Yesterday was my first time to enter a hospice facility. What a calling that must be for the nurses and staff who work there! Their gentle spirits and interest in each patient and visitor really moved me.
Of course I was visiting my friend Kelly who is still fighting hard. I was amazed at the strength she still holds, even though her body is very, very weak. She did not want anyone to help her with those simplest of actions which she can no longer do very well. She wanted to acknowledge my presence and spoke kind words. I was able to pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet aloud while she slept, and hopefully act as a familiar face while the nurses cared for her when she was awake.
I just can't imagine what it would be like day in and day out to watch patients leave their facility in only one way. It was odd to think of how many souls had left that room for another realm. A very unique place, that's for sure.
And yet when I think more about it, to me it will probably become one of those endearing locations like my local hospital. Every time I drive by the place where my children entered this world, I am struck with an emotion I can't quite describe. I can look in the window and see families in the waiting room on the birthing floor, likely awaiting the arrival of their newest family member. I drive by that place in awe and wonder at the life that God gives.
Something about hospitals brings about that emotion in me, and I think this hospice center will bring about a similar feeling. The place where life ends, where friends say goodbye, where families are separated on earth. I am drawn to it as I am drawn to hospitals and nursing homes. (I think I might have a nurse's calling in another phase of life!) Such vulnerable people dwell there. To hold the hand of an elderly patient, to cuddle a crying newborn, to bring flowers to someone recovering from surgery, or to offer a simple smile and words of love to someone who is dying...isn't that what we are about?
Visiting a place like that puts your priorities in place too. All weekend long I was longing for a quick shopping trip to Target for a few items. I kept putting it off for other important errands, and I was thinking that I'd head there after visiting Kelly yesterday. But as the clock ticked on I really had no desire to go anywhere but just to stay with her until someone else arrived. In the end, no one else did come, and I felt like I do when I have to leave my grandmother's nursing home. Saying goodbye to someone who is alone and who you may never see again on earth...it's a hard thing to do. I hope to get to visit again soon.
Please continue to pray for my friend, and for all the dying, and for those who care for them.
For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world...