QUALITY FAMILY TIME
A HOSPICE STORY
by Toni D. Helfrick, R.N.
They are a special and loving family, and their laughter resonates and echoes from the Dining Room. Earlier, I had helped their father into a wheelchair, so he could be with his wife, and his married children.
Many of the family have flown here from the north, to be with their father, as he is failing. He is a little weak, but was encouraged by his family to join them at the table, and he agreed, despite being tired. This loving man has but a few short weeks of his life, but he wants to spend his time in the midst of his loved ones and hear stories told over and over amidst laughter, as it helps him remember all the good years, when he was well.
I am in another room, so that these family members could share all their time with him. I told his wife that if there were any problem, I would come when called. I felt he needed to be just with his family this night. It is a beautiful thing to hear or see these loving grown children and his wife who all love this man. And, they each have given of themselves to spend quality time with their father.
These are the things that will reverberate for many weeks in my mind, and they are thoughts he will likely take with him to the grave, perhaps even smiling inside. A very fine man he is, he and all the others, who have the New Jersey/New York accent, much like mine, and I feel right at home, having lived in the Northeast U.S. most of my adult life, and all of my childhood.
This is a special group of people, caring, loving and kind. One of his children cooked most of the dinner, and made all his favorite foods, just for him. Their laughter goes on and on as they relive old memories of the past...
Hey, do you remember Grandma catching a blowfish on the Long Island Sound, and throwing it back in the water, thinking it was pregnant? (Laughter)
They again laughed at one of the stories of an adult son, who was strip searched at the La Guardia airport, as his backpack held an old rusted Boy Scout knife...
We all laughed again. It was almost contagious, and though the stories were not the same as those my family told, they were very familiar.
These memories and others had been told and retold, and definitely were to the delight of all those at the table. Each of them loved the stories, and knew when the funny part came, and they all laughed many times over.
When it became time for bed, I walked into the family’s diningroom, and I saw the patriarch, my patient, with a big smile on his face.
I told him I wanted to make sure he was feeling well, and then I added, "With that big grin on your face, Angelo, and the twinkle in your eyes, I am certain that you have enjoyed this".
He agreed, and admitted he was "just a little" tired. After getting him ready for bed, he finally admitted that, "You know, I really didn’t want to get out of bed, but it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. It was wonderful". I told him it was wonderful to see the smile on his face, and shortly thereafter, he fell asleep.
His children would care for him, as would his wife, throughout the nights when there was no nurse available...
These are the special parts of a loving family- love for each other, trust, caring for all of their group, teasing, laughter with cackling and lastly, everyone pitching in to do the dishes at the end of the meal, and... the laughter.
I was blessed to have been raised in such a family, and I thank God for the very fine people, my parents, who loved me as a baby, a toddler, a child, and a free thinking teenager, which I was, and as an adult, also. Acceptance is a part of love, and we all went through the teenage years.
This lovely family gave me some fine, happy feelings being in their midst,and I felt very much at home. And, I felt very thankful that I had this type of family, and I know this was what I was given as a child, mostly love, caring, trust, a feeling of safety, and all kinds of childhood laughter. For that, I thank God, and I shall spend the rest of my life helping my children understand how to raise their own children...
And I will continually seek to comfort the Hospice families and the patients,to make their last time with each other as pleasant as possible.
© T. Helfrick