The Grace of Dying

“Love everyone, serve everyone, remember God, and tell the truth.”
-Neem Karoli Baba

A little over a month ago I flew to my hometown St. Louis to visit a man who I have know since I was born, my grandfather, Don Francis Kern. A week before boarding the plane, my grandfather aspirated, he was rushed to the Hospital and immediately intubated. The day I was arriving would be day 8 on ventilation and the day they would begin removing the tube. They removed the tube shortly before we arrived and he was responding very well. We walked in the hospital room, and to my surprise he greeted me with the biggest and brightest smile. It is a moment that will play in my heart forever.

The course of the next few days was a bumpy one, full of ups downs, moments of hope and absolute certainty followed by  moments of uncertainty and despair. Because my grandfather was still aspirating on his swallow test, the medical solution was a feeding tube. In respect of my grandfather’s continued wish for no feeding tube and quality of life, Hospice became the next step. This is where my opportunity to serve and share about the magic of hospice came into play.

Hospice isn’t an easy word for most people to hear, but it really isn’t a bad thing. In fact, Hospice is a service that is dedicated to comforting, loving, and serving you in your final chapter of this life. I personally can’t think of anything more sweeter then people who are waiting and willing to serve individuals in their time of transition. It’s not a job nor path for everybody, but it is important we know that it is a service available to everyone.

Honoring my grandfather’s final wish to go home, my grandmother made the decision to bring my grandfather home on hospice. A neat thing about is Hospice is as soon as you say the words, you are no longer walking this journey with your loved ones alone. You are instantly armed with the compassion and love from strangers, all ready to serve your family and the person transitioning.

My grandfather’s eyes lit up when he was brought home and sat in his favorite chair! His last wish was fulfilled and you could feel the ease and peace in his spirit. Three days later my grandfather passed away with his wife of 50 years by his side,holding his hand and giving him the permission to let go. True love in the purest form, sitting along side your loved one and holding space for them in their time of transition.

I am beginning to believe with all of my heart that there is no greater service then being with someone who is dying.

I haven’t come to the above realization smoothly, in fact I have faced my own deep grief as a result of loosing two very close friends of mine. Amidst the pain and grief, I somehow found my way out and have always managed to hold on to my faith. My granny and I had many conversations of faith while sitting at my grandpa’s bedside, we both agreed it is the one thing that has allowed us to endure all of the obstacles and heartbreak that life brings.

One distinct moment by my grandpa’s bedside that stands out above the rest was when I wiped his dry and pudding stained mouth with a washcloth and time sort of just stood still. There was no judgement, in fact there were no thoughts at all…just love. It was space of timeless infinite love that could be likened to the feeling of absolute grace.

On the return flight my heart swelled with gratitude and I was in awe for the opportunity to be of service in this way again. It seems to get sweeter each time.

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work. ” -Mother Teresa

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