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The Hospice Effect

24 May

        I had been thinking about becoming a hospice volunteer for a while. It would come to me as a passing thought every now and then that I would consider for a bit and then put aside. Little did I know just how soon and how clearly my indecision would be reconciled.

Our local hospice house is on the outskirts of town on what used to be a farm place. There is a windmill and a few trees but farm fields mostly surround the house.   And, it looks like a home – not a place of death. I had tour a shortly before it opened, but had no other contact with it, other than to read the obituaries of many a local who had spent their last days and hours there.

I had become familiar with death in the most painful of ways. My oldest daughter, Elizabeth, died in 2003 from smoke inhalation from to a fire in her duplex just a few blocks from the University of Minnesota where she had just begun her sophomore year. It truly was  a “baptism by fire” and an experience I wouldn’t wish on the fiercest of enemies.

Almost eight years have passed since that fateful day, and I have come to accept that the physical presence of my beautiful daughter is gone forever. Her spirit, however, continues to burn bold and bright in my life, giving me the needed comfort and peace I so desperately sought in those early days, weeks and months.

My 82-year-old mother-in-law, Betty, had several health problems, but she managed them completely on her own, and she lived in a beautiful apartment just a few blocks from our home. She didn’t leave home much, but she was fiercely independent and had a love for family that could not be rivaled.

On April 2nd, Betty was busy in her kitchen when she made a sudden turn, lost her balance, and fell to the floor. Luckily, she had a lifeline around her neck. She pushed it and it wasn’t long before the authorities were there to help get her to the hospital.

Our local hospital determined that her hip had been badly broken, and it would be best to transfer her to Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic, just a short 30-miles away.

It was so nice to know that she was receiving the best care the medical world could offer. She underwent surgery to repair her shattered hip. She came through with flying colors and we all breathed a sigh of relief and began to focus on what we thought would come next – a rehabilitation center to get her back on her feet again and a return to her home.

It became a rocky road however. Betty’s ongoing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as congestive heart failure (CHF), was wrecking havoc with her hip rehabilitation. She would be well enough to move to the rehab center, only after a few days to suffer intense breathing issues and end up back in the hospital. This cycle went on for an entire month.

Finally, as her family, we had to accept that, despite the fact that her hip was healing nicely, her breathing issues were not. In fact, they were chronic, and they would not improve, we were told. In fact, they would only get worse.

Betty was completely exhausted and we could all see that she couldn’t fight much longer.

Our thought pattern completely changed, and we knew that the best thing for Betty was a move to hospice to be pain free and comfortable. At that point, all we wanted was rest and peace for Betty, the matriarch of our family — a woman who was widowed at the young age of 50 after the sudden, unexpected death of my father-in-law Richard in 1979 from a heart attack.

I wasn’t that close to my mother-in-law, even though I had been a part of her family for over 30 years. Yet, that day, something compelled me to focus solely on her and I found myself continually standing at her right shoulder, patting her head, bringing cool cloths to keep her comfortable, and feeding her an occasional bite of ice cream.

The atmosphere at the hospice house was home-like and welcoming. The nurses and staff were there not only for Betty’s needs, but for ours as well. Even though we would only be with them for a short 12 hours, they very quickly felt like family.

I remember toying with the thought that, at some point, I would whisper in Betty’s ear to please give Liz a hug for me when she saw her.

With Betty resting comfortably and at the urging of the nurses, everyone except one daughter went home for the night. You need your sleep the nurses told us, and we agreed — but not until we decided that one of us would stay with Betty at all times.

Just a few short hours after returning home, our phone rang with the news that Betty was gone, she had slipped away during the early morning hours with her daughter asleep by her side.

After taking a few deep breaths and letting the news sink in, I realized that I no longer had the opportunity to ask Betty to hug Liz. As soon as I had that thought, however, I was immediately immersed with an intense sense of love and peace and the knowing that my mother-in-law was now with my daughter and she was indeed giving her that hug that I had only thought about.

A few seconds later that thought was gone. But, it was immediately replaced with a complete and utter sense of gratitