Gopher and I began visiting with hospice about six weeks ago now. In that time we were able to visit with the six patients. Our first patient passed shortly after our first visit and we were so pleased to provide him a moment of comfort in his final days.
One of our next patients immediately grabbed our attention and I looked forward to our scheduled visits. Fortunately neither age nor disease had reached his mind. Our first visit with him, was also the most disastrous as mentioned in Worst Fear Realized, his response was wonderful. “That’s okay; the walker is mean to keep the tennis ball away from him.” His quick wit in my moment of embarrassment made me excited to continue our visits.
We would visit with him again in just a few days. He requested a date and time and we came back and visited with him while he ate his dinner. He shared with me moments from his life, his pride and his accomplishments. Gopher did not respond to the tennis balls on the walker this visit and laid down on the floor giving the man his full attention appearing to hang on every word. Dinner was cleared and Gopher knew it was time for the full visit and approached him, placed his head gently on his knee and looked up as he continued to share stories of his life with us. He would pet Gopher’s head, and Gopher would keep looking up at him listening intently. Our visit ended, and we left, I know Gopher was nice company for him, as was I, but felt more enriched by this shared moment than I can justify with words.
Our next visit with him was much the same. Gopher behaved around the tennis balls. He weaved some stories of his life. We shared some jokes about our respective spouses, nothing disrespectful as you could tell he still adored his wife as much as I adore mine. Dinner would be cleared, and Gopher moved in and performed just as he had done the week before. This time when I left he shook my hand as he had the week before, and said, “Thank you for coming, I look forward to your visit.” As I drove home, I laughed again about some of the stories he told during our visit.
I added the next visit to my calendar when I got home that night, thanked Gopher again, and spent the rest of the evening with all of our ‘kids’ and Carla. On Saturday while getting ready to go out with some friends to celebrates Carla’s 31st birthday I missed a call and saw a voicemail waiting on my phone, so I checked it to discover that our next visit would never come as he had passed away peacefully.
Our visits with him were few, but after what would be his last words to me, I cannot help but be thankful of their impact. I also cannot help but be thankful of their impact on me as well. I was nervous about these visits, would I be able to handle these interactions and would Gopher? I still not know how it will go as we continue on this path. I am pleased though we had the opportunity to spend time with this patient, the stories he told are his and I will not share them, but I am glad he shared them with me. I am saddened that we will not have the chance to visit with him again, but pleased to know we were able to provide him some moments of comfort and he is now at peace.