I’ve been offline for several weeks, having gone out of state to be with my eldest sister, Patty, who died last week from a degenerative nerve disease. My other sister, Michele (who has been a saint in taking care of Patty’s needs) and I were extremely saddened by her passing, but it was a great release for her as she was very uncomfortable and she—and we—wanted her suffering to be over. Our family is thankful that it is, at the same time that we mourn her loss.
I don’t consider myself a particularly religious person, but I do believe that this life is not all there is, having seen too much evidence to the contrary: hence the title for this column. I don’t have answers for all the loss everyone goes through in their lives, but this recent experience, combined with other life-changing experiences, makes me believe that the best we can do in this life is to try to be kind and giving to others.
That belief was reinforced profoundly by what I witnessed during my sister’s illness, when she was in a hospital but also under hospice care. I had heard from friends that hospice is a wonderful organization, but had never seen it in action first-hand. Now I have, and I can say that I don’t understand how they manage to do what they do, but I am overwhelmingly grateful that they do it. They managed Patty’s pain masterfully, upping pain medications when needed, and re-positioning her and soothing her in her final struggles. They were warm, compassionate, and empathetic, not only to Patty but to Michele and me, too. I cannot say enough good things about them.
If, and when, you have a loved one who is seriously ill, I strongly urge you to involve hospice early—they can help you in ways too numerous to list here, and perhaps most importantly, they can help you achieve clarity about what you and your loved one want during the time of crisis. In response to many questions from friends and colleagues about memorial donations for Patty, I’d ask that they be sent to The Community Hospice of Amsterdam, New York.
A huge, heartfelt thank you to friends, co-workers, and colleagues around the country who’ve been so supportive of my family and me during this crisis. Warm thanks also to the author Anna Quindlen, whose writings have been getting me through some tough times. Always a librarian, I turn to books for my solace, and they never fail me.
Whatever your belief system, and whatever deities you believe in, may they bless you all!