Hospice care...it's not what I thought it would be. I thought it would be that they would send a nurse to sit with my mother and then she would summon us when "the time" was upon us, and then we kids would assemble and hold my mother's hand and tell her it was "okay" for her to die, and then she would. That's not actually how it works - actually, how it works is that a nurse comes every other day and a social worker comes out every once in a while, and there are what are called "comfort measures" made, but really, you have to be there for it to administer the "comfort measures" (i.e. Ativan, morphine and a whole cornucopia of drugs). My sister is there the most, because she lives the closest and my brother just started a job that requires lots of hours. I live 50 miles away. We have a caregiver we've hired to take care of my dad (who actually needs more care than my mom) and she spends a lot of time being there with both of them and we are blessed because we have Geri there, but Geri is off in the afternoons, so I am going to start being there in the afternoon. I am blessed again because I can work wherever there's a phone and a computer.
Today I was there for my afternoon shift, trying to get my computer to work so I could work tomorrow, and I was making some split pea soup. My sister left a meaty hambone in the fridge for me, thinking that my mom might like some. It's her favorite soup. So, I brought some peas and some carrots, onions and garlic to try to make some soup. But she was too sick to eat any...she couldn't even drink water to take her pills. As I was giving her the liquid morphine, or as they call it, the "comfort measures", I noticed a robin calling to me out the front window. The robin was there, right on the front lawn I used to lay down on and look up into the branches of the maple tree on the easement and wonder what I would be doing in the year 2000 when I would be 36 years old. Now, at 46 years old, the robin was in the same spot. It was trying to get my attention, walking back and forth and crying out as I looked out across the street to the house where my childhood best friend used to live. The robin kept coming closer and calling to me....it was strange. Geri came and said "Look, that robin is still there!" She said it was there all morning; even when my sweet nephew was cutting the grass, it wouldn't get out of the way.
When my mother in law was dying of cancer, she pondered if there was a hereafter....she was a very religious woman, and I aske her if there was, would she show me a sign? She said she would. I'd like to say I received some more clear cut evidence, but one thing I noticed was the birds. Right after she died, a pheasant showed up at our house for a couple weeks, and it seemed like it was looking out after us. It would be staring out over the hill when my husband came home from work; it would be staring down the kids when they got off the school bus. My husband thought it was his dad, who had passed away years earlier. He really felt it was him checking up on us. My father in law loved wood carving birds. And now today, there was the robin. I really feel it was my mother in law, checking up on me, just like she said she would.
Here's my recipe for split pea soup. It's a great dish for winter time....it felt odd to make it when it was 80 degrees out, but it was always my mother's favorite.
Split Pea Soup
4 carrots, diced
1 c. chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 lb. dried split peas, rinsed and sorted
1 meaty ham bone or a couple smoked ham hocks
Saute vegetables and garlic until onion is soft. Add peas, pork and enough water to cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until peas are soft. Remove bones and pick off meat and add back to the soup.