Well, obviously it's been a long week for us and as much as I would rather sit here and write something about organizing or cooking or any other "normal" topic, I feel like there are a few last things I need to share about this past week with my Father-in-law.
My purpose in even writing in the first place, has always been to inspire and encourage. So, even in this post about diagnosis, hospice, and death, that's what I hope to do.
We did not find out about PawPaw's cancer until mid-January. That was less than two months ago.
Because of back pain, he had some tests run and the first thing they found was a tumor on his spine. A few weeks later, he was told he had some cancer in each lung. A few weeks later, on a Wednesday, he had his first biopsy. By that Friday he was in the hospital due to a fall, and on Saturday he came home and was put on hospice.
Saturday night, he arrived home from the hospital, knowing that his body had cancer in the back, lungs, ribs, and hips, and it was now in his bones. Consider - a month and a half before this, we had no idea he had anything but a sore back.
From Saturday night until Tuesday night, we were there, around the clock, accompanied by a hospice nurse. Each day we had some part of the hospice team coming in to educate us on what to expect and what to do, in each situation.
By Tuesday night, resting peacefully, PawPaw gave up the fight.
What I want to share in this post, are a few things to think about:
1. You just never know how long you have with someone. Although, I think God nudges you to spend a little more time or make one more visit or go that extra step with someone, and gives you a tiny glimpse that something may be changing soon. Don't ignore that prompting.
2. Hospice, when allowed to work the way it's intended, will allow your loved one to slip from this world, in peace. We could not have asked for a more peaceful situation with my father-in-law's home experience. Because of the kindness and compassion of the hospice staff, we were being educated all along the way and knew what to expect, with each change that Ted experienced.
3. Your prayers matter. As chaotic as the past week and a half were, we had a covering of peace over us, that was almost strange (surpasses all understanding, as God's word says). It's tough to explain, but we could feel an underlying calm, even though we were making hard decisions. God also didn't give us more than we could handle, even though we feared the worst. Our worries never came to be, and for that, we are so thankful.
4. When planning a service for someone you love, choose a funeral home that shows deep compassion and isn't all business. This was another experience that was such a blessing for us. The funeral director was more like a friend than a business acquaintance. His care made such a difference in the planning and carrying out of the service.
5. Do whatever you can to make the service a testimony to the one you've lost. PawPaw always said that he wanted the song Me and Bobby McGee played at his funeral and so we took him serious and played that song. He would have loved that! We played my son's song Redeemed, which is a fast, guitar/drum/contemporary Christian song, but the words fit perfectly and PawPaw was so proud of Ted and his music, so it fit just fine. Then we had Bubba and Britt (BB & Company) play two songs that PawPaw always requested when he went to see them play - One Single Red Rose (which he always dedicated to his wife) and a Johnny Cash song called Wayfaring Stranger. He loved to hear Britt sing Johnny Cash, so we know he would have been pleased.
As strange as I feared it would seem, we had so many people tell us afterwards, that they loved the service.
6. When friends ask if they can help, say "YES". Normally, I think we all tend to take on more than we can handle during times like these, but this time, I said "yes" more than I said "no". I have been so blessed this past week, by friends who offered to help. From the planning of a little surprise party for Collin's 14th birthday, to having someone stay at the house and collect food, while we were at the service. Each offer was a blessing and took a huge burden off of the family.
7. Work together within the family. From aunts, sister-in-laws, cousins, brothers, etc., we all worked together to get through the week and the arrangements of the service. Put aside anything that would keep you from pulling together and honoring your loved one. This isn't about being right or getting your way or the past or anything else that families fight over. It's about the one who is no longer here. Make it count.
Those are just some things I've learned over the past week or so. Losing someone you love is never easy, but trusting in the Lord and having a good support system, is key to making it through.
Now, we move on to the "new normal", as they say. We still need prayer and I know it will be tough, but I think we have a deeper appreciation for those who surround us. They've proven themselves faithful and so has the Lord.
To all who have supported us - we are so thankful.
To our Lord and Savior - there are no words.