Tag Archives: hospice

The Urge to Purge Following a Death

Missing John Arrix

My step-father died this week. I observed his struggle to let go of life. When it was over, the first step was to notify Hospice of Virginia who would call the funeral home to remove the body. Once John’s spirit was gone, his body was a shell and we needed the body taken away as soon as possible. It was just a reminder of his struggle, of his dying, of the horror of death.

Once John’s body had been taken away, I looked around the room where he spent his last hours and saw the empty hospital bed and all the supplies that had been used while he had spent his final days at home: the bandages, the gloves, the creams and ointments, the chucks and diapers. They were all reminders of the care he had received, the care that was just palliative, not life saving. They had to go.

First I asked Hospice of Virginia to make arrangements to have the bed removed as soon as possible. Then I took a quick look at the supplies. My first urge was to dump them all in the trash. We would not have them had John not been deathly ill. Yes, some of them could be useful at a later date. I kept the moisture lotion and bandaids and gave Portia Bea from Visiting Angels permission to take whatever she thought she or Visiting Angels could use. The rest went into the trash. Once I’d made my decision about what to keep, Portia cleared everything from the room that reminded us of John’s struggle.

All of this activity occurred in the first hour following John’s death. It seemed imperative to return the bedroom back to its pre-sickroom state. Because I’d been up all night with John, it was a blessing to have Portia’s assistance with the clean up. She even vacuumed the room.

Once the bed was taken away and the room returned to its previous appearance, I found myself clearing out John’s medications, corralling all reminders of the previous five weeks of assessing John’s condition and providing help. I wanted my mother, who had lost the love of her life, to be able to grieve the loss of John rather than be distracted by the signs of his illness.

Every item associated with John’s illness and death held the energy of death. I felt compelled to remove those items whose energy screamed death and loss. I kept some medical records, papers that later could help my Mom make sense of this terrible time. I kept the baby monitor because it is possible we might need it in the future for my Mom, but I stored it in a drawer out of sight. I kept the lotion because it could easily blend in with other skin lotions and lose its association with death.

The next step is to clear the energy of death from the room by burning sage.

All that clearing gave me a much needed focus in the first two days after John left us. It also relieved my Mom’s lovely house of the signs of struggle, reminders of the horror we had all experienced while watching John leave us. And, last night my Mom, though very sad, was able to retrieve the photo albums of her life with John and shift her focus from the dying that had just occurred to the joys and pleasures of the life she had lived with him
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Feng Shui Organizer Missing In Action

You may have noticed that I’ve been absent for the past four or five weeks from my weekly blog, newsletter and emails.  During the holiday season, it is common for most of us to become blitzed with too many obligations, with too much to do.  I suppose I’m no different; however I have been unable to keep up my usual posts and communications, not because of the holiday, but for what I believe to be a normal stage of life.  Normal, but utterly lonely and overwhelming.

My priorities shifted abruptly at the beginning of December and much of my normal life is on hold. On the 4th of December my step-father’s mental status took a turn for the worse, landing him first in the ER, then the hospital, then a rehabilitation and nursing facility, then the healthcare unit of a continuing care facility and finally home.

During that journey I learned that not only my step-father, but also my mother have dementia. Since Mom and John live 90 minutes away, my step-sister and I had to determine the best way to provide them both the care and safety they now need. My step-father’s dementia keeps him primarily unaware of the changes in his life. My mother’s cognitive impairment, however, is more challenging. Because she is more aware of what is going on, she has felt threatened at every turn by the our attempts to make sure she’s safe and has what she needs to stay happy and healthy. Dealing with dementia has been an education in patience, creativity and asking for help.

After spending time in almost all levels of care available to senior citizens, we discovered that a company called Visiting Angels could provide 24-hour in-home care for Mom and John. And, we have enlisted the services of Hospice of Virginia to help John make a peaceful transition from this life to the next. Mom and John are now able to be together in their peaceful home by the water with their cat, Harley.

I have had to do things I had hoped I’d never have to do, like take my mother’s car keys, request her doctor to officially determine that she is not competent to manage her affairs, drive and live independently. My life has felt like a tragic game of chess. Every time I think I’ve made the best plans and life will fall back in order, I’m led down a new path with a new problem to solve.

When exhaustion has threatened to take me under, I have somehow found the strength, guidance and assistance to keep going, guided by love and a commitment to do the right thing for Mom and John, whether they like it or not. There have been many lessons and many blessings.

I’ve learned that what I thought was best for my mother wasn’t. I’ve been blessed with a positive connection with a step-sister I hardly knew. She came to my rescue a number of times when I needed a kick-butt approach to make something happen. We’ve been blessed with help from Mom and John’s neighbors and friends, and the home care of the Visiting Angels and Hospice personnel has been outstanding. So many of my friends have taken time from their busy lives to let me know they miss me and send their supportive prayers. And, I’ve been blessed with an outpouring of love from Bob, my husband of 21 years. His appreciation of what I’ve been going through and how I’ve handled this trip through aging parent hell and his willingness to walk beside me through the difficult parts of this journey have kept me afloat numerous times when my little boat was at risk of going down from the weight of responsibility and turbulent emotions.

This is a journey I would never have willingly chosen. It has derailed me from my life and my business. I had the worst Christmas of my life. My feelings have ricocheted between profound sadness, fear, impotence, frustration, rage and numbness. I’m weary not only from the intensity of feelings I’ve been flying through and the physical demands of many trips back and forth to Kilmarnock, Virginia, but also from having to be the healthy, functioning “good brain” for Mom and John through this difficult transition.

This is my life right now.  I recall meaningful sayings from important places, such as, “One Day at a Time,” “This, Too Shall Pass,” and “Let Go, and Let God.”  I remember these sayings as I’m taking over management of Mom’s life and while I’m coordinating with my step-sister to arrange and maintain the best care for Mom and John.  We’re working hard to help them live with as much serenity and dignity as possible.

All this is to say that, for me, family is first.  I will not be able to be consistent with my online communications for some time.  But I will return when I can.  I long to return now.