I recently went to West Virginia to help take care of my
partner's grandmother who was 96, almost 97 years young!
None of us expected things to happen the way they did.
She declined rapidly and my partner and her family
lost a really sharp minded, stunning woman.
I was lucky enough to witness the
incredible love and connection of this
stupendously large family.
Lola was the youngest of 15 children 16 if you count a twin that passed at birth.
I was privileged to hear Lola look at an old photo and tell us
the history of each sibling. I got to feel for the
first time in my life what it must be to have family roots.
The land we were on was tilled by the blood, sweat, and tears of the Christopher family.
Truly their heritage laid in the very soil I walked on.
I didn't have that kind of family history so it was pretty
incredible to hear the stories and be shown the places where the family
had worked, lived, and loved.
My partners aunt and her husband just lived down the road to give Lola
the opportunity to have assistance but to retain her
independence. I realized as we shared her home in those last days how
important her independence was to her and how very much
her family loved her to try and keep that option
open to her.
By the end of this visit that was filled with the deep sadness of losing
their loved one there was also a rekindling of the fire of family in the hearts
and minds of those Lola was connected to and served in her life.
She loved animals and there were reminders of that everywhere I turned.
It's no wonder that my partner has the huge heart that she does,
her Grandmother meant everything to her. I got pretty
good at being able to pick out Lola's siblings from old photos of family
reunions and remembering who was married to whom.
I did what I could to help the family out,
it's not always easy to know what to do in a situation like that.
What I do know is that the lessons
in love, patience, and connection I learned while
I was there may be some of the most important lessons I have
ever been so honored to learn.
Her funeral was held in a church that her own mother made sure
was built, and to Lola's credit the gentleman
conducting the service never had dry eyes. I find myself wishing I had
a little more time with Lola to hear about the history of her family
and to see life through her eyes.
My love for the elders of our world started with my own grandmother
and it continued when I became a nurse. I have literally spent
hundreds of hours listening to late night stories, having cookie
tea parties, and shed tears with the elders of the communities
I have lived in as I worked in elder care for 10 years. I have watched at their
lives have been turned upside down by disease and lack of money, I have watched as they have
been sequestered to 12x10 foot spaces and made to share a room
with a complete stranger.
I have watched as their choices have dwindled in
front of their eyes, to the point that they may not even be allowed
to choose their own clothing or take their time with their own
care because staff is rushed to meet quotas.
I have watched as once powerful people have been shrunken down to what
other people choose for them.
I can't tell you how relieved I am that this was not Lola's experience,
nor was it my grandmothers. Hospice made sure of that.
This is the reason I have decided to go back to school and
further my nursing education.
I want to work on hospice cases and be certain people always retain their dignity and choices.
I will be forever grateful to my partner for trusting me enough to allow me to care for her loved one, and forever grateful that Lola reminded me where the heart of my career