A year ago this month, Hubby came home from his first stay in Hospice House. On oxygen. Packing a morphine pump. Only one nephrostomy tube draining.
With his filters down, he is childlike in an endearing way. He scolds me, rolls his eyes, stalls when he doesn’t want to take his meds. I pull a favorite-yellow-garage-sale-find child’s chair close to him.
His voice is weak and I don’t want to miss a word.
We—his wife, his daughter—in turn, run to fetch everything he asks for. Because it is what we want to do.
I kiss him frequently. Rub his back. Pet his hair that has grown in puppy-soft after chemo. Smile directly into his eyes that have no smile left. Thank him for all the good years and memories he’s given me.
Leaving nothing unsaid. Because I’ll never pass this way with him again.
And then his second nephrostomy tube falls out. “Renal failure,” says Hospice Field Nurse Melinda when she stops by. “Twenty-four to forty-eight hours left. It’s a painless way to pass,” she says.
“Did we do everything?” he asks.
“Yeah, we did,” I reassure him. “We made memories and took adventures, we lived well, we loved each other, our kids, our grandkids, our family. We did everything that’s most important.”
Hubby has defied the odds since time of diagnosis. (Nurse Melinda says he has tenacity … I think that’s a nice way to say he’s stubborn.) Ten years ago, prostate cancer with mets to the lymph nodes. Now in the bladder. Bones. Liver. He shouldn’t have lived this long.
The next morning, I open the shades before dawn to the unnatural light from a wintry blanket spread in the night. Fireplace lit, Hubby and I sit and watch first snowfall together. He had hoped for snow to fall before he leaves us.
As morning unfolds, he becomes disoriented. Changes in breathing. Paranoia and anxiety. A bed opens up in Hospice House, which we gratefully accept.
A gift bag filled with assorted goodies arrives at Hospice House after we have settled in. Along with Chai tea and Americano Coffee. In cheery red cups. Seems the Porch Fairy has found us. Again.
In the gift bag, these groovy socks. The accompanying sock tag reads, “Life’s too short to wear matching socks.”
Which is a reminder to us all. Life is too short for a lot of things:
1. Too short to not say the most important words to those we care about. Tell the people in your life how much you appreciate and love them. And why. Often.
2. Too short to be a perfectionist. Who really cares that your canned vegetables are lined up alphabetically in the cupboard?
3. Too short to live it fearfully. Go ahead. Apply for med school; submit that poem for publication; establish that bakery/coffee shop; give your heart away to someone.
4. Too short to not count blessings. I challenge you to capture a thousand things you’re grateful for (see Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts). Take your time. It will be a life-changing experience.
5. Too short to waste energy holding grudges. Maya Angelou said, “It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive.” Because when you forgive, you set yourself free.
6. Too short to pursue things that don’t really matter. “Accumulate experiences and people; not stuff” … to butcher Mark Batterson’s quote.
7. Too short to stay indoors all the time. Walk in the rain; throw snowballs at each other; pick daisies; spread your picnic blanket near the sound of water.
And especially …
8. Too short to wear matching socks. No comment necessary.
What about you? What have you learned that life is too short for? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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Just a quick question, where did you have the dog tags made? I had a set made a few months ago but I am very disappointed in the quality. More another day, some days like today I am unable to focus.
I have so much to say…but no energy for more beyond dealing with my hospice husband and working and for some reason the site would not show me the Gotcha to solve it and email you instead.
Terri, let me check with my daughter and get back with you. I’m away from home with family for a couple days. Thoughts and prayers coming your way.
Good for you, Terri, for taking advantage of this wonderful service. And good to know that the patient isn’t obligated to pass within 6 months! No seriously, it is good to know.
We had never planned to use Hospice House, but the first time was when Hubby’s nephrostomy tube fell out and they checked him in to get him stabilized. It also allowed for the urologist to stop by and evaluate the patient to see if he could withstand a neph tube replacement procedure. (He couldn’t.) And so we were sent home with morphine pack and instructions to flush the remaining neph tube around the clock.
The second time Hubby checked in was again due to the need for medical attention that I was unable to provide. And oh, what a lovely place.
With tears in my eyes and greatfulness in my heart, I want to say thank you for the reminder! You are such a beautiful person and your words bring me back to the experience of losing my dad to lung cancer. While it was awful watching my once strong, life-loving dad wither away before my eyes, I was so thankful for those moments we got to spend alone.
You have a beautiful gift of writing your feelings. Thank you!
You know it firsthand, don’t you, Toni. Thank you for your kind words.