Eh, I'm not making pie this week. I'd have had to make the dough for the crust today, and have to find time to bake tomorrow, and know for sure if we were going up north for the holiday. My last remaining grandparent, my late dad's mother, is easing toward death.
A couple weeks ago, she'd ended up in the hospital yet again, and the medical specialists all agreed that there was really nothing more they could do to remedy matters, and they recommended that my grandma consider hospice care. So she returned to the nursing home that's been her home this year (and she likes it there—the staff adores her. The lunch lady pops in to visit every day, and a young maintenance guy checked on Gram this evening) a week and a half ago, agreeing to stay there and receive palliative care rather than returning to the hospital. We figured she had months to go, but she had a precipitous decline yesterday morning.
The hospice nurses and volunteers who visit Gram have indicated that she's been showing a number of textbook signs that she's near the end of her life now. The best guess seems to be that she has a few more days left. So I spent all day yesterday, this morning, and this evening visiting her, along with assorted cousins, cousins' kids, and uncles.
I think hospice care is a wonderful thing. It's not just for cancer patients—Gram's got end-stage congestive heart failure and she's 94. She seems pretty ready to die, and her body's slowing down—she's hardly eating or drinking, she sleeps most of the time, and she's not upset. She even seems slightly peeved that every time she peeps open an eyelid, somebody starts in on her with "Are you comfortable? Do you need anything? Do you want a sip of juice? Do you have any pain? Are you cold? Are you hot?" Invariably, she says she's fine. (She gets a little morphine to ease breathing difficulties.) The hospice approach seems orders of magnitude more humane than the average hospital death. No heart monitor beeping, no IV needle prickling in her vein, no being intubated, no hospital schedules, no pointless prolongation of life + suffering. The hospice volunteers and nurses are so incredibly helpful to family members, too, as the hospice approach is to ease the process of death for everyone involved. I truly believe my grandmother will have a good death, and she deserves no less after the long life she's led and the physical and psychic pain she's experienced.
It's exhausting, what with all the 30-mile drives and tapping into emotional reserves. Ideally, perhaps, Grandma would have died peacefully in her sleep after a really good day. Second best is dying when she's had time to prepare herself for it, when she's had all her family gathered around and saying their goodbyes, when the hospice protocol is focused on keeping her comfortable at all times. Hospice doesn't mean giving up hope—it means you stop expecting successful treatment of medical conditions and instead focus on giving someone the best and least stressful end of life possible. It really has been a moving experience so far, and I'm honored to be able to share some of that time with my grandmother.