Rick’s column in Sentinel Tribune Friday May 11

The End

Completing five (5) years now, visiting daily a local longterm care facility has given me a whole new perspective on life.   Along with just ordinary bygone days important holidays have come and gone — we’ve even had birthday parties — seasons change,  and the calendar turns over another new year.   I have gotten to know many residents along the way that have since passed; in fact, my Mother has had no less than seven (7) roommates.   Along this journey I have written to you about the many residents that seldom, if ever, had a visitor.  I might run into one of their family members around town and remark how I had just seen their father, mother, grandfather, or grandmother at the Home. Some would utter how they hadn’t been there yet this year and, in shock, I would exclaim, ‘It’s July!’

I am writing you to let you know — all is not dead!   Sometimes you witness  a heartwarming story that stands above all the other stories in which you struggle to find hope or meaning.  A large, anonymous local family recently had the Patriarch and Matriarch of their family residing at the Home   unable to care for themselves or each other.  There is no question this was a hard decision to make but this seemed like the right one.   The other family members of this large family: Older adult children, adult grandchildren, younger great-grandchildren,  and all others related by marriage, were at the Home regularly, daily,  if not for every meal time.  Sometime later, the Patriarch was the first to pass on. This left the Matriarch at the Home alone,  sometimes confused, cranky, and generally not content in her situation.

The participation of the rest of the family and others related increased. It seemed from across the hall, that the Matriarch was seldom without some relative there with her.   Certainly,  someone in the rest of the family was with her during meal time.   This large family coordinated their times so that any burden was shared by all who participated.    As we watched, months passed and the deserved attention continued, not with an attitude of obligation, but with obvious kindness, joy, care, and love for this remaining Matriarch.

Now the end is near, nearly everyone in the family is there together for the Matriarch. This is the time to share all the things you want the Matriarch to take with her about the feelings you have for  her.   She seems unconscious, but experts have told us that hearing is the last thing to go.  Assume she is hearing everything said around her, talk about all the pleasant memories,  be specific!  What was the favorite dish she made for you that you intend to continue in the family tradition?   Where was this memory created? Who was there? What was the weather at that time?  What were you doing that makes this such a pleasant memory?  Share all this with her!  What else do you have at a time like this? And, what do you want her to take when she crosses over? Give her the security of release!  It’s okay to let go!     Why not sing her favorite hymn? How comforting is it for her to have the whole family with her, near the end of life, singing her favorite church hymn?  End times, with this spirit in the room, can comfort the living, too.  It helps ease the deep grief you’ll feel from the loss.

What else is there?  I wish there were more. The end!

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