For so many of us at mid-life we find ourselves juggling our children, our spouses, our jobs, if we're fortunate enough to have one, or worse, unemployment, and multiple elders who need increasing levels of attention and care.
I managed care for my grandmother, father and mother, where it seemed like a life of rolling crisis for many years. There are many things that can be done to preclude some of the unnecessary legal problems, but I'll address that in a future post. This is for those of you that are facing a choice of Hospice care for someone you love now, or in the not too distant future.
First, the link below is a TV spot I did for Lifetime Care in Rochester, NY after they had taken care of my father as he passed, as well as my family and me. I refer to them as "angels, sans the wings." My spot, and the others there, may help you with some perspective:
Next this short piece is an excerpt from my book Mid-Life Re-Creation that I plead with everyone to read going into the experience. It can shift us from a position of anxiety and fear, to one of hope and light…
A Story of Dying and the Gifts That Can Flow from That
By Stephen J. Healey
I entered my 92-year-old father into the Lifetime Care hospice program on Monday, September 28, 2009. The week preceding this, I had struggled with the decision and made sure everything that could be done for him, was. By the time I made the decision, with as much input and indication as I could obtain from my father, I was at peace with it. But I almost felt as if I'd waited too long.
Lifetime Care recommended a book called Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying by Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley. It speaks of a phenomenon the dying go through called "Nearing Death Awareness." It also describes what you can expect as your loved one moves through this process, how you can help them and how this experience might help you.
The first gift I received from reading this book was that my paradigm shifted from one of anxiety and fear to one of hope. It also gave me a road map to help me navigate the way and, most importantly, tools to help my father, my family and me. The book speaks of ways to help your loved one reconcile outstanding issues and encourage them to look beyond you into the distance, perhaps seeing predeceased loved ones or feeling enveloped in the warm light of unconditional love, so often described, or perhaps the presence of God, depending on your beliefs.
On the preceding Friday, I had seen my father looking into the distance and reaching out. Instead of scaring and upsetting me, I saw this as something good for him and as a notice to me that the time of his passing was drawing near. I had spent a lot of time with him in the nursing home 2–3 weeks prior, working on my computer and trying to talk with him whenever he was cognizant. And after that "reaching out," I spent even more time in his presence. That Friday was the last time I had any verbal communication from him and the next to last time I saw him open his eyes, although all indications are that the dying can hear you right up to the time they move on.
After a week in hospice, my father passed on Monday, October 5th, 2009 at about 6:30 p.m., with me at his side along with our hospice nurse, Vickie, who was my most wonderful and deeply appreciated guide. Recognizing the signs, thanks to Vickie, just before my father died, I held his hand and had my other hand on his chest, over his heart. He opened his eyes for the first time in three days. He was looking beyond me into the distance initially, and then he looked me straight in the eyes but was unable to speak. I told him he had been a good father, that I loved him and that it was okay to let go. He took three more breaths and then moved on. My sincere hope is that I was able to ease his passing, which would be the second gift I received in this story.
The third gift is that this experience was powerful, profound and sacred. I was privileged and grateful to have been there with my father as he left our mortal world. I can tell this experience has shifted me somehow, akin to how the birth of my son shifted me to be a better man and become a father. I now realize that both birth and death are sacred events, only at different points. The gift of some faith may actually be the fourth and most profound gift from my ever-loving father to his son.
If this story has spoken to you and you believe it can benefit others, then please feel free to re-gift it and pass it on. Perhaps then I can continue to make some good of both my father's life and his death, and the flow of gifts will be truly myriad.
1 : innumerable <those myriad problems>; also : both numerous and diverse <myriad topics>
2 : having innumerable aspects or elements <the myriad activity of the new land
— Meridel Le Sueur
Spirit offers us defining moments when life is going to forever be different, if we pay attention, and if we do not, life will just continue to be what it was. These moments are God's voice speaking to us in a way that catches our attention and we can either say, "Nice message," and keep going, or we turn aside from the way we've been headed and begin the walk into our greatness.
—Mary Manin Morrissey
(If this spoke to you please consider spreading the word about Mid-Life Re-Creation using the links below)