Photo Gallery – 3

  • On a daily basis Jacquelene went beyond the call for her dying sister. She went enough extra miles to wear out the soles of one hundred pair of running shoes.
  • Before my mind goes/if it goes before body and senses,/lighten my darkness/of spite and self-will./Open new doorways/before my mind goes,/and if it falters/grant hope and kindness/among skilled strangers. Absolve my children/from thankless bondage/before my mind goes/into the blindness of rancorous age. Let me find a room/with windows on stars/and luminous leaves,/before my mind goes/behind the dark moon. Tracing a river of muted rainbows/I'll sing thanksgiving/and go with a grace before my mind goes. "Behind the Dark Moon" by Martha Bosworth, 11/89
  • When Robert and Patricia met in a movie theater in 1948, “she was with a different fellow”, Robert boasted with a smile. On that evening Robert convinced Patricia’s date to allow him to walk her home. Robert then rode her bicycle back to his home six miles away. Of course they had to meet the next day so Robert could return her bike. From that day forward, “we hands as much as possible”, Patricia grinned, as she gazed deep into Robert’s eyes. This sweet couple of sixty-four years moved all hospice staff to a deep appreciation for genuine expression of true love. They gazed at each other with such delight. They touched each other with an exquisite tenderness I believe we all crave.
  • Paul was a big man in many ways, he never complained about his cancer pain and asked for very little. When visiting him in the room he rented in a shed behind a popular restaurant, he would always find something to offer the hospice staff: tap water from a paper cup, an aging banana, or an article he enjoyed in an old New Yorker. Paul was a true giver. He consistently refused meals offered to him by the restaurant owner. But if friends would drop by with Jack in the Box, he would gladly accept. He didn’t want handouts, he honored reciprocation.
  • Ginny suffered a stroke on her 100th birthday. After the event, the only way she could communicate with me was by tapping her fingers on the palm of my hand; one tap for yes, two for no. In this way she told me she wasn’t scared of dying and that she looked forward to meeting up with her beloved Paul in the picture at the foot of her bed.
  • Laura’s first job was teaching in a one room school house in Kansas which she helped build, because she saw the need. Thousands of five year old hearts and hands were held by this lovely lady.  Her passion was teaching the “young ones” for just over “forty-nine glorious years.”
  • For four months her grandfather lived in a hospital bed in her dining room where the dining table used to be. The dining chairs remained; surrounding his bed. The family met for meals with their grandfather happily in the center of all conversations. .
  • Margaret’s primary concern was to find a home for her beloved golden retriever Bonnie. Margaret’s cancer pain and impending death were secondary. The love that these two souls shared was extraordinary. Bonnie’s whole body wagged when Margaret walked in the front door. Margaret’s smile quickly migrated from ear to ear when Bonnie offered her unconditional love and simple presence. Their love for each other rivaled most human love out there
  • Mary became the president of every volunteer organization she ever gave her time to. She would go to “work” every day and bring home deep satisfaction as her pay.
  • At sixteen, Walter went out of his way daily to walk by Venida’s high school classroom to catch a glimpse of her smiling face. He didn’t know it, but Venida would purposefully sit by the window so he could see her. One day Venida wasn’t there at the window. Walter quickly learned that her family had to leave town permanently due to a family emergency. It took weeks for Walter to find her and they finally met face to face. I asked Walter if it was love at first sight back in the high school window, he tearfully replied, “Oh yes, I haven’t recovered yet and we’ve been together 68 years.”
  • "I’m not wealthy, I’m rich in family and experiences." ~Roscoe

