It was 4:30 a.m., Sunday morning. My husband and I were at the VA hospice unit in my Uncle Ronnie’s room. He was lying on the bed, finally resting from his months long illness.
Within a few minutes the hospice chaplain joined us. It was good to see him. I appreciated his presence. Together we waited for the funeral home. When they arrived, the security guard also became part of our group.
We waited outside Ronnie’s room while his body was loaded on the funeral home gurney. The door opened and Ronnie’s body was rolled out, draped with an American flag. They paused at the door as the security guard signaled someone somewhere to start the music. From nowhere. From everywhere we begin to hear “Taps” being played. Everyone on the floor saluted Ronnie Patton as his body was rolled down the hall, down the elevator, and out the door.
It was a special moment in my life. It was a send off fit for a hero.
The doctors at the VA in Albuquerque decided that, considering the gravity of Ronnie’s health, and the decisions I had made regarding his treatment, the hospice unit would be an appropriate placement for him. I agreed.
So here I go again. Once again completing the paperwork, talking to the nurses, meeting the chaplain, and on and on.
My emotions at this point were just whirling. I was feeling a great deal of grief, because I knew my uncle’s life as he had been living it was over. I felt guilty because I was the one who made the decisions that took him from his home. I felt grateful and thankful because things had worked out so that I could be close to him. I felt some anger at Ronnie because his decision to smoke all his life had resulted in his body being consumed with cancer. Yes, I felt a complete range of emotions with clear reasons that I could articulate about each one.
Having been down this path though has helped me put whatever I am feeling into perspective. I am not the person in the midst of this crisis. Ronnie is. My feelings are secondary to his situation. He is the person who is ill, facing pain and death. My life will go on. His will not.