by Diane Samuelson
Hospice is comfort. Hospice is support on a very long and sometimes very lonely journey.
My Dad was terrified of dying and wanted to be at home. He was born in 1908, and grew up during a time when nursing homes and hospitals were very different than the facilities of today. He [dad] got sick in the spring of 1984. When his doctor told him the cancer had spread and very little was left to be done, he made my mother promise that he would never have to go back to the hospital or move to the nursing home. She promised.
As the days passed, she became worried about the reality of caring for him as his needs increased. A family friend told her about something called “hospice.” None of us had any idea what that meant, but Mom called and before long Hospice of the Red River Valley became part of our family. Over the next months, staff members, both volunteer and paid, helped us take care of Dad. They [hospice] just made everything easy. They had people come and help her with cares and pain and support for my mom. And it was very strange. They never overwhelmed everyone. They were just there. At the end of May, as Mom was singing a lullabye, he took his last, peaceful breath. He was in his bedroom at home. The year was 1985.
In 2003, Mom started failing and we knew time was short. When my mom got sick, my sister said, “Well, I hope you don’t mind but I called hospice this morning. And it was like, [sigh] yeah, that’s what we need. My sister made a phone call, and once again Hospice of the Red River Valley became a part of our family. The faces and names had changed over the years, but the care and support given to Mom and our family was just as remarkable and a blessing. After a few months of care, Mom died comfortably with family at her bedside.
When people call hospice or hear of hospice they think it’s going to be stressful and there’s going to be pain and they’re going to come in and tell me what to do and they’re going to take over. [shakes head no] They’re just a calming presence. They understood. They didn’t judge or try to change anything. I think that was the biggest part. It was like having a good friend that you could lean on. They’re just there. It was almost as if they could anticipate any questions we had, any concerns, any fears, anything, and they knew what to do. And, it wasn’t just my parents who received the care. It was me, it was my sister, all of us.
To this day, I can’t explain the pull I felt then (and still feel) toward Hospice. For all Hospice has given to me and my family, I would have scrubbed the floors for them if that was the only way I could give back. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to scrub floors; I started volunteering in late summer of 2003, and was lucky enough to be hired in 2006.
Hospice has given so much to my family, and I agree with Hospice of the Red River Valley’s philosophy that anyone who wants and needs hospice care should have it available to them. What this organization has done for me and my family is just beyond words. For these reasons, I donate to Hospice of the Red River Valley. Please join me.