Hospice: It’s About Living
Everyone can identify a defining moment in their life. Mine came the day my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Although she had battled multiple sclerosis for many years, my mother was committed to having a family. Against all odds, she was able to conceive her only child, something that the medical community considered a miracle.
Unable to deal with the stresses of an ailing wife and a young child, my father left us. Faced with raising me on her own, my mother dedicated her life to providing all that she could for me. We shared a special bond as mother and daughter, enjoying many happy years, spending Sundays in the kitchen, agreeing to disagree, and appreciating every moment of just being alive. We were best friends.
In January of 2000, we received earth-shattering news. Following routine surgery, the doctor informed us that my mother had cancer. After a lifetime of fighting for survival, she feared she had finally met her match. She endured nearly three years of treatment. Endless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation gave way to increasing pain and weakness. We felt lost and alone, hoping for a miracle. Sometimes, miracles manifest themselves in unexpected ways.
That year, when the leaves began to fall, I started researching a concept known as hospice. I found that hospice provides compassionate care, support, and education for those in our community who are facing life limiting illness and their families. I also discovered that there are some common misconceptions. I quickly learned that hospice does not mean giving up, and it does not mean losing hope. Hospice is about living every day, every moment, to the fullest. Shortly thereafter, I made the decision to devote my life to sharing the hospice message. I became a hospice volunteer.
As my mother’s illness progressed, and she approached the twilight of her life, I introduced her to hospice. In the summer of 2003, my mother decided that it was time for her to focus on living her remaining days surrounded by the people who loved and cared for her. We contacted Hospice of the Chesapeake. Within hours, we had all of the things we needed to make her life more comfortable. My miracle had arrived. Our only regret was not contacting hospice earlier.
By making the hospice choice, my mother was able to live the remaining days of her life in a peaceful and dignified way. She was able to laugh, and cry, and to communicate the things in life we all hold dear, including: I love you; I’m sorry; I forgive you; I’ll miss you; and most importantly, goodbye. My mother died at the age of 58, but she will always be my best friend.
In the months following this devastating loss, I felt sad, angry, and confused. I often wondered if I would ever feel joy again. At the lowest point in my life, the staff of Hospice of the Chesapeake’s Spiritual and Bereavement Care Center reached out to help me heal. They showed me that I did not have to face my grief alone. With their guidance, I learned that I will always long for the sound of my mother’s voice, the warmth of her touch, and the blue of her eyes. In time, I learned to recognize these memories as a gift. I realized that through them, I honor her.
It has been more than a year since I lost my mom. Her death has transformed my life. My journey through grief has allowed me to find my true calling. I recently joined the Hospice of the Chesapeake staff and am privileged to be a part of the most passionate, caring team of professionals in this field. I have found my voice and am grateful for the opportunity to share my story with others. My greatest wish is that in so doing, another family may know that they are not alone. Hospice of the Chesapeake exists to help every family discover the beauty of life’s final journey and to experience the miracle of love.