A best friend since childhood (I will call her Sue) and her sister are facing their mother’s death. Their mom is now under hospice care and is staying with Sue in her home. Last week Sue called me in tears and asked “What do I say? What do I do?” as if anyone has the right answers. As my grandma used to say “everybody’s different” and when dealing with death, everyone’s reaction will be different. Sue is shaken to the core because she is the daughter who talks to her mom every single day, usually three times a day. This was not my experience with my mom. Sue’s dad died many years ago and that was extremely difficult for her as well. I knew the day would come when Sue’s mom would die and have dreaded this for her. I simply joined her in her tears and said “you can do nothing wrong, you can say nothing wrong, and the only thing I suggest is that you just wholly be there and don’t think about tomorrow, don’t think about next week, just think and be in the present and be with her.” It sounds so insignificant and blasé when I write it.
As a former hospice volunteer, our purpose was to just “be there” for someone, and that was it. My habit was to walk in, introduce myself (whether they were conscious or not) and merely hold their hand. That was it and it was enough. My patients always took a turn up after I visited them; the volunteer coordinator called me an angel because of this. I smirked at the compliment knowing it was a likely way to “keep” a volunteer; after all, a little sugar goes a long way, as Sue says.
For me, Sue’s mom holds a special place in my heart and today I am sending her a thank you card telling her how much she means to me and how much she has meant to me throughout my life. In case you have the desire to do the same with someone in your life who is under hospice care, it will go a little something like this:
-for being such a wonderful mother to my best friend
-for making me laugh hysterically so often
-for being in my life
-for marrying your husband
-for having Sue
-for having (Sue’s sister)
-for being a good example
-for being such a wonderful grandmother
-for making me laugh HYSTERICALLY so often (yes, there is a pattern)
-for being you
-for loving me
I love you…
And that’s it. If you truly care, there is nothing you can say or do wrong to someone is under hospice care. Remember, it is hospice care, typically they know what that means, unless they are incapacitated. Also, if the words don’t come, don’t force them. Words are sometimes unnecessary and if the words don’t come to you, they just don’t and that is okay. Peace…