Hospice, Choosing to Live Every Moment
Many who deliver hospice care believe as Mother Teresa did when she said, “Do small things with great love.” Small things might look like; painting cheerful colors on frail finger nails, singing a favorite hymn together, turning burgers on the barbecue, turning pages in a cherished scrapbook, balancing the patient as they step into their walker, helping to navigate through funeral home plans or safely moving from the sofa to the bedroom.
Our team of dedicated caregivers tries to help the hospice recipients “live every moment.” We live by that phrase. Many believe that “seeing death as the end of life is like seeing the horizon as the end of the ocean.” One family member reminisced, “The hospice team’s attentiveness freed me to love with abandon and to be loved when I felt abandoned.” Another recalled, “The imprint of my hospice nurse’s touch on my shoulder and my hand remained tender yet strong as my loved one’s touch grew lighter and weaker.”
Another hospice worker reflected, “The hospice path is just one among many paths along life’s journey. And, even if I walk the trail more than once with a different hand to hold, a new seedling may crest the soft soil, a new set of robin’s footprints may be noticed; the sunbeam may penetrate the fluttering leaves uniquely this time. And, oh the indescribable feeling of seeing my patient, my friend, discover these special details, makes me again know that I get to walk someone very special home. That alone makes this journey just as treasured as all the rest.”
The following is a short story about a patient we all were blessed to care for and how he chose to live some of his final moments.
Smokey Moses had spent a significant part of his engineering career as an avionics specialist involved with the precision design and calibration of systems for the SR 71 stealth Blackbird and the Air Force’s F16 fighter jet. Though articulate and highly esteemed for his creativity and technical prowess on these top secret challenges (and dozens of others), Smokey had not had the opportunity to fly from the cockpit position of an aircraft he helped design. Finally at age 93, though on hospice care with Auburn Crest, he was able to live out this seemingly “impossible” dream.
With his nurse Mary Jean and physical therapists, Mike Dusbabek and Gary Rossberg, Smokey was able to climb into the cockpit simulator of a 21st century digitally advanced avionics cockpit. He buckled in, and with a certified flight instructor by his side, “flew” the aircraft for nearly 20 minutes! Smokey’s wife, Leora of 60+ years, 2 of his daughters Charlene and Kathleen, son in law Rick and 2 great granddaughters Hannah and Chloe, proudly experienced his joy nearby. This memorable morning was capped off by a lunchtime celebration at an aircraft themed restaurant serving right in front of Spokane’s Felts Field airport. Smokey, family, friends, and Auburn Crest’s team truly chose to LIVE every moment of this 93 year old’s special adventure!
As you can see, choosing to live every moment is a value that we hold dear to our hearts. Coming alongside our patients and their families to live every moment is something we strive for every day. Living every moment looks different for every individual, and is never the same. At times, it can be as simple as allowing themselves to appreciate the sunshine that day or having a member of their care team make them their favorite flavor of ice cream. Other times, it is allowing Auburn Crest to help cross off an item on a bucket list.
As we have encouraged our patients to live every moment, we have seen and shared some amazing experiences. One of our nurses went parasailing on lake Coeur d’Alene with one of our patients. Seeing the smiles and listening to her tell her story of that experience was unforgettable. Choosing to live every moment puts an emphasis on quality. While individuals don’t know how much time they have left; if the focus is on living and on finding value in each moment, they can then hopefully go on without regret. So, how will you choose to live every moment?
by Mike Haycraft, Executive Director – Auburn Crest Hospice
Mike Haycraft, LMSW, joined Auburn Crest Hospice in November of 2012. He has spent the past 5 years working with those who are faced with grief and loss. Mike has had a passion for working with seniors since he began volunteering at an assisted living community while he was in High School. One of his primary goals is to ensure that every person Auburn Crest Hospice has the pleasure of working with has a sense of value and purpose for the time that they have left.