How does the word hospice make you feel? I think it sets off a mild anxiety attack in many of us, and for others it triggers full on panic and utter despair. But I don’t think it should. The word really represents a paradigm shift — from actively treating the underlying disease state to focusing instead on the comfort of the patient. It does not really indicate anything at all about how long the patient may or may not live. Sometimes when the focus is taken off treatment, patients rally and do much, much better.
My mom was hospitalized on May 10 with very severe COPD. The hospital administered IV steroids and put her on a machine to ease her breathing, but she kept getting worse. The respiratory therapist kept adjusting the machine to higher and higher settings, but she did not improve, and she just wanted to be home. I spent two nights with her at the hospital, where she was poked and weighed and examined almost continuously. She’d just drift off to sleep and it would be time to check her blood pressure again. There were alarms and wires and disruptions galore — despite best intentions and practices, hospitals are not always a peaceful hub of healing. When I called to make sure her machine at home could match the settings in the hospital, I was dumbfounded to learn that the machine she’d been sitting on in the hospital was inferior to what she had at home. We could not get her home fast enough!
We left the hospital on Tuesday afternoon, with a few prescriptions and hospice care lined up. My mom and I sang together on the twenty-minute ride, and I knew getting her out of the hospital was the right thing. I fully expected her to rally at home. I really did. But she has exceeded all expectations. She is doing so so much better!
My mom is a medical marvel. I’ve been telling her she should offer to be the subject of research because she has muscles that refuse to atrophy. Her inability to breathe easily means she just doesn’t do much. She lives a very sedentary life. Yet if you watch her walk to the bathroom she is steady and strong. In the hospital she was trying to sit up and accidentally moved into that Pilates move, teaser. Both her arms and legs were straight up in a V formation. Do you know what kind of abs she must have to do that? And I’d be pretty comfortable wagering she could still — at seventy-five — do a push-up. Sadly, I did not get even a hint of this God-given strength. Unlike my mom, I am weak and arthritic. The atrophy-resistant muscles are not part of my DNA. I can only hope the trait skips a generation and maybe my boys are blessed with it.
My mom is also a spiritual marvel. She has the best attitude in the world. She is full of gratitude and fully trusts that God is in control. I’m amazed how she holds in tension the will to get better and submission to God’s plan, even if His plan is that she won’t live much longer. Maybe it sounds cold to write about this so frankly, but I hope not. Despite society’s idiotic avoidance of reality, we are all going to die. My mom has modeled so much wisdom, faith and grace for me my whole life. Is it any wonder then that she would be setting a high bar in this season too?
Yesterday the hospice nurse visited my mom and she told her that she has a patient that she’s had for THREE YEARS! She told my mom, “Maybe you will beat that.” The trajectory of my mom’s post-hospital recovery has been amazing and I am praying it continues. But I am also grateful for every day I get to talk to her or see her. None of us is guaranteed another breath anyway. Today could be my last. It could be yours. I hope you know where you are going when you die. Making Jesus your Lord and Savior is the most important thing you can do, no matter how long you live.
In the words of Paul, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
With love and gratitude for all your prayers,