It was a week before Christmas and I was in fifth grade.
I knew that some things had seemed off in the previous week: my Dad took two days off work, my Mom was staying in her nightgown all day, and when my beloved grandparents arrived for Christmas, there was a damper on the usual joy.
Two nights after my grandparents had arrived from Arizona, we were all called into the family room. My mom glumly told my sister (13) and me (10) that she had cancer. The word alone set us back. I didn't know to ask anything then. What I knew was that everyone in that room (many of whom I'd never seen cry before) was sure she was going to die. The when and in what way were uncertain but there was not one single drop of hope in that room. It. was. devastating.
In other blogs, you will learn more about my Mom's cancer journey and that of so many of my other family members. What is pertinent to this topic is that my sweet grandparents gave up their lives in Arizona and stayed with us until Mom was fully "out of the woods".
My grandfather, a thoughtful man, patiently watched "General Hospital" with my sister and me during that time. He rug hooked and ran errands and watched a family decimated by facing what we thought, at the time, was a terminal diagnosis.
My Mom is alive and well. Her recovery was nothing short of miraculous and still indescribable to this day. After Sloan Kettering told her to "get her affairs in order", healing inexplicably began.
But my dear "Pop pop" returned to Arizona with an itch. How would one help these families in distress?
Ironically, this was 1983. The very same year Ronald Reagan made hospice care part of the Medicare benefit. It made hospice "legit". It was just what my grandfather was thinking about.
He returned to Arizona and volunteered for the very small (at that time) (very big now) Hospice of the Sun Valley. Many have said Arizona (and Florida) is God's waiting room. Pop pop went on to have beautiful experiences with terminally ill patients and their families. He grew into the role of Volunteer coordinator and a community educator about the benefit of hospice care.
When I went to nursing school, I had no notion of working in hospice care. I was going to work in oncology. My life experience made that a certainty. Well, oncology proved depressing. The cases about which I felt the best, were those that went to hospice. When the hospice nurse came, there was an undeniable presentation of hope - albeit for different things- and I wanted to be a part of that.
As a Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse, it pleases me to no end to think that I am honoring my grandfather's legacy. His involvement in hospice was at the grass roots level and now it is amazing for me to attend conferences that bring forward and support the enormous hospice movement in this country.
What a gift I have to work in an industry that could have supported my family so many years ago.