Saturday, June 25, 2011

Where Angels Gather

 Nowhere is God’s grace more evident than when a Hospice Angel walks through the door.

When Tom’s daughters sat dow with him for a heart-to-heart talk last April, he was the picture of a man near the end of his rope. Five months of caring for his wife Jenny had kept him awake most nights. Occasionally, he catnapped in the afternoons but it was never a good rest.

The love of his life was dying; his own discomfort could not compare with hers.
Daughters Susan and Carol gazed lovingly at their father, a man whose looks normally belied his definitive age. But months of worry, chemo, and hope had stolen his vitality and lined his face with the weight of concern.

“It’s time, Dad,” Susan said placing her arms around him.

“Time?” His puzzled face expressed an inability to think beyond the moment.

“We’re worried about you,” Carol said, following her sister’s lead. “Mom’s many needs these days are too much for you to handle alone. It’s time to call in Hospice.”

Tears pooled in Tom’s eyes. “They are bluer than a robin’s egg,” Jenny had told him on their first date.            

“Hospice,” he said, “is for later, when there’s no hope, no reason to...” his voice trailed off as tears slid down his sad, sad face. “She’s my wife, my life.”

In his heart, Tom realized that he couldn’t do everything for his wife, but Hospice? Jenny might think they had given up on her.

After his daughters explained how Hospice could insure Jenny’s ultimate comfort and care, Tom was better able to come to terms with that which he had not wanted to face. With the help of Jenny’s oncologist, the family reached out to Hospice.

The children and Tom were there the day Linda came into their lives. She wore no wings, no long flowing gown, no halo. She was dressed in a cheerful pair of yellow pants topped with a bright blue smock. She also wore a radiant, sensitive smile that completely overshadowed the intensity of her clothes.

Tom greeted her with a responding smile. “Come in, Linda, and meet my beautiful Jenny,” he said.

Jenny grinned at her new caregiver. “Your blouse is the exact color of Tom’s eyes,” she said. And in that moment, Jenny and Linda bonded. Jenny was assured that, no matter what, she would be cared for with love, compassion and excellence.

During the time that Linda cared for Jenny, she did much more than was expected of a Hospice nurse. True, she met all of the patient’s needs, but beyond that, she sipped coffee with Tom and his daughters while listening to them tell the story of Jenny’s life —the third grade students she had taught who kept in touch even after they were grown, the tennis trophies won four seasons in a row, the prize roses she'd grafted and named after her two daughters. There was so much to recount.

Linda laughed out loud when told about the Halloween that Jenny dressed up like the Jolly Green Giant using food coloring mixed with cold cream on her face and arms.

“She scrubbed and scrubbed,” Carol said, tears of laughter streaming, “but it wouldn't come off. She had to go to school the next day looking more like a sick leprechaun than a jolly giant.”           

When the time came for Jenny to leave this life, her family was there: Tom, Susan, Carol, and also Linda, who had become so close to them all. They gathered around her bed while Jenny gazed deeply into the robin’s egg blue eyes of the love of her life, and then swept the room for a goodbye look at her two devoted daughters.

When at last her eyes came to rest on Linda, Jenny smiled, not a bit surprised to find that Linda’s always vibrant clothes had been exchanged for a long, flowing gown, a shimmering halo and a perfect pair of angel wings.
Jenny’s story is repeated every day due to the gathering of Hospice Angels caring for our families and friends. It is so important, especially in these economically stressful times, to support the dedicated people of Hospice who are always there when we need them.

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