After the feeding tube was removed, Mother lingered on for about 3 days. I stayed there with her most of the time, leaving only a couple of times to make funeral arrangements.
Again, just as always, I began my usual hospital routine of caring for my personal needs, and asking for help when I needed it. Staying at a hospital with a family member, though exhausting, is just not much of a problem for me.
I did observe some interesting things and learned at least one important lesson during my stay with Mother on this wonderful, caring, comforting Hospice floor in Hentrick Hospital, Abilene, TX.
When Mother and Daddy were patients in the Hospital, on the Oncology floor, families talked to each other. They shared stories of their family member’s illness, hugged and cried together. I came to know many families during our stay of about 6 weeks there.
In the Hospice Unit, family members are not as open. They are much more focused on their patient, their loved one and most likely the coming moment of his/death. The average stay on this unit was only 2 or 3 days just a short time. which also made it difficult to get to know each other.They tend to be quiet and speak in soft tones. There is not much laughter in the halls, and sometimes very little casual conversation beyond, “Good morning”. I think there are two reasons why families were this way, first as I mentioned above, they were involved in the very last days and hours of their loved one’s life. They were physically, emotionally and spiritually focused on that person. The other reason, I believe, is the awareness that every family there was walking down the same path, and every family wanted to be respectful of the others.
There were a couple of exceptions that stand out in my mind and these exceptions taught me something about grieving.
Shortly after Mother arrived on this floor, there was a patient admitted to a room across the hall and one door down. This patient was a Hispanic man, the patriarch of his family. Please understand that my comments here are not in any way demeaning of Hispanic families and their strong family ties. This patient did not come alone. Oh, no, not at all. there were at least 15 to 20 family members with him at all times, around the clock, even the wee hours of the morning. They never left, or if they did leave, more came to take their place. These family members ranged in age from infant, through adult and everything in between. Their room was changed to a location that was somewhat isolated after some of the other families mentioned that the running up and down the hall of the children was disturbing to us. Yes, I was one of those families.
After about 2 days they were gone because their beloved father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, brother, passed away. Even though we might consider it to be inappropriate to have that many people present, especially children, they had the right to grieve for their loved one in the way that was appropriate for their culture. They greived in groups, sometimes large groups. I realized that my judgment of their actions was inappropriate. Well, except for the running up and down the hall.
The other experience came early one morning. It was about 5 o’clock, still dark outside. I awoke to the sound of guitar music and singing. I was angry. How on earth could someone be so inconsiderate as to disturb the sleep of the patients and their families by singing at such an early hour!!! I flew out of bed, determined to find out where that music was coming from.
I went to the door of Mother’s room and opened it. I stood in the doorway and listened for a moment. The music was coming from a room to the right of Mother’s. While I was standing in that doorway God began to speak to me. I began to understand the room that was the source of the music also contained a dying person. A person who was loved. The music was someone’s gift to that person. Why so early in the morning? I don’t know why. Perhaps that was the only opportunity the musician would have that day. I don’t know, nor is it important that I know.
There was an important lesson for me here. God helped me to understand that families need to be able to grieve and walk down the path of death with their loved one in their own ways, without being judged by me. Sigh. I closed the door, went back to my bed, and prayed for the patient in that room and his family.