The least and the most to honor his memory
by Carol Anne Lawler, HPCCR Communities of Faith Liaison
It was early evening in October 1985. I had just had hung up from a phone interview for my first full-time position in pastoral ministry in Marblehead, MA. The next call came from my mother to tell me that my Dad had been diagnosed with lung cancer that same day. My father was 56 years old at the time – one year older than I am today. Within the next year I would be present when my father had surgery, experienced its complications, and lived through utmost physical pain. My father died the way he lived; he did not complain, did not blame anyone, and bore it all stoically, bravely. Years later I said to my mother, “It’s too bad we didn’t have hospice services when Dad was sick,” and she replied, “What could they have done that I didn’t do for him?”
What I didn’t say then, but will share now, is that they could have had a nurse come to our home that would have managed his pain and limited his suffering. He could have had a social worker who would have addressed his psycho-social needs (although I couldn’t guarantee he would have opened up – just not his style). And he could have had a chaplain who would listen to what he had to say, rather than our pastor who didn’t know my father well, and who tried to “guilt” him into the kingdom of heaven. He could have had a volunteer to provide my mother with respite once a week and a bereavement counselor for afterward, when her world — as she knew it — changed forever. And while my family did the best we could during his illness and subsequent death, the journey toward the end of life is really too difficult to attempt alone.
As the Communities of Faith Liaison with Hospice & Palliative Charlotte Region, I keep the image of my father’s journey close to my heart, for his memory fuels my desire to bring hospice and palliative care services to as many people as possible; that is, when a diagnosis is terminal and the disease takes its natural course. When so many of the people we’ve served say, “We wish we had hospice sooner,” it continues to motivate me to communicate the message of who we are and what we can offer to communities of faith. The more equipped individuals are to choose their end-of-life care, then the probability of a ‘good death,’ surrounded by loved ones, greatly increases.
The purpose of my role is to carry out the mission of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region; to provide community education and to collaborate with faith communities to support the ongoing care they provide for their members. To that end, if you are connected with a faith community that would benefit from knowing more about HPCCR, please contact me and let’s talk over a cup of coffee or tea. I want to know what information we can provide that will offer the necessary tools to make an informed decision about end-of-life care. And I want to communicate our organization’s message that we seek “to relieve suffering and improve the quality and dignity of life through compassionate hospice care” one person at a time.
I believe my dad would be proud to know his story helped someone else as they faced the end of their life. It is the least and the most I can do to honor his memory.Explore posts in the same categories: advocacy, awareness, education, end of life, hospice, religion comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.