Hospice: The Gift We Never Knew We Wanted to Receive07 Dec 2017, Posted by Community in
“She is going to die. In a couple of weeks.”
Those were the words spoken to me that cold, snowy December afternoon.
“What is the next step then?” I asked the doctor as I tried, unsuccessfully, to clench my jaw and fight back the tears.
Michelle didn’t hear those words. Or my question. She was sound asleep.
I, the caregiver, surrounded by a few family members heard those words.
I, the husband, received the devastating blow.
Those words felt like a knife to my soul. The words, the moment, the feeling –it all sticks with you.
I fell so madly in love with Michelle at the age of eighteen. She was perfect! We spent a year together, before we went our separate ways. Eight years later, we reunited, and planned to spend the rest of our lives together. It was perfect. Alongside her amazing daughter, we would build a beautiful life together. The future was full of possibilities.
Then came cancer. Two and a half years after our reunion. She was diagnosed. Her battle was as epic as she was beautiful.
Five feet, one hundred and five pounds of sheer grit.
My wife: Strength, defined.
We knew her chances of survival were slim; the specialist we saw in New York actually told us that Michelle’s cancer was a “one in seven billion illness.” He described it as an aggressive beast and told us considering the type of cancer and where it developed, only one person in the world gets it each year.
For two and a half years as Michelle battled the beast inside of her, my anticipatory grief was so great, so gut-wrenchingly severe. I made it my job to be Michelle’s caregiver. I was caregiver first, husband second.
I searched the Earth for alternative medicines, cutting edge surgeries and innovative clinical trials. I drove her doctors crazy. I drove her nurses crazy. I drove her crazy, and I drove myself crazy in a quest to do something that could not be done: save her.
Still though, even as the reality and profound fear walked alongside of us each and every day, we had hope. Hope for a miracle, hope that she would be the one who did the impossible and defeated this beast.
On that day, when the doctor suggested ‘hospice’ to me, I thought he was asking me to give up hope.
As it turns out, I was wrong. Hospice, as it would turn out, was the gift we never knew we wanted to receive.
Hospice, as it would turn out, is hope.
I think about telling Michelle about her cancer, over and over again. Each time she would wake up in the hospital bed she would forget what I had told her a few hours prior. And she would demand to know what was going on. And I would have to tell her again that she was going to die. And that she was going to die very soon.
I saw the most heartbreaking tears you can imagine, over and over again; because apparently living that experience once wasn’t enough pain for us to endure.
I think about leaving the hospital that day on our way to begin hospice care. The fear. The heartbreak. The knowledge that her life was about to come to an end. The knowledge that our journey together was nearing completion.
And then, I think about hospice.
I think about how they cared for my wife. I think about how they cared for me and the love & care they showed, and the hope they provided.
Hospice. You. Saved. Me.
For twenty three days, you gave Michelle her husband back. You gave me my wife back. You allowed me to lay with her, comfort her, talk to her, to be with her. Most importantly, you allowed me to love her.
And, in those moments that nobody wants to talk about, you were there. You were there to help me wrestle her to the bed, when it had to be done. You were there to bathe her when she was unconscious, in the most gentle of ways. You were there to calm tensions between family as emotions ran high.
You were there to order me out of the room when you saw a destroyed husband who needed a break from the vision before him. You were there to talk to me, each and every day, multiple times a day about her and about myself and how I was feeling. You took the time to talk with me about me, how I was coping. We talked about the past, the present, the future. We talked about our little girl.
And yes, on that morning that she passed away, you allowed me to do something that I will never, ever forget: You allowed me to read her eulogy to her as I cried like a baby, as she lay there, motionless.
But, I know that she could hear me.
Hospice, you gave me peace, you gave me comfort, despite the immense suffering and God-awful terminal agitation that she endured. You honored her with the dignity that she so deserved. The gratitude that I feel cannot be adequately explained.
Twenty-three days of pure hell, losing the love of my life, made survivable, because of HOSPICE.
You saved me.
And, in a way, you saved Michelle.
On that cold, snowy December day when the doctor suggested hospice – I lost all hope.
It turns out, hospice is hope.
Hospice was the gift that we never knew we wanted to receive.