Since I started working at a Hospice Care home death has taken on a new meaning to me. I remember when I first started my dear friend and employer said you will become fascinated by the death process. I honestly thought she was crazy at the time, but as I’ve walked through it with people who have come to live out their days with us I started to understand she was right. The death process is fascinating; it can be deeply sad or joyously happy. I have seen those who know Jesus and love him go and be with him, I have heard stories of those who do not and the torment they suffer in their last days.
I have come to know and love my patients on a deep level and losing them was much harder than I ever expected. I become attached, and that is something I did not expect. To become a part of their lives is a privilege. To sit and hear stories of their younger years and get to know them is an honor. To see what their lives use to be like when they were my age, to look at the paintings they have painted the children they have raised, the husband they wed, to know them and what makes them happy is my joy.
There are lots of hugs, kisses and conversations of how beautiful, how fantastic they are on my shifts and I mean every word of it because they are. These amazing women have loved, lived, and lost a lot. These women are just like you and me who have talents, dreams, abilities, families, husbands, and beautiful lives. When I look at these women I see the enormity of what is really important in life and that is time. We will never get back the time we have right now. When I help them eat, dress, go to the restroom I am thankful for the now of my life, for the crazy season I am in raising my four children. I see the perspective on things change and my heart is full.
The dying process has shown me that in my life time is to be treasured, time is to be cherished, and time is to be wisely spent. It has made me reevaluate my own time, how it’s spent and what is truly important. The dying process has shown me that things I once deemed so important really are not. These women many of whom have lost themselves due to disease have touched my life in ways I never expected.
The dying process is about letting go; the joy found in it is in the knowledge and trust of Jesus alone. A week ago my own grandfather started the dying process. He did not know Jesus. I prayed and stood on God’s word that everyone in my family would be saved and one night while I was praying God showed me a vision of him holding my grandfathers hand. He said, “Julie, He is mine.” I instantly called my mom and asked if anything was new. My grandfather had been a coma state for days before that. My mom said that her pastor had come and asked grandpa if he wanted to receive Jesus and he said, “Yes, I do.” It was loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. This was the same time that God had given me this vision of him. Praise God he never stops perusing us.
It has been so much harder for me during this season because I am not there with him through it. As I go to work each day I pray that the ones taking care of him are loving him, cherishing him, and knowing him. He was an amazing man and grandfather. He loved to garden, to tease, and to laugh. He ate a cookie every morning for his breakfast, and always had time for a hug and a kiss. You could find him eating nuts and reading a western or doing a word find in his chair by the fireplace. My fondest memories with him where the times we would travel together and he would take my hand and we would go off on great adventures, when he would let me wear his cowboy hat and use his handkerchief he always kept in his back pocket. He was a kind, loving man who took me on as his own grandchild even though I was only his by marriage. He was a great man and I am thankful I will see him again with Jesus.
The death process has taught me to let go of what I thought was important and to simply cherish the moment you are in. To live in the now and know that I will never get this moment again.