Glimpses of Beauty at Hospice House

Creating a sacred space for patients and their families

By Kristin Neufeld, RN
Franciscan Hospice House

Once again at Franciscan Hospice House, I entered a room to find two bodies in one bed. It has been several months since I have cared for a patient with his or her loved one lying alongside. It is a precious sight to soak in, one I always want to remember despite the pain of impending death.

As I started my shift, I was told that L.F. had moments left to live. He was 81 years old and was admitted last evening for his final hours of need. He and his wife of 61 years had moved last week to an assisted-living facility. Now that she was in a good place, L.F.'s daughters reported that he could let go and allow his struggling body to die.

They had brought Mom in to be with Dad and she wanted to crawl into bed with him, so they got them situated, pillows placed for comfort and just watched their parents side by side peacefully sleeping. Two infusion pumps, oxygen and catheter tubing seemed to disappear among their arms linked around each other, heads leaned into each other.

This was a very sacred space for the family and for those of us who witnessed it and helped create it for them. This is why I love my job at Hospice House. We can help families find a place to relax, be themselves, heal and walk together through the hardship of inevitable death. These moments are so incredibly blessed and special.

Hours later, L.F. died. His wife collapsed in staggering grief. We rushed in to help and hold ones who needed extra strength to get through the finality of his death. The peaceful calm had passed. For staff, there is no easy way to get through this time except to be available, hold on tight, answer the new set of questions that arise and try to temporarily close off the crazy world around the family. Once again, we tried to create another place for moments of peace and quiet in the hard hours of fresh grief.

Such sharp contrasts, such pure beauty and glimpses of deep love, and such heart tugs of joy and gut-wrenching grief. All wrapped up in a day's work. Lord, give us strength to face the challenges of each new day at Hospice House. Give us eyes and hearts to see the pure beauty you have created for that day.

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Kristin Neufeld, RN
Kristin Neufeld, RN