Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Our 85 year old neighbor, Hetty, has been referred from the hospital and admitted into the Hospice facility, as of Sunday. What this typically means is that her doctors have determined that she terminal cancer and has a life expectancy of 6 months or less and therefor qualifies for the Hospice program.
I've visited Hetty twice now, both times just on my own. The first time her husband, Jack, was there. The three of us chatted and Hetty got a bit teary eyed and mentioned that maybe it would be best if she just gave up. Jack quickly chastised her and said, "I thought we agreed not to talk like that anymore."
The second time I visited Hetty, was last night after I got Snuggle Bug down to bed. Thankfully the Hospice facility is close by our house so I was able to get there before 8:30 p.m. and Hetty was still awake and restless. I brought Hetty some fresh baked cookies in the hopes of enticing her to have a bit to eat. She hasn't been eating well lately.
Hetty's battle with cancer these past 15 years has been so hard on Hetty, Jack, and their 2 grown children. This past 6 months has been the roughest because the cancer got into her brain and the radiation treatment she went through has weakened her. She can't walk now.
In the past year almost 2 years that I've known Hetty, her courage and determination have impressed me. Her positive attitude has been inspiring. But now, these past few months, I've had to watch her suffer humiliation at the loss of control and see the hope slowly drain from her spirit. I've heard her fears of dying and leaving her husband of nearly 60 years. I've also heard the fears of Jack, who's not sure what he's going to do without her.
I'm actually glad she's been admitted into Hospice. It's a wonderful program with a holistic approach to the care of people who are actively dying. Pain management is a large part of the care, but spiritual and emotional needs are tended to as well. It's not just about the care of those who are dying, it's also about helping the survivors to cope and work through their own grief. The Hospice staff are very kind to Hetty and are taking good care of her. I used to be a Hospice volunteer many years ago and, listening to Hetty talk about that "nice young man" who makes a point to talk to her (he's a hospice volunteer) so kindly, it's nice to see from the other side how much that volunteering matters. I've always felt the pull to get back into Hospice volunteering and I know I'll do it again soon in the future. For now, I will devote my energies to being there for Hetty and Jack.
Hetty is anxious to return to home and there's a chance that this may happen. Hetty and Jack's children, who live out of state, are working with the Hospice staff to try to arrange in-home care for Hetty. If they can get that figured out, then she will allowed to go home. I believe she wants to die at home, rather than in a hospital or hospice bed. I don't blame her.
You know, all of our days are numbered and only God knows when our time will come. I just hope that if I'm in Hetty's position, facing my mortality and counting down the days until the end, I will have her courage, dignity, and grace in those final hours.
Prayers for Hetty and her family would be much appreciated!