My family recently lost my dad. He was incredibly healthy up until October 14, 2016. Then everything changed. He was diagnosed with aggressive cancer and complications quickly followed. He entered hospice on November 29 and died, surrounded by family, on February 3, 2017.
That eight weeks of hospice was incredibly challenging and people loved my family so well through it all. They visited, shared stories and pictures, brought food, looked after my parents’ house while we were at the hospice facility, shoveled snow, watched babies, shuttled kids to and from school, decorated the picket fence with prayer ribbons, cleaned house, dog-sat, cried with us, prayed with us, and prayed for us. They let my dad, and in turn, us, know how much my dad meant to them.
They showed up.
Maybe you’re unsure of how to show up for others. Maybe you’re afraid of doing or saying something wrong. The thing is, most of us don’t go through these really hard times enough to get “good” at them. And thank goodness for that. I hope you never have the opportunity to practice the hard times so much you become a pro at them.
Show up anyway.
We sincerely appreciated anyone who came to visit. Dad loved seeing people. Even though it was so hard for people to come knowing he was dying, they came to visit anyway. You don’t have to stay long. Coming, talking to that person, and letting them know why they were special to you is enough. If you can share a funny story – all the better. If words are too much, it still means a lot for you to come, hold the person’s hand and cry. We get used to crying in hospice. You’re not adding to any sadness by showing your tears. You’re assuring the family that you will help hold the memory of their loved one.
People helped out with everyday tasks which felt tremendous. The veggie trays, whole fruit, and nuts to snack on were especially prized. While we appreciated cookies and muffins, our limit on sweets was pretty low since we ended up being largely immobile while hanging out in hospice. When home-cooked dinner showed up, it was bliss!
Friends offered to step in and help out with my daughter and my sister’s children as well. Even if we didn’t immediately take them up on it, it was a relief to know that “Jody” could take the kids on Wednesday morning if we changed our minds. We could hardly think beyond our grief, so when people were very specific with ways they could help, it took some burden off of us.
Honestly, walking people through their hospice journey is hard. And showing up, even awkwardly, is a tremendous blessing. We were grateful for everyone who loved our family so well.
It brings me comfort to know that people are still showing up to love and support our family. In particular, the way people are continuing to show up for my mom helps to mend my broken heart. They are coming to see her, making plans for lunch and gardening classes, and even dreaming up new travel adventures.
Our loss is so new, I can’t say if there will come a time when people loving us well will get old. For now though, being loved well is what is getting me through.