By: Susan Hughes from Marblehead
My husband of 31 years, Jay, passed away in August 2014 at the Kaplan Family Hospice House after battling pancreatic cancer for two years. The last few weeks prior were spent in the hospital battling an infection in addition to the cancer until he began to lose the fight.
I am so grateful that through his healthcare providers, we were offered support from social workers, and we were introduced to Amy Gray, an admissions liaison from Care Dimensions. While my husband’s wishes were to die at home, he required more intense pain and symptom management that couldn’t be done at home. He needed hospital-level care, but while safe, the hospital was noisy and disruptive with medical monitors beeping continually. Care Dimensions Kaplan House offered us the best of both options—hospital care with the feeling of home.
Jay and our family were overcome by a sense of peace and relief after he was brought to Kaplan by ambulance. His room felt like a home with huge French glass door with a private patio and flowering garden beyond. His room included comfortable seating for family and visitors, as well as a sleep sofa for me. To the right of the patio, the breezes were flowing off the water of the Danversport Yacht Club. You could hear the halyards clanging on the masts of the sailboats in the August breeze. Being an outdoorsman and sailor, Jay asked to have his bed rolled out so he could enjoy the patio and where we could plug in his air bed in the patio wall. He spent his last five days out there as much as possible.
Jay was fully conscious and still, unbelievably, had his sense of humor right up until his last 24 hours.
Early in the morning on Saturday, August 23, nurses came in to give Jay a sponge bath. At first he wasn’t interested, but with coaxing he agreed and then Jay was saying “Ooohh, ahhh, that feels good!” He had all of us laughing. Then he was offered a massage. With a little coaxing, the oohing and ahhhing continued.
After the nurses left, there was a knock at the door and three lovely ladies, one with a pitch pipe, came in. In soft soprano voices, they sang five or six songs to us on the patio. Jay gave me that look, as if to say, “Am I still alive?” Then he peacefully fell asleep and never woke up again.
After being coached by Care Dimensions staff members that the last sense to leave a person is hearing, I spent the night telling him I loved him, actually chanting in a slow and soft voice, “I loooove youuu….” until he peacefully passed away in my arms, which was a gift.
Since then, Care Dimensions has offered a year of grief support services. My favorite support group was a writing group called “Writing from the Heart of Grief.” Ellen Frankel is an outstanding author and bereavement counselor who facilitates the group. We take a “stem” of a beginning of a sentence and then have to write for a short period of time, say eight minutes, keeping the pen moving until something comes to mind. Then we share what we wrote with the group. I found this to be the best vehicle to pull out my real feelings and “look grief in the face.” It also connected me with some wonderful new friends. As time has passed, we have all discussed how precious the “present” is and how much we appreciate the gift of life, even when grief is part of, but not consuming, our new lives.
I am grateful to Care Dimensions and the staff at the Kaplan House for the care my husband received and I am honored to share the memory of Jay Hughes.
To view photos of the Kaplan Family Hospice House, click here.