In 2005 my friend Suzy and I did the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3 Day 60 mile walk in honor of her mom. For three mostly wet days we walked, told each other stories, listened to the inspiring stories of the cancer survivors who walked with us, shared a tiny tent, ate pasta and grew blisters on our blisters. On the final day, I was ready to give up shortly after breakfast and long before the finish line was in sight. In an effort to distract ourselves from the hills, Suzy and I shared every topic from high school boyfriends to philosophy. After we ran out of stories to tell, I was tempted to stop at the next Starbucks that we passed and just call it quits.
When we were still eight miles out, Suzy’s Mom, Jessica, surprised us by showing up to walk us to the finish line. The sight of that beautiful angel with the big smile, all dressed in pink who was fighting her own cancer battle with such strength and resolve, inspired me to keep moving. In fact, she was so energized that day, I could barely keep up with her. I eventually removed my shoes, walking only in socks and the three of us crossed the finish line together to the cheers of our families and the crowds that gathered at the end of the long road.
Recently, the journey as a caretaker for my own Mom has reminded me of that 3 Day Walk. My husband, Rocky, has started saying we are “worn thin,” especially when we get tired and short with each other as a result. I’ve thought of that day 12 years ago when the finish line seemed so far away and I’ve felt myself wanting to give up all over again.
Miraculously though, angels have shown up to walk us to the finish line once again. Mom was approved for Hospice Home Care last Friday. Suddenly there is a team of people we can lean on, ask questions of and who can help us get to the finish line without stumbling no matter how far away it might be. Until now, I had always believed the care of Hospice was reserved for those whose death was imminent. Gratefully, a friend steered me to them for help and explained that Hospice can be a support for months, not just days or weeks. I cried when the Hospice Team suggested that I could go back to being a daughter now and not just a caretaker.
A friend of mine wrote a beautiful tribute to her own Mom a few weeks ago, bravely sharing her traumatic death story and bemoaning the fact that there were no “Doulas of Death” to help them through it as there might have been for a birth. I wish she had had the support of the Hospice team that has stepped into our lives. They truly are the Doulas who are helping us pave the way to a more comfortable, peaceful journey to the finish line. They are a party delivered right to our door, cheering us all up with their smiles, stories and support.
While my Mom doesn’t really understand why the “Team” is here, she definitely loves their visits, the massages and especially their advice to “let her eat ice cream anytime she wants.” What sweeter way to approach a finish line, right?
Before I even knew Hospice was an option for us, I consulted a psychic just for fun. I had no expectations that he would provide any answers about our future or even validation of our path but he came highly recommended by Suzy and that’s always good enough for me. During my session with him, he said that someone named John had a message for me. I assumed it was my uncle, my Mom’s brother, who passed away last year. According to the psychic, John said that he was with Dianne, his wife who had also died. Since he got the names of my aunt and uncle right without any help from me, I really paid attention to what he said. Uncle John told the psychic to let me know that they were “waiting for Mary (my Mom).” Since that time, I have been comforted by the notion that when Mom reaches her own finish line, there will be a “welcoming committee” of angels waiting for her…probably with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream.