the next phase of her life." Like I said, more "there" than "here."

How beautiful.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Beautifully said, Barbie Heart. I must add my 2 cents, of course. In all that was said, I must voice my objections to hospitals and artificial medicine taking control of life and death. God knows how to take care of these things. So very glad that Queen Darl is not in the bondage of that system of slavery.

"There is an appointed time to die..." Ecclesiastes 3 (God Knows Best.)

Reverend Jan