Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Going Home

Bev has been with us for six years.  Her dry sense of humor, her intolerance of ass hoolery, and her distaste for the annoying demented ones are all things that endeared her to me.

Loving her doesn't make her dying that much more difficult.  I come into the relationship knowing it bears an expiration date.  I know that when the time comes, we will use everything in our power to make the transition a peaceful one.

It hasn't been peaceful.  An hour I sat with her as she squished my hand;

"I'm scared I'm scared I'm scared."

Pain is easier to tend to than fear. And providing a hand to mangle is sometimes our only tool.

A relief to get to work and learn that she'd become unresponsive.  Her daughter and granddaughter also relieved.

Our arsenal of drugs will keep her that way until she's gone.

Hospice volunteers keeping vigil at her side to alert us to any signs of waking.

Down the hall, a not as expected ending had begun.

Paul wasn't aware that a few weeks ago he'd been given around a month.  His family chose not to tell him; he still thought he'd be going home one day.  He'd thought that for the entire year he's been with us.

A more eccentric old bastard I'm not sure I've ever met.  A WWII vet; he'd been a medic and would treat any willing listener to the most gruesome tales.

Also an artist, painter, guitarist, fiddler; he'd been known to greet the day playing his flute.

Having a chat with an aide one minute, and unresponsive the next.

His room crowded with family within the hour.  His 93 years celebrated, stories told, laughter and tears.

Bev still deep under. Quietly waiting.

Paul began to wake.  Answering with blinks, then yes and no, then, amazingly, putting sentences together.

Clearly not the Paul we'd known, but able to deny pain, and to wonder why his family was all there.

My shift winding down, I made a final check on Bev; still peaceful. Mission accomplished for the night.

A hug and a kiss, for me more than for her.

Paul's family gone, I went to say goodbye, knowing the chances he'd last the night were slim;

"Hey Paulie, how are you feeling?"

"I'm great.  Did you see my family? Aren't they wonderful?"

"They sure are."

"Yes. They are.  So.  I'm just waiting.  Waiting for the going home."


"Aren't we all, Paulie?"

"Ah yes."

"Good B- Good night Paulie."

"Good night.  You are a kind hearted witch."

"Ha!!  That's the best thing I've ever been called!  See you tomorrow Paulie."

"See you tomorrow love."


  1. This piece transports me back to last summer, sitting at my mother-in-law's bedside, waiting with her until the very end.

    We wouldn't have made it through that time if it hadn't been for the kindness of her hospice nurses.

    The waiting...nine days of waiting...was at times wonderful and at others, excruciating.

    Your writing is perfection...

  2. There seems to be a great deal of 'going home' stuff lately...

    Bless you for the work you do...

    I have a sister that is old enough to be my mother... she has begun having health issues, and the other night was not a good night for her... she held my hand and told me she was scared. I understood what she was telling me.

    It can't be easy... taking that next step into the Unknown.


  3. Paulie sure did know you well, didn't he? I really love these stories, girl. A lot. I didn't know any of my grandparents. I kind of wonder if any of them were like your "people"

  4. great stories- have you seen Never Let Me Go?
    I know you are not into movies- the book is better-

    Book: http://ladyofthearts.blogspot.com/2010/10/never-let-me-go-kazuo-ishiguro.html


    Kinda like your job of just being there...

  5. I just can't get enough of your stories...your writing is incredible and I am in awe of your work.

    The going home....wow. I guess in a way, that's what we are all just waiting around here for, isn't it? We have to make the most of it.

    Beautiful story, and if I needed a hand to mangle in the end? I would choose yours.

  6. God creates very special people to do what you do...to be parents of kids with differences...to hold the hand and push the button for more meds of those who are going home.

    You are an angel...a blessing...one who is treasured by many and who one day will reach Heaven and have thousands of souls waiting to say hello and to thank you for making their way there that much easier.

  7. HA! I finally got through one of these stories without crying.

    Another beautifully told tale.


  8. You are a kind hearted witch.

  9. You can't aim much higher thank kind hearted witch, can you?

    What a beautiful, haunting tale. May we all meet our end surrounded by such love and compassion.

  10. Beautiful stories. And you sure do know what to do with these word thinga-ma-bobs here.


    Your words have brought me back to the end-game, the waiting times with my father last spring and my mother-in-law last fall.

    I know it's different when it's not a close relative, less intense. But still there is a rawness, a nakedness of soul that is just such an inherent part of this endeavor.

    I am astonished that you do this for a living, and deeply grateful that some who do what you do have your depth of caring, generosity of spirit, thoughtfulness.

    Your patients and their families are lucky indeed.

  11. That part about Bev being scared...made me scared, too. I'm so glad she had your hand to mangle.

    I flew back home after saying my final goodbye to my father, and my brother and mother were there at the end for his two days of hospice. Still not sure I should've left..

  12. "Pain is easier to tend to than fear."

    I hadn't ever thought of that but wow.


    "Waiting for the going home."

    Holy crap.

    You got me with this one, for sure. (You always get me.)

    Quite the storyteller, lady.

  13. A kind hearted witch indeed. They are lucky to have you at their bedside. You are amazing.

  14. We just went through this with my grandfather and every day we sat there and waited for him to "go home". It was sad to see all of the people that didn't have anyone there with them. It is amazing that you do this every day. I just couldn't imagine. The Hospice employees that we met were some of the most amazing and caring people that I have ever met!

  15. You put these stories down so beautifully. As much as I adore your witty, blunt, take no prisenor (which I do, I so do) I adore these times you share just as much. How is that? Thank you.

  16. I truly enjoy your words. Indeed, you are a kind hearted witch, in the best possible way.

  17. Wow. Beautiful and poignant and funny. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Your job does sometimes kick ass.


  19. People who do what you do... you have my undying gratitude. I have had experiences with some of the most amazing hospice workers - when both my grandfather and my mother-in-law passed, as well as another mom I knew who also was a hospice nurse.

    And really beautifully written.


  20. We've talked about the importance of hospice workers . . . so let me simply say "kind-hearted witch" may be a downright perfect way to describe what I know of you :-)

  21. So thankful for people like you.
    How wonderful for them to have someone caring by their side.

  22. Waiting is the hardest part. For some reason, my grandma did not want anyone to tell my grandpa that he was dying. When his breaths became labored, everyone huddled around him and began to pray. He opened his eyes and said "Damn it all to hell. Why are you all acting like I'm dying or something?!"....I could not stop laughing. Ohhhhh poor grandpa. Never saw it coming.

  23. I love your stories. You could compile them and publish a book. You've already got a title: "A Kind Hearted Witch".

  24. The witch with a heart of gold.

    There you have it.

    LOVE these stories, and see them as cathartic as those living through this right now.

  25. Your words are beautiful and awesome!

  26. Beautiful, thank you. I am so amazed at what you do.


Use Your Words.