She was a close friend I had known for many years when she came to Home Hospice. Her favorite song was “Sentimental Journey.” In her younger years, she sang with a band and this was her signature song. Her voice, once clear and beautiful had become gravelly from years of smoking. She loved to tell about her days singing and her family loved hearing her tell those stories. When she was no longer alert and awake some of her family backed away, afraid of the end. Her “journey” was almost ended, but their journey without her was just beginning. How would they be able to carry on? Caring for struggling families requires hope, confidence and courage. Sometimes, just a word is all that is needed. Sometimes, no words are needed; just a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on.
As a hospice worker you learn how and when to provide that support. However, when the journey becomes your own you learn who you can lean on. Some days the memories come flooding back vividly. On our first date in February 1971, we saw the move “Love Story” and the words of that theme song seem urgent at times: “Where do you begin to tell the story of how great a love can be…” For forty-five years we lived that love story; including her dying in the hospital. Our journey and the aftermath of that journey have really been sentimental for me. Who props me up? Whose shoulder do I cry on? I am blessed to have three families. The first is made up of relatives; children, sisters, and in-laws. These have been constant support. Then, there is the church family with whom I meet regularly. They too are always there; following-up with me in so many ways over the past two and one-half years to ensure I do not feel alone. There are also those in the office where I work with whom I consider family. Perhaps better than the other families, they have an understanding of what my journey has been so far, and what it continues to be. Here are those I can counsel with and in return be counseled. I don’t know that any of us really anticipate taking such a sentimental journey, but there it is. Christmas day will always be the half-year anniversary of the loss of my wife. Fortunately, I am not alone. What comfort I have knowing who those are that I can count on.