Sunday, November 18, 2012

Life's Lessons Through Frozen Yogurt Pie

A few weeks ago, somebody asked me a question that really got me to thinking. We were talking about the hospice patient I visit and they asked me if I thought "hospice has changed me."

I've been visiting a hospice patient for six months now. When I first started visiting with him, although he wasn't able to talk or show emotion, he was still able to shuffle around slowly with his walker, feed himself, and change the channels on the TV remote control (over and over and over). When asked a question, he could give me a thumbs up or down for "yes" or "no". Once I took him a frozen strawberry jello yogurt pie. After taking a few bites, he turned to me and gave me a thumbs up. That thumbs up got him a pie, every single week, after that. Whenever I walked in, his wife would turn to him smiling and say, "Oh look, it's your girlfriend who brings you your favorite pies."

Since my patient can't verbally communicate, I fill our visits with information about my family, the weather, how wonderful his yard looks all of the time, and how much I enjoy visiting with him. I even give him permission to give me a "thumbs up" if he would prefer to eat in silence. But he never does. He listens intently as he takes another bite of pie.

Lately, my visits have changed. I still ramble on about things I'm just sure he's interested in (or so I'd like to think) but I no longer get any thumbs up or down. He hasn't been able to "walk around the block" with his walker (which is what his wife and I call walking the circle through the kitchen, dining room, to the living room) and he can no longer feed himself. Most of the time he sleeps and even when I raise his bed to the sit position to feed him, he keeps his eyes closed... until I put a bite of strawberry pie in his mouth. Only then will he open his eyes and look at me, possibly putting together this is the "girl" who brings the pies.

I finish each visit by patting his hand telling him I love our visits and how precious he is to me. At my last visit, I told him this Thanksgiving I will be thanking God for the blessing he has been to me.

His saintly, loyal, and most wonderful wife called me today to tell me he is now in heaven. The tearful conversation was of sadness and joy, of heartache and praise. You grow so much being a hospice volunteer. You learn so much being a hospice volunteer, and if you allow yourself to go through the entire process with the family, you find it does actually change you; and for that, I am truly  grateful.

His entire family was there, reluctant to let him go, but lovingly assuring him they will be ok. It was that loving act of letting him go, that will now allow him to truly live. Before we hung up, his wife wanted to let me know they celebrated his life by enjoying a piece of his frozen strawberry jello yogurt pie that his girlfriend brought over just a few days before.

"You're stronger than you think. Go out and do good. 
Be a part of something beautiful." †