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The Final Comforting Touch
By Alice L. Luckhardt
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Rated "G" by the Author.
Story of one individual’s experience
Independently minded, free spirited, exceptional, unconventional, eccentric, oh, the list could go on and on to help portray the type of person Leila Rue was during her eighty-three years. Being raised in a small town in Florida didn’t slow this gal down from doing and seeing as much of life she could possibly manage. She grew up with loving parents, a caring younger sister, several nephews and nieces and had the undying affection of countless men over her life. But over the years her family wondered if Leila was ever truly happy with her life.
She had the family reputation of never being satisfied or fulfilled, either with where she lived, where she worked or whom she was married to. Between the ages of 20 to her mid-60s, she married six different men. Then when she wasn’t married she had innumerable boyfriends. Leila appeared to always be looking for where “the grass was a little bit greener”. She was fortunate in maintaining a healthy existence for decades, never being really sick or ill for most of her life.
The fall of 1999 turned out to be a major turning point in her way of life. True, she still had a gentleman friend and had just moved into a new condo but now she was experiencing some major physical health problems. She was first diagnosed with congestive heart failure but then lung cancer was discovered after further tests. Immediately what rushed through her mind was that her Dad had died of lung cancer some thirty years earlier and how much he had suffered with that disease. She remembered how the family had cared and watched over her father, not knowing how to ease his suffering.
But this was now nearly the end of the twentieth century, there had been decades of great improvements in cancer treatments. She knew herself to be decisive and she would defeat this ailment. As the new year of 2000 emerged, she continued on countless medications, then numerous blood transfusions and months of chemo treatments. She had days when her spirits and strength improved but then too many days of weakness and fatigue.
Her sister, the nieces and nephews helped and assisted where ever she would allow them to help. Again, she still wanted to be that independent, I can take care of myself individual. By the early months 2001, she needed more and more treatments, medications and hospitalization. It was April 2001, while in the hospital, she made one of her most profound and insightful decisions of her life. She gathered the family to her bedside to announce that she wanted to be admitted to the local Hospice residential care quarters. She reasoned on her own that she could no longer care for herself and her health was not improving. She didn’t want to be a burden on her extended family and yet she needed help so she wouldn’t suffered as badly as her father had years earlier. She gathered information from the Hospice representatives in the hospital, asked questions and learned as much as she was able about the work and services provided by the local Hospice.
No one in the family had ever interacted or were familiar with the Hospice organization. Nurses with the Hospice met with representatives of the family in the hospital and even came out to Leila’s sister’s home so a more personal one-on-one conversation could take place. The family learned of the special loving care given to each patient. That each individual's room was allowed to be made just as personal as they wanted to make the patient feel at home. Within a very short period of time the arrangements were finalized and Leila was transported to the residence.
The Hospice residence was centrally located so it made visitation by family members very easy. Family members took turns to visit with her in the mornings, mid-afternoon and evenings. Her gentleman friend stayed by her side whenever the family wasn’t visiting. She enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, the pleasant strolls in the gardens and the personal individual attention to her eating needs or comfort. The family also was very impressed with the sincere attitudes and compassion exhibited by the staff. After being in the residence for about 10 days she seemed to gather additional strength and clearness of mind. She would inquire on different family members and how was so and so doing. It was as if she wanted an up to date report on each family member to make sure everyone was OK. She even received flowers that had been sent from her very first boyfriend.
Leila, being the long time independent working woman she was, slowly turned over her financial affairs to her family to handle while she was in the Hospice residence. She was getting much needed personal care and counseling for what laid ahead of her. Then an early Monday morning, two weeks to the day she entered the residence, the nurses summoned Leila’s sister and niece, to come quickly, the end was near.
When the sister and niece entered the room the nurses were holding Leila’s hands and providing that comforting touch. They stepped back for the family and Leila was not abandoned in her final moments. Her fears of excessive suffering and being a burden to her family were lifted by the superior efforts of the Hospice organization and staff. She was truly satisfied with her decision to be put the hands of Hospice affiliation. She didn’t have to be the strong willed independent woman anymore but instead was provided with the loving palliative care of Hospice.
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