Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Our corner bedroom is quiet, empty except for the furniture staging. I sit in a wheel chair and roll back and forth enjoying the peace. I remember the many families we have entertained in this room as they visited their parent(s) with gifts of candy and favorite food, and finally sat quietly in death vigil. Some of these residents I mourn and pray for happy memories for their families in this season of remembering.

Others were difficult people, unhappy no matter what we did for them or their families. Denial occupied so much space in their relationships, there was not room for words of appreciation. One resident demanded to be brought to the hospital because as long as he stayed with us, his son would bustle in at all hours, cheer and insist he gather up their ties and grip the living he longed to release. He died peacefully surrounded by caring nurses.

The family of one resident fought a need for Hospice until I had to call and insist that I get help caring for their father. Their response to my urgent demand for pain meds was to ask, “this won’t stop him from getting better will it?” The man died three days later.

Family Systems--the way a family functions--don’t change just because the calendar reports advanced years. A friend tells the story of her two week respite stay with her 80+ mother so her father could attend an out-of-state family reunion. “I was eager to help out but also terrified. My Mom can be so critical I turn to instant jelly.”

Another woman was difficult but manageable until her daughter visited. Within 30 minutes they would be verbally clawing at each other. Other family members understood that this was the relationship mother and daughter had always had.  In the last few days the daughter continued to bring in trinkets and goodies that would perk up her nearly comatose mom. As miserable as she made our lives, I pray for the daughter because in this month of family get-togethers, she is still grieving for her mom.

December is the time of year to forgive, to recognize the way it was supposed to be in our homes and accept the reality of what was. The lights and color of Christmas decorations can encourage us to release guilt, the gift that keeps on giving. Parents were people’s children too.

Within a week this room will be filled with the stuff of another family and we will be honored to learn the way they do things.