Hospice… Dad’s Final Journey!!

Dad’s final part of his journey brought him to a local hospice. It was where he got to spend the last 2.5 days of his life, at a end of life palliative care residence. 

We prayed that we could bring Dad closer to home. To the hospice that we had all heard such wonderful things about. A hospital setting was no longer the ideal place for Dad since he was at the end of his life. Our hearts were so set on making this move happen for him. But we had no clue if it would even be possible. 

 

Several days went by, but we held on to the vision of seeing Dad at the hospice. Then on July 11th, we heard the good news that there was an opening for Dad. But could he make the long trip by ambulance? His medical doctor confirmed that indeed Dad was ok to go. That afternoon Dad made the trip by ambulance with my sister riding with him. She texted me a few times during their ride to hospice, telling me that Dad seemed content to be out for a ride, even considering the circumstances. He was looking out the back windows of the ambulance for a good part of the ride as they made over an hour-long drive to hospice. I was at home that day. I felt emotional knowing this would be Dad’s last trip, and that he would never have an opportunity to come back home. 

 

When they arrived at the hospice, Dad was looking around his room taking it all in. He seemed to be so content. My sister knew that he was in the right place when she saw his reaction. 

She texted me a bit later… 

 

“OMG – this place is unbelievable – God is watching over us that’s for sure.”

 

 

That afternoon when I walked into the hospice I couldn’t hold back my tears. Dad had come here to die, and that reality was hitting me one more time. As if I didn’t know. 

It felt so incredibly peaceful and home-like at the hospice. I had tears for that too. 

 

 

 

The hospice would be Dad’s final residence and place of care before he would pass away. Suite 8 was where he spent his last few days. 

 

 

 

When I arrived to his room Dad called me over, he wanted to say something to me. His voice had grown much weaker so we had to listen attentively most of the time in order to be able to make out what he was saying. He asked me in french, ‘who found this place?’ I told him it was Mom. Even though the palliative team had put in a request, Mom had made a call to the hospice that day or the day before, to see if there was any possibility at all of getting Dad in there. I felt that her call helped make a difference and telling Dad that it was Mom that made it happen, comforted him. I told him, it’s beautiful here isn’t it Dad! He nodded, yes. He seemed so much more peaceful and content. 

 

That night I chose to stay with Dad at the hospice. The rest of the family went back home in hopes of getting some much needed rest. But I felt nervous to be alone with Dad. I knew that he was dying and I didn’t how much longer he had to live. What if he died when I was alone with him during the night? What if he choked when I was spoon-feeding him water? What if he just stopped breathing? What if he panicked? What if? I had all sorts of fears showing up, and lots of what if’s. I knew the nursing staff was close-by should I need them, but I couldn’t shake the fears that I had. It didn’t matter how close any staff was to his room, I was afraid.

My husband came back to spend the night at hospice with us. Dad had a very restless night, unable to settle, and his level of pain getting worse. The ride by ambulance that day from the hospital to the hospice and the progression of his illness, no doubt everything was having an impact on him. 

 

 

My youngest brother came in during the wee hours the next morning, my husband had just left to go to work when he arrived. I felt like a zombie because I had not had any sleep all night. Trying to support Dad the best way that I knew how. It felt so good seeing my brother coming into the room that morning before sunrise. We talked, shared lots of stories and shed more tears. Dad was resting a bit better by that point. 

 

The next few days seem like a bit of a blur, like it moved in slow-motion. We were all really exhausted, yet unable to rest easy not knowing how much longer Dad had left to live and wanting to spend all the time we could with him. 

 

At the hospice there were several different rooms where we could go sit. Everywhere we went it was incredibly beautiful and peaceful. The yard outside vegetable gardens, flowers, and several places to sit. It really felt like home. The energy in this place and outside was so amazing. You would never know that people died there all the time. I’m someone that’s incredibly sensitive to energies when I go somewhere, but at the hospice I never once felt anything other can comfort and peace. 

 

 

 

 

In their living room area they had a beautiful baby grand piano. Our daughter decided to play the piano one evening. A gentleman that was in the room next to Dad, came out and sat with his wife, listening to our daughter sharing her music with them. The gentleman was Dad’s age, he loved music, and had played several musical instruments in his life. So this brought a smile to his face. It was a joy to see them enjoying the music together. 

 

 

My family spent a lot of time together those last few days in Dad’s room. All of us were with him the evening before he passed away. Our spouses came, several of the grand-children dropped in also to visit their grandfather one last time, and even a few of his young great-granddaughters came. Dad’s room was quite big, so it accommodated all of us quite comfortably. That evening we all shared a home cooked meal together right in his room. Dad was unconscious by that point, but I’m almost sure that he knew we were all there. We laughed together, and cried knowing there wasn’t many more opportunities for all of us to be together as a family with Dad. 

 

Early the next morning of July 14th, Dad peacefully took his last breath. His suffering had ended. He was gone!! 

A big presence in our family’s life had just left us, forever. 

