CARING FOR A LOVED ONE IN TRANSITION

CARING FOR A LOVED ONE IN TRANSITION

Evelyn Smith, 2018

In 1982 my husband was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He was 41 years old.  He lived nine years.  For the first three years or so he was mostly able to continue to take care of his personal needs and blessedly was able to continue working until a few months before his passing.  This kept his brilliant and active mind occupied and gave him a reason to continue to fight and live.

In 1986 he was in a serious auto accident and confined to the hospital for about six weeks.  During this time I realized that home, and his room would become a large part of his world.  We were blessed to find out that he would be able to return to the office with my help and presence.  During the time he was hospitalized, I began to plan how I would be able to make his shrinking world as pleasant and bearable as possible.

Replacing the small window in his bedroom with a large rectangular one opened  the room to sunshine and a lovely view of a small garden and bird feeding station.  Several hummingbird feeders finished the view.  We spent many an hour watching the antics of these tiny whirlwinds.

As medical supplies and appliances gathered in his room, I emptied one of the closets to keep all of these “signs of illness” hidden from view.  Every day I bathed,  shampooed and dressed him to go to the office.  Even if we were not going to the office, I made sure that he was dressed and ready to meet the day…this sense of normalcy was extremely important to keep  both of our spirits up.  I strove to keep him and his surroundings as normal as possible.  I never allowed our home to become “hospital like”.

We spent many hours in meditation and listening to soft soothing music.  We went to sleep with this music playing.  Relaxing music at bedtime helped keep at bay those sad, helpless, panic feelings…those thoughts that are so hard to control as darkness falls.

It is vitally important to allow the person, who is going through transition to talk and feel free to express fears, doubts, anger, beliefs and plans with his family or other caregivers.   Our society often doesn’t allow the sharing that is so needed at this time.  We were able to discuss all aspects of his passing; we were able to make plans according to his wishes.  This preparation helped beyond measure when the time came.  An important aspect of creating a sanctuary for the terminally ill is to allow for the free airing of all emotions, without feeling they are a burden.  This is a blessed time to share and receive love.

All is not sadness and drudgery…helping a loved one who is facing death is a very sacred privilege.  The person facing death is about to begin a wonderful adventure in the life of the soul.  If our society could change its view of death and look at it as another phase of living, not an ending, but a beginning, then we could concentrate on making our last days peaceful and beautiful.

In recalling this time in my life, I in no way want to leave the impression that there were not many hard days…days of crying…days of anger…of asking why, why me…. Still twenty-seven years later tears will come and a longing that rips the heart.  My goal is to suggest that there are ways to make this time easier and even a time of great spiritual growth.  May God bless everyone now going through this valley and may we rest in the assurance of meeting again.

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Evelyn, Amy, & Don

Don loved to teach all of us about nature.  One of our favorite Sunday afternoon activities was for Don to take us on a Nature Hike!

Amy, Don, & Julia

  Don always had time to play with our children!

Don, Amy, & Julia

I’m always amazed how much I miss Don each time I see a photo of him.  He had such a powerful, loving presence!  When Don was in the room, our family was either learning something or laughing … or eating his delicious meals!

A TRULY UNFORGETABLE MAN for whom my sister, Evelyn, took very good care!

 

 

 

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