My goal for this week is to finish reviewing the proofs for my second book, Come, Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest: Adventures in Hospitality . (My real goal was to finish this task last week, but lots of other things happened instead, including accepting the opportunity to be hospitable to the newest assisted living resident in our home.) Rather than take a couple hours this morning to write a new blog post, I decided to provide a peek at one of the stories in my new book.
The book traces my understanding of what it means to be kind and hospitable to others, as the Bible instructs us, by telling a total of 90 personal stories, spanning the time frame of my childhood up to the present. I firmly believe that one of the key (and most ignored) messages of the Bible is to be kind and hospitable to others. In my book each story begins with a Bible verse that states the principle I learned from the incident, or in some other way relates the story to the overall theme of hospitality.
The story I selected for today’s sneak preview is about when my mom and dad came to Chicago to live with us for the last six weeks of my mom’s life. We had some wonderful moments together during that time. Here’s the story.
Caring for Mom as She Was Dying
Anyone who neglects to care for family members in need repudiates the faith.
That’s worse than refusing to believe in the first place.” [I Timothy 5:8 MSG]
At age 78 my mother was diagnosed with liver cancer. After the diagnosis, Mim and I made weekly trips to Wisconsin to take her to the clinic for chemotherapy. After a few weeks she chose to discontinue the treatments because of how sick they made her feel. Her doctor predicted she would live only two or three months without more treatments, maybe a year or two with treatments.
A couple weeks after my mom stopped receiving chemo Mim and I went to Door County in northeastern Wisconsin for a week-long vacation. We stopped to see my parents on our way up there, mostly to see how my mom was doing. Already she was much weaker.
Mim and I had a wonderful week relaxing in Door County. Little did we know that God was providing a week of rest for us before what would become an intense six-week period of care giving.
On our way back to Chicago we stopped to see my parents again. My mom’s health had deteriorated further and she was quite weak. We offered to get Hospice and some local caregivers lined up to help my dad care for her at home. As an alternative, we invited her and my dad to come to Chicago to live with us, and we (mostly Mim) would take care of her.
We stayed with my parents for the night. The next morning, my mom got up and said she’d made up her mind. She wanted to come home with us to Chicago. We spent the next few hours helping my mom and dad pack up their things – a few clothes, my mom’s crocheting, and their Bibles. We told my brother and sister about the new plan, and they came over to help pack up for the move.
Dad rode with Mim and me in my car. My nephew, Dave, drove Mom in his parents’ van, so that she could be lying down for the two-hour drive. Then Dave carried her up the stairs to our second-floor apartment.
We called Hospice the next day to help us get a hospital bed and a local physician to prescribe pain medication. We also enlisted one of the physicians Mim had worked with to be Mom’s primary care physician.
Mim was teaching nursing at North Park College at the time, and had a flexible schedule. She also had very kind and highly skilled colleagues who volunteered to help care for Mom to give Mim and me a little time off from round-the-clock care giving. I had just left my corporate job and was in the process of starting up my own small business consulting practice, which meant that I also had a flexible schedule.
We turned our living room into Mom’s room. For the first couple weeks she was able to walk around the apartment and eat with us in the dining room. As she got weaker, she spent most of her time in the living room. I played her favorite hymns on the piano, over and over again. I read to her. She really liked The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, a good story that made her smile and laugh. My brother and sister and their families came down to visit her weekly. Her two brothers and their wives came to visit, too.
While Mom lived with us, Mim periodically asked her, “Do you know where you are?” as a means of monitoring her mental well-being and cognitive decline. One day Mom answered, “I know you want me to say I’m in Chicago, but I’m not. I’m at home.” That said to us we were providing the kind of hospitality she needed.
Mom lived with us for six weeks. She was the first of several people we have invited to live with us during their final weeks on earth. There can be many precious moments as the end of a person’s earthly life approaches. We’re thankful for the opportunity to share those special times.