Friday, April 9, 2010

beautiful process. beautiful faith.

*warning I cannot find the spell check anymore!
I sit here tonight waiting for my little ones to drift off to sleep (a little later than usual).

I remember more than one person asking me, "How could you ever work in Hospice?" which was usually followed by 1 of 2 comments : "I could never do that. " or "You must be something special to be able to give like that."  I always wanted to say that hospice gives to me! It kept me grounded in my faith. Not my religion. My faith.

The death and dying process is really remarkable when allowed to fully exprience it with someone. I promise that if you sat in room full of hospice nurses your faith would be renewed. The stories are nothing short of miraculous everytime.  Actually jaw dropping at times really........

We once had a gentleman that was an atheist on hospice. He was very firm in his beliefs that there was no God. When you died. You died. End of story. Sadly in his last moments, he cried out that his feet were burning and was yelling at "someone" at the foot of his bed to go away. leave him alone, let go of my feet, stop........

We had a younger woman who was losing her battle to cancer. She was at the end. The nurses knew it. The husband knew it. She had been fairly unresponsive for the last couple days. The husband called our nurse and said I really think you need to come. Her time is coming I think and I need you here. She went and while she was there, the lady opened her eyes and was watching "someone." She would follow them with her eyes and head, just like I would if I watched you walk across the room. Our nurse told the husband, "someone" is here for her. He asked his wife if her sister was here (her sister had died several years ago) she nodded yes. He told her it was okay to go.........and she did.

At the nursing home we had a lady with a large family. She had severe-end stage-alzhemiers and end stage alzheimer's is really not pretty. She had been non verbal for, geez, a year at least probably. We had called the family because we felt her time was coming and all her kids and family came to see her and say good bye. She hung on. She continued. It was remarkable. Days she kept going and no one could explain how. We had several conversations with the family brainstorming ...was there anything she would be holding on for..anyone? They couldn't think of anything. They had all given her "permission" to go. Then her brother remembered something. Her sister had died a few years back, but due to her poor condition the family hadn't told her. They whispered to her that evening....that her sister was gone....she needn't wait for her.....she died within minutes. Minutes.

When I was in the nursing home in Hastings there was an elderly couple. One was fairly healthy and the other had alzhemiers pretty severly. Her cognitive impairment had worsened to the point that she did not recognize her husband and if he would enter their joint room she would get very irrate and scream for help that a man was in her room. The family made the heartbreaking decision to seperate them. Two seperate rooms. Two competely different wings of the nursing home. The husband. Oh he was sad.  Could you imagine? In the middle of the night, one night, fairly unexpected she died. Per a phone call to his family, knowing how upset the husband already was about the move, decided to wait until morning to tell him, his wife had died.  He died 2 hours later in his sleep. No one had told him.  Completely unexpected. Completely "unexplainable."

Yes hospice as a profession probably isn't for everyone. I would tell you that the reward far out weighed the loss. Yes it indeed gave me more faith than any church service ever could. Yes it gave me more than I ever gave a "client."

So the reflection has a point....this brings me to today.

I get a call from mom (yes mom I know you read this!) that she has signed the paper to have muffie put to sleep. *Muffie is my parents' dog that they have had for probably 14 years*  She has been battling some health issues and this last tumor was pretty large and had cause lots of troubles. She had been at the vet for a few days.
So mom calls, upset, crying, that she did not say good bye. Dad, although puts on the tough face, can't bring himself to go to the vet to be with Muffie. Mom can't leave work. Mom feels bad that Muffie is alone and no one said good I cried in the middle of Walmart.

And there in the middle of Walmart I offer to go, a few random things in the cart.

I wheel the cart to the check out wondering if it is too late.

Wondering, if it is too late, should I lie to mom and tell her I made it in time, just so she feels better about it.

So while the happy lady is casually scanning my random items, I call Mark at home, which went like this (remember he knew nothing) "Will you look up the number to the animal hospital?"  mark "why"  me "Because Muffie's dying" okay crying again. Happy check out lady pauses to stare at the lady on her cell phone proclaiming that someone's dying.  Mark "oh. why?' me  thinking Jesus just give me the number, like I can have this conversation with happy check out lady staring at me! I really said: "Long story Just call me back with the number." 

So I call the Animal hospital and they can come but you need to come now. (It was already close to 4pm)
As I drive over to the Animal Hospital I ponder...what do you tell a dog that is about to transition from this life to the next?  I got a little teary thinking about Muffie passing on, but as I got closer to the Animal Hospital I started my self pep talk. "Jen really, you did Hospice.  You were with people when they died. People. Really, Put yourself together and think of something to tell a dog... You are a social worker for God's sake." 
The lady has me sit in a room and she carries lil Muffie in and what do I say..."oh Muffie you look like you feel like shit."  *Okay really Jen that's all you got! No wonder Social workers don't get paid much!  So one brief not professional moment first, but then my hospice side kicked in and I thought, when someone was dying and someone needed to say goodbye but couldn't make it we had them call. Even if the person was non responsive we would hold the phone to their ear so the other person could say good bye. Works with people. Why not dogs? So I tell Muffie. "Muff, I'm sorry you feel yucky and soon it won't hurt. It's okay. I am going to call mom she needs to tell you goodbye."

So I call mom and say....I made it and I am with Muffie. She looks bad. She doesn't feel well at all. Poor Muffie. Her breating was erratic with probably about 3-5 seconds of apnea.........So I tell mom, I am going to put the phone to Muffie's ear and you can tell her good bye........... and she did.

I had my hand on Muffie's side and the moment I took the phone from Muffie's ear and mom was crying and going on and on about how I didn't have to stay for the next part if I didn't want too....but I already knew. I didn't say anything, but I knew.
Muffie had stopped breathing. Muffie had made her transition out of this world. I told mom I needed to go. I got the lady from outside the room. Told her I thought Muffie wasn't breathing any longer and I was right.

She was waiting for her goodbye. She was waiting for her "person" and she went. On her own.

So coming from someone who isn't necessarily a "dog lover" (I am not a dog hater, but just not a dog lover if that makes sense), after today I can't dispute when someone says dogs are just like people. Because today Muffie proved that.

That renews my faith once again.

Beautiful process.  Beautiful faith.

"You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us". ~Robert Louis Stevenson

*The picture is Cohen and Muffie a few years ago....Cohen said to me tonight "Muffie died. Grandma's sad. We said a prayer to Jesus. "Dear Jesus, we loved muffie. I can't remember the rest of it" "mom I bet God has tons of chew toys and chew bones in Heaven. Muffie will love that."
 End of conversation.


Kelsey said...

Damn you Jen i already heard this story.. and then i read it today and i Bawled.. i'm fascinated by your job it really is my dream job :)
You are such a good daughter you made your mom's day yesterday by doing that for her.. even though it was a hard thing for her it gives her peace too.. Muffie will be missed :(

kim said...

I'm so glad that you went to sit with muffie. I think she needed that and it not only made mom feel better but me also!

Kim said...

Told the girls today and I cryed and held Carynn. It only lasted about a minute and then off thinking of the other dogs we know to play with.

The Preister's said...

you gave a great outlook and insight to life, you bring so much to the world!

Rachelle said...

I cry every time I come here Jen! I'm so sorry about your family's loss of Muffie - but take comfort in the wonderful thing you did for her.