My grandmother was 93 years old and in failing health. Her doctor told her to choose between moving into a rest home or moving in with family members. She could no longer live alone.
She chose to move in with my wife and me. We nursed her back to health, and she did okay for a few years. But then the unrelenting dissipating effects of aging regained control, and her life course headed downhill again.
One day my wife rushed her to the emergency room over some sort of ache or pain that Grandma grew panicky about. The doctor at the emergency room scolded her. “You’re old!” he declared. “We can’t help you here, and you’re taking up space we need to use for those we CAN help.”
He gave her a choice. Either a rest home or hospice. She chose hospice.
For the next two months hospice workers visited our house every day like cheerful little gray ghosts. They took away her life-sustaining medication and replaced it with various kinds of pain alleviators.
My grandmother became tabescent and weak. First she could no longer walk to the living room and watch TV. Then she could no longer make the journey to the bathroom. Finally she could no longer stand, and was completely confined to her bed.
Two months after entering hospice she died at the age of 96. Her official cause of death was congestive heart failure. And to be fair, her death cart had been coasting downhill for quite a few years, due to this disease.
But it seems hospice got behind that cart and gave it quite a hard shove, accelerating it over the inevitable precipice, plunging her into the next world.
About ten years ago my mother-in-law felt out of breath. She was diagnosed with emphysema. Or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), as they call it these days. She immediately quit smoking, but it was too late. There’s no cure for COPD.
She spent the rest of her life tethered to a thin, translucent tube attached to an oxygen concentrator.
Death from COPD is death by suffocation. It’s as if something is wrapped around your chest and every day it very gradually, imperceptibly tightens. It’s kind of like being attacked by an anaconda that’s in no hurry to finish off its prey.
About six weeks ago the suffocation effect became unbearable for my suffering mother-in-law. It made her too tired to sit up for very long. But laying down made the effect worse.
Finally she asked for hospice.
In the fading light of a December evening, my mother-in-law sat at the dining room table with her family and a hospice worker. We helped her understand and answer the questions the hospice worker asked, as she conducted the initial interview. My mother-in-law’s spirit was up. She was very happy to go through with this process. She eagerly signed the paperwork. And this 87-year-old woman who was so loved by her family, and who had lived such a long, good life, cheerfully told the hospice worker, “I’m looking forward to my picnic in heaven.”
The hospice worker handed my wife an amber bottle of pills. She said, “When she feels anxious, give her two of these every six hours.”
The hospice worker departed at 5:45 that evening.
At 2:30 the next morning my mother-in-law writhed in bed, wracked by the suffocation effect of COPD. She felt very anxious. She was given two of the anxiolytics from the amber bottle. Then she was left to fall asleep.
At 7:00 in the morning she was found dead in her bed.
It appears that hospice completed its work very swiftly, in my mother-in-law’s case. And we all hope she is now enjoying her picnic in heaven.
My father-in-law is now without the partner he has known and lived with for 65 years. He doesn’t like living alone, so my wife and I are moving in with him. We are putting our house up for sale. We plan to give my father-in-law the company he craves until his turn comes to join his wife at the picnic in heaven.
But his house requires a few renovations. For one thing, we’re pulling up the carpet that pets have been shitting on for the past 40 years, and replacing it with floor tile. We want to live in sanitary conditions.
Also, our house needs to be fixed up a little before we can put it on the market.
It’s all a bit much for this old curmudgeon. I’ve been missing quite a few naps. And I’m finding it harder and harder to keep up with my idle-time pursuits. Something has to give.
I’ve decided that one of the things I’ll be sacrificing is social media. I just don’t have much time for it any more. So this will be my last post for a long time. Maybe forever.
I have enjoyed WordPress, and will miss my blogging buddies. I can’t name all of you, but will say that I’ll sure miss Gibber, Elyse, Smilecalm, Joan, Joan, Joanne, Nancy, GP Cox, Victo, X, Bitter Ben, and, and, well hell, all of you. I may occasionally have a few minutes to stop by and comment on your posts, but don’t count on it.
I’ll keep this blog open for perusal (for those who have no life). And I might return. Or I might not. Unicorns run in many different directions, so who knows where the chase will lead me. But I’m not yet completely prepared to say that this is the end of my blog.
That day may come, but for now I guess it’s not yet time to hand this thing over to hospice.