  • "There is nowhere else to go and nothing more to do." ~Mira Sophia

  • When hospice walks in the door for the first time, our presence is the death sentence verified. It becomes real. Someone in the house is going to die. At first the dying person is the primary focus. We evaluate them head to toe and develop a comprehensive holistic plan of care that will take into account all of their physical, spiritual, emotional and social needs. Once the patient’s immediate needs are accommodated, the focus of care broadens to include the family. We focus on the grieving family as much as the dying patient. The anticipation of death triggers the grieving process; which can bring up the best and worst in people. There is an urgency to resolve old issues, take care of unfinished business, and give or receive forgiveness. I am honored that I am able to help the families get through such urgent matters of the head so that they can focus on what matters most. Love; it’s all that is left in the end.
  • Parts are parts; they wear out. When parts wear out in your car, you have them replaced if you can. It’s the same with human bodies; we have knees and hips replaced, sometimes livers and kidneys. Despite organ transplantation, other people’s parts have a shelf life too (an extended warranty comes with good care). When folks are dying of old age, it’s because their major organs have worn out, we call it “failure to thrive.” Surprising to most families, to die of old age doesn’t hurt in the end. The brilliant complex design of the human body will deliver the dying into a very deep sleep. Not everybody needs narcotics or sedatives at the end of life. Most dying people experience a restlessness any of us would develop if we were laying in bed twenty-four hours a day unable to reposition ourselves if we felt like it. We will medicate for this. Most people on hospice (regardless of cause of death) take their last breath the same way, peacefully in their sleep. Hollywood portrays death in dramatic ways to sell movie tickets.
  • A fellow hospice RN was behind schedule and I had some extra time, so I visited this sweet family for her. I walked in the door as Ann and Jack’s large extended family was getting ready to make their long road trips back to their homes in California. They all came to say hello and goodbye to their beloved grandmother, mother, sister, aunt and dear friend. Someone said that the scene would make a beautiful picture. That is all I needed to hear. I offered to photograph the family on the spot. Nearly all hospice portraits are done spontaneously like this. This family expressed a rare type of love that I wish for everyone to deeply feel and openly demonstrate. It exists in all of us I am certain. I regularly see glimpses of it in-between the need to stay strong and tough; underneath the holding it all together. This was Ann’s last good day, her lung disease took her life a few days later.
  • If the right moment presents itself, I will ask hospice patients if they have any regrets about their lives lived. When I asked John this question, he said with pride, “I have fulfilled this life’s purpose.” He said beaming, “I have had a successful life because I have been a loving devoted husband for 55 years and a very proud father, grandfather and great-grandfather.” Many people describe success in terms of accumulation of things and money in the bank. The happiest most content people I’ve met describe success just the way John did.
  • Is your family getting the best version of who you are? Or are they getting what’s left over after you have completed the to-do list of your life. Celebrate and love each other while we are living. Let’s not wait until we are dying to finally come together and openly love at the depth we’ve been longing for since we first met.
  • Ellie could remember the dress she wore on her fifth wedding anniversary back in 1949, but she could never recall who I was each time I came to visit. Ellie was nearing the end stage of Alzheimer’s; she was losing weight, getting weaker and recently had to move from her family home into a locked dementia unit with twenty-four hour caregivers. Twice a week I introduced myself as a nurse and took Ellie’s hand. Twice a week she expressed delight in meeting me. She silently held my gaze then teared up and told me how beautiful I was and that she loved me. There was always a baby doll on her lap; she always offered it to me to hold. I always embraced the baby as if it was her own, it pleased Ellie. Many of these special people say what they feel without social filters or political correctness. They appear to become egoless. Some spend their days in unresolved issues or struggles that aren’t easy to identify from the outside looking in. Many with Alzheimer’s, including Ellie, live in their true loving essence; sharing what is known to be true. In Ellie’s case, she saw beauty in the world around her.
  • This process of transition is a time when the living (and dying) are forced out of comfort zones and into the mystery of the end of life. This is the last comfort; touch.
  • Several decades ago she took a risk and wrote him a long love letter explaining her feelings that had been growing since she sat in his audience at a brilliant lecture he gave at Duke University. Such risks are clearly worth taking, she got the attention of his heart with her humbling honesty. They were inseparable for the best forty years of their lives.
  • Unconditional Love