A few years back, a man in his late 70’s lost his wife to cancer. With the help of hospice, he was with her to the very end of her life. Her passing was a gradual thing, not a sudden surprise. They had had time to talk together and cry together during her treatment and later when her death was inevitable.
Her life had been a good one. She and her husband were married for 57 years. They were able to travel together following their retirements. She was blessed with many friends. She had received excellent medical care following her initial diagnosis, care that extended her life by several months.
Still, her passing was a devastating event. The visitation and funeral were more meaningful and emotional than her husband had imagined they would be. The support of friends and family gave him comfort. The things they said about his wife reinforced everything he had known and felt about her.
The weeks immediately after her death were the most difficult. Tying up loose ends brought back memories of her life and death. While watching TV, he repeatedly turned to her empty chair to share a laugh or ask what she thought about something on a show. It took several months before he invited neighbor ladies to help him clean out his wife’s side of their closet.
Gradually, the old routines gave way to new ones. With help from church members and former co-workers, he established new social patterns. Having spent nearly two-and-a-half years as his wife’s caregiver during her up-and-down battle with cancer, he had shared much of her emotional pain. Although he survived, he still bore the sadness and sorrow that accompanies the illness and death of a partner.
Later, he was able to share grief with a lifelong friend whose wife faced a similar slow, steady decline and death. Just three years earlier that woman and her husband had provided love and support when his own wife died. He attended funeral home visitations of his contemporaries with a different perspective. Yes, he had buried both his parents decades earlier, but the loss of a spouse is a life event that has no match.
Now that he is in his 80’s, he appreciates every day of his life. He still keeps photos of his wife throughout his home. He enjoys a lifetime of memories, focusing on the good. He realizes that his life continues to bring joy and happiness and that family and friends are more important than ever.
When he is asked about hospice he says, “Those people are angels!” The hospice care provided to his wife was beyond his capabilities. The attention to his wife’s pain kept her comfortable during her final days. Hospice care made it possible for her to spend her end-of-life period at home, with minimal discomfort. The positive experience hospice provided to this couple affected the surviving husband’s attitude and made it easier to transition to the next chapter of his life.
If you have a friend or family member who could benefit from hospice care, please call Hope Hospice, based in St. Louis County, for information about how hospice care can help. 314-984-9800.