 

We were then asked by the nursing staff to come up with a tribute song for Dad that would be played as Dad’s body would be wheeled away in a procession by the funeral directors. Dad had always enjoyed old country music, so my family came up with several ideas for a country music song to be played. Then my youngest brother went on to tell us that every week when he would come to our parents home to cut their grass, he would always hear the song My Old Man by Zach Brown playing on the radio in his vehicle. We all gasped at that point, knowing that this had to be the song. You can listen to it here or the lyrics are below

 

“My Old Man”

He was a giant
And I was just a kid
I was always trying
To do everything he did
I can still remember every lesson he taught me
Growing up learning how to be like my old man

He was a lion
We were our father’s pride
But I was defiant
When he made me walk the line
He knew how to lift me up
And when to let me fall
Looking back, he always had a plan
My old man

My old man
Feel the callous on his hands
And dusty overalls
My old man
Now I finally understand
I have a lot to learn
From my old man

Now I’m a giant
Got a son of my own
He’s always trying
To go everywhere I go
Do the best I can to raise him up the right way
Hoping that he someday wants to be
Like his old man

My old man
I know one day we’ll meet again
As he’s looking down
My old man
I hope he’s proud of who I am
I’m trying to fill the boots of my old man

My old man

 

 

The procession at the hospice began from Dad’s room. His body laid out on a gurney, completely covered with a beautiful quilt from the hospice. As they came down the hall towards us… the song My Old Man could be heard playing throughout the halls at the hospice. At that point of seeing Dad’s body being wheeled towards us, I could barely hold it together. It was so emotional. We followed the procession out to the front door of the hospice, the hallways of the hospice were lined up with the staff that worked that morning, including the employee that I had noticed doing the outdoor gardening. So between the music playing, and seeing all the hospice staff being so respectful of Dad and our family, combined with the incredible loss that we had just experienced, it was a very emotional time for all of us. It was so incredibly heart-breaking, but yet incredibly beautiful. 

We had experienced such a beautiful tribute to a great man that we had all loved so much. 

 

 

As the funeral directors slowly drove away with Dad’s body… I waved goodbye to him, and asked God to Bless him on his journey back home. 

 

 ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** 

 

To sum up our hospice experience with Dad, it was a most peaceful, calm, loving environment for our family and for Dad. 

The staff and volunteers were so incredibly compassionate and wonderful. They were there to support each of us, in a very non-invasive way. The care for Dad was nothing but the best, as Dad would have said himself. Every one of his needs had been anticipated. There was food and drinks available to us at all times, and even a hug when it was needed. Tender loving care was their goal, and they made that look so easy. 

For Dad, I believe that all the attention to details, his beautiful room, the compassionate staff, the environment itself, having his family surrounding him is what he wanted most, all of it somehow making it easier we feel for him to slip from this life into the next. 

It was especially wonderful that Dad had such a beautiful view of the trees and outdoor landscape, very similar to what he had at home. His room was comfy and home-like, with beautifully coloured walls. 

Hospice was good with all ages of our family members, even having some toys and stuffed animals for little ones (and for some of us not so little, lol). Everywhere we turned there were comfy sofas, quiet room, beautiful spaces outside, sunroom, lounge, family room, kitchen etc. It was quiet no matter where you went in the home. 

The fact that Dad arrived and came in through the hospice’s front door, and left through the front door says a lot about the respect they have for all the people who enter this place. It was incredibly touching from the beginning right through to the end. 

The whole hospice experience really honours the person that’s passing away in such a beautiful way. It was an incredible experience for all of us to have been blessed with. What an amazing experience this would be for every person dying to have such an opportunity to go to a hospice for the last part of their journey, as Dad did. 

 

Last, and certainly not least, I want to thank Mom and my siblings for allowing me to write and share here about our sacred experience with Dad and his final journey back home. I have so much love and respect for all of you. Dad has brought us all together, closer than ever. xoxo

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Comments

  1. What a beautiful time with your family, Suzanne, in such a beautiful setting. I live a few blocks from the Hospice House here and have spent many hours with friends who were either dying themselves or had a husband who was dying. I think the energy we feel in places like that, even though people go there to die, is pure and simple love.

  2. Mary Dowdy says:

    Such beautiful words written by cousine Suzanne. They are so beautiful. I just don’t know if I could have written this as well as you have.
    My handsome cousin Archie Sabourin, May you Rest In Peace. You have no more pain and suffering and you are back with your father, my Mon Oncle Ernest and Ma Tante Emily.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience. It brought me back to five months ago when I was blessed to say good-bye to my Dad on the palliative care floor. Blessings on your healing journey ♡

  4. Diane Wolcott says:

    Well, Suzanne, it has been a few months since I sat with my youngest brother while he lay dying in his home; it’s what he wanted. On August 2 last year, my other brother passed away in a beautiful, serene hospice house very much like the one your dad was in. I was there the day we drove him to the hospital, then as he was moved to the hospice house. I couldn’t stay as I had prior plans to meet my husband in Jacksonville, Florida where we would drive further along the coast to visit our son. I got the call about my brother shortly after midnight. We drove back to Georgia for his funeral and to say goodbye, but I knew when I had left him, I would never see him alive again and so I had already bid him farewell.

    With my youngest brother, it was an entirely different experience. I was honored to be one of his caretakers at the end. As difficult as it was, actually it was sacred. As I sat with him, praying and listening to Christian music softly in the background, I convinced myself that the noises I heard were like snoring so when it stopped, I knew he was gone. I felt a presence like no other, a holy aura surrounded us. I got up, laid my hand on his chest while saying “Oh, brother! I love you!” Next, I closed his eyes and repositioned his arms and covers before waking his wife. She was a CNA and it was both her and my brother’s desire to care for him at home after he was released into hospice care in his home. Now she is gone, too. I got the news on June 5th that she had died of an unexpected heart attack, but personally, I believe she died of a broken heart. Both of my brothers were younger than I. They died within eight months of one another. It has been a difficult year and one I’m still reeling from.

    Death is not a topic most people care to discuss, yet it is an inevitable part of our lives. There needs to be more dialogue about how society can be open to the healthy aspects of caring for our dying. I thank you for having the wherewithal to write about your experience.

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