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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Compassion in Action

I am traveling again to visit/support my family. My mother had never come home from her last visit and instead went to a skilled nursing facility, then back to the hospital with an infection. While there, she got another infection, was on isolation and is now on the hospital hospice program.

My sister has been orchestrating her care and insists that things be done to her specifications by all in her hearing - physicians, nursing staff, and family. I watched her boss around the professionals and calmed my mind with the realization that she was getting on a plane headed west and she doesn't have my cell number.

I spent last night in the hospital room with my mother as she gurgled through globs of mucus in her throat. It was barely noticeable when I arrived early in the afternoon and the instructions were to leave it be as it had no effect on my mother's well-being. By 2AM, she was struggling for breath, and the nurse suggested that she be suctioned. I asked about scopolamine, which dries secretions and the nurse said that while she knew the patches were generally part of end of life orders, they had prescribed another drug.

Eventually, respiratory therapy came to suction my mom's throat and the nurse gave her atropine. It took hours, and additional suctioning and medication, but but 8AM my mother was resting peacefully and stayed so the entire day. We left the hospital in the late afternoon to head home.

I was blessed to have two different hospice staff come to visit. The first listened as I cried through my struggling illusions that somehow my families issues would be resolved (by my mother) before her death. Watching her hour after hour I saw my illusions fade. She will not wake for the lucid discussion of how things got so totally fucked up, or even for a demented chat. My sister sat having long discourse over some plan and refused to even have the concept of death discussed. Me, I have been bringing it up since I started this journey.

I got to tell my story, to share my hurt, to unpack my distress with people who have no vested interest in this drama. I was affirmed in the joy of my life, directed toward forgiveness, supported as I seek a miracle in the healing of my father. It was a blessed release to cry and laugh and hug these women who actively commit to being compassionate, even in the most difficult of situations.

Last week, the doctors said, gather the family about. The end is near. We have been standing at the edge of this precipice for three months. Our toes are cramped. Our thighs ache. We are nauseous, short of breath, and exhausted. No matter how I feel, I still show up relaxed, for we are committed to allowing progression without interference. My mother's pain is managed and there is already in place a plan to keep it so, until the end.
We plan to return tomorrow, unless we are blessed to receive her here. This walk to the end of life is filled with questions and confusions. I am learning how to sort what needs to be tended each day, that I am free to let go without fear.

No matter what has happened in the past, it has shaped the woman/mother/friend/daughter I am today. In that case, it's all good.



  1. I am glad that there are people to listen and provide comfort as you continue with this journey. My heart is towards you.Do you know SJ Tucker? It was one of her song that provided great comfort for me in January: peace.


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