A Night at the Museum (or, Today Is A Good Day To Die)


A Night at the Museum (or, Today Is A Good Day To Die)

I've seen quite a few dead people in my day, but all of them have been embalmed. I wasn't sure what I was seeing Sunday night, but it was something I'd never seen before.

We got a call from my mom's facility that she was sick; she had chills, a fever, had vomited. They gave her Tylenol and had called the Hospice Team, who were sending someone that evening. My husband and I went right away to see her. She was in bed, engulfed in bedcovers; the AC was off and it was stifling hot and smelled of sick. She wasn't responding. She was soaking wet. Her eyes were closed. While we waited for the Hospice Nurse to arrive, I cleaned up the room and put a wet compress on my mom's forehead. It felt very non-emotional. I found her sweaty little hand in all the bedcovers and held it. My husband reminded me to tell her it was "ok to go", and it felt very calm to just sit quietly with her, tell her I loved her, she was the best mommy ever, Dad was waiting for her, and her parents, and our dog. The Weekend Hospice Nurse, Stephanie, arrived and was an angel sent from Heaven. My mom had a temperature of 102. Stephanie worked tirelessly to troubleshoot the issue, make my mom comfortable, and try to figure out how exactly to help her within the scope of the Hospice program. If she had an infection that could be treated, such as a UTI or had aspirated some food leading to pneumonia, she could be given an antibiotic. Or her fever could simply be part of the end-life process and this was The End Of Her Life.

The aide and I changed my mom's clothing and bedding. I called my sister and told her that I didn't know what I was seeing, and I couldn't tell her to come or not to come. That would be up to her. She chose not to come.

The complicating issue was that there are no nurses at the facility from 11 to 7, only aides. If the aide saw something she was not comfortable with after Stephanie left, her only recourse would be to call 911; she would not be able to call Hospice. I, however, could call Hospice, so I decided to stay all night. Stephanie made contact after contact for opinions and advice, finally providing an antibiotic, hand-delivered by another nurse after she completed her shift. Before Stephanie left, she handed me the booklet, "A Very Special Journey". I told her it would be a privilege to help my mom this way. I really hoped it was over for her. Her breathing was shallow and rapid, her eyes darted, not seeing. She jerked. When she coughed, it sounded like choking.

My mom received the antibiotic and her fever decreased fairly quickly. She slept and looked comfortable. I stayed in her room and saw first-hand how the aides did their best to be kind, calling her by name every time they touched her, even those young slender girls lifting and cleaning her.

I saw how the facility wakes up in the morning, and the cook making breakfast was friendly like he always knew me.The aide was generous in offering coffee. And I had a new appreciation for how hard this job is, for someone who is and who isn't your family member.

So by Monday afternoon we were on the right track, and 24 hours later my mom was back in the Karaoke Zone. Part of me wants her to stay well and part of me wants her to be unwell enough to stay in Hospice care. This wasn't The Big One; just a Little One. I was ready but she wasn't. Good practice, I guess.


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Oh Jan, what a long, long night for you. I'm sorry your sister decided not to come. I can certainly relate to the \"non-emotional\" switch that can get flipped on at times like this. Sometimes in crisis I feel so detached. I even find myself musing \"This is pretty bad. Shouldn't I be more upset?\" I guess it's just our way of protecting ourselves emotionally so we can do what must be done.\r\n\r\nI hope it brought you some comfort to see that the hospice nurses and facility staff are capable of such kindness and compassion. \r\n\r\nI suppose it is, as you say, good practice. But hard. Your strength is inspiring.


I so admire your devotion to your mom through this journey. The experience of \"non emotional\"... yes, it seems to allow us to continue with what needs to be done... it always felt surreal to me. Continue to think about you often. Hugs.


I wish your sister had showed up, too. :-( I'm glad you got to see the aids giving compassionate care to your mother and to you - what's more compassionate than offering coffee after a long night? Thanks for sharing - I sure follow your story and think about you in my offline life. Always wishing you well.


Wow.\r\n\r\nI usually can find words but your post today leaves me speechless. I can't imagine what that long night was like for you. I can't imagine how if felt to have your sister choose not to come. (I am mad at that because her presence helps your mom and you. I am really mad about that.)\r\n\r\nAlways so interesting how the support you need can often come in the form of strangers--the hospice nurses, the facility staff. I'm so glad you had that. \r\n\r\n\"I was ready, she wasn't\". I can't think of a better way to describe that night.\r\n\r\nI'm soooo grateful you keep us posted ans share what's happening. I just wish we could have sent someone from here to be with you on Sunday.