In late October, about the 23rd, I got a call from Agnes’s lawyer letting me know that she was very confused and that perhaps it was time to have her moved to hospice. He is her financial power of attorney and I am the medical. I was glad to hear from him and after I talked for a few minutes, I was very thankful he was on board with this. He is a very caring man and is also a friend of Agnes. While he does take care of her legal business, he also does some work for her without charge. He has done this with more than a few of his clients, who were walking their last mile over the years, so he knows how to go about it. I was very relieved, for Agnes did not go into detail over all that he did for her besides the lawyer work.

I was getting ready to go see my family in Texas and I was worried about her being on her own and perhaps dying alone while I was away, for when she was first diagnosed she was given only two months to live. It was past that date, but from her confused condition (according to her lawyer) it could be soon. So I was in some ways relieved that we were going to facilitate her moving into a hospice facility.

That evening I went to her apartment and she did seem confused, though she looked strong, for although she had lost a lot of weight (she being overweight), she looked pretty good. However she was frightened and confused and nights in her apartment were scary for her. Also hospice was sending people in to care for her, but there were so many that it only made her more anxious. I helped her to fix some pictures for her daughter, got some of her paper work in order, though it was difficult, she is not the most organized person. Then I went out and got her some dinner at McDonald’s, one of her favorite places. Her lawyer came and took her credit cards, since they could be easily lost or stolen in her confused state. We then arranged for someone to come and stay the night with her. The next day she was put in hospice. At first, the nurse that came in that evening to evaluate her did not think she would be admitted into the actual care facility but into the residence section for observation. They have limited space, so one has to be at a certain level of acuity before they can be admitted. I had almost no doubt that in a week’s time she would be ready for admittance. If not, the lawyer thought it would be best to put her into assisted living, for her apartment would be too dangerous for her to go back and live in. So I was able with some peace of mind to go for my family visit, which by the way was very pleasant for me.

After about a week into my trip I called the hospice nurse that was in charge of her case and found that she was admitted into the facility. I called her a couple of times and she seemed at peace though of course confused. She forgot that I was not in town each time I called but over all the conversation was pleasant and to the point. I came back on the 8th of November and she was still alive, though I could no longer contact her by her cell phone. I was told that she could no longer walk and spent much of the day sleeping, though she could still remember people. I also found out that one of the hospice volunteers contacted her daughter which she forbade me to do, even though I brought it us a couple of times. I was happy about that since the daughter seemed to want to come down and see her and Agnes seemed pleased.

I went to see her on the 13th at the hospice in which she was staying. It is considered one of the best in the city and I was impressed by what I saw. She had a nice room that had a cloistered garden outside her room so that her bed could be pushed out into if she so desired. She was of course in her bed when I first went in and she seemed happy to see me. I sat with her for a while and held her hand. Or allowed her hand to rest on mine, which would allow her to remove it when she so desired. We talked a bit and she told me that she was at peace and no longer afraid. Also she said that God seemed close to her. She also told me that she was glad that her daughter was coming down to see her. As we were talking my phone rang and from the area code I knew it was her daughter calling me back. I left a message on her home phone to call me if she could.

It was a good conversation. She seemed to love her mother very much and was devastated about the news of her illness. She told me a few years back she was going through a very trying time and because her mother can be very difficult, some words were said that caused pain on both sides. She told me that she tried to write a letter a few times but could not send it, now she was overwhelmed with regret, but was also happy that she found out about her mother’s condition. So she is coming down on Saturday and I will go in to meet her and maybe take her out to lunch, though most likely she will want to spend all her time with her mother. I took my phone in and put the speaker phone on and they had a few words that cemented the relationship back together.

After a loved ones death, if there was some rift, only the love and regret remains. Agnes only being 63, I guess the daughter thought she had time to get back in touch, thank God she did. Also I am very happy I did not have to make that call of notification, which is what Agnes wanted me to do, I can’t even imagine the pain that would have caused her daughter.

(This was written in November of ’09)

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Mark Dohle

Mark Dohle

I am 62 years old and have lived in the Atlanta area since 1971.  I am Catholic and my faith is important to me, yet as I age the mystery continues to deepen, so I read broadly and try to keep things somewhat open ended. I work with the aged and the dying. I was in the Navy for four years and I guess I am life of center when it comes to politics, but not too far left. Actually, I am kind of a political moron.

I am the third of  11 children; ten still alive, one died in in 1958, three days after birth.