In the almost 30 years of my life, I’ve never known a dying person. In fact, I’ve only known one person that has died- my nana, peacefully in her sleep of a heart attack. While we were all surprised and terribly sad, we knew deep down it was a blessing she was taken that way.
Last week I found out my aunt is dying of cancer. She kept the whole thing quite until it was determined she wouldn’t be able to beat it this time. She’s fought the hard battle twice before with a strength and determination I will forever admire. I’ll never forget her funky hats and earrings that she proudly wore in lieu of hair. When she was well, she lived life with such vigor and spent her spare time raising money to help those battle the disease she once defeated.
Soon my aunt was checked out of the hospital and into hospice. Everyone was encouraged to come visit her, something I desperately wanted to do. However, I must admit, shamefully, that I was scared. I’ve been so blessed to have my exposure to death be so minimal that I hadn’t the slightest idea what one should say to or do for a loved one in a situation like that. What was I to expect?
I reached out to my grandparents, who because of their age had dealt with these circumstances too many times before. Hold her hand they said, tell her you love her and you’re so sorry, share stories of the good times you had together, and most of all, don’t be scared to cry. Everyone cries they said. I have to admit, walking into the hospice I was shaking. I wanted to be of comfort to my Aunt and knew I needed to keep myself together.
From what I’m told, death is just as different as individual people. It all happens uniquely. For my aunt, hospice was a blessing. She was in uncontrollable pain before being admitted, and the staff there helped manage it so she could enjoy her last days with family and loved ones.
I’m so glad I was there to surround my aunt with love and support during this difficult time, and so thankful for hospice being there for her. Death, it turns out, is not an easy thing to face, but I’ll never forget the happiness in my aunt’s voice when she said my name as I walked into her room. Everyone deserves to go with dignity, surrounded with love, and hospice is a blessing that provides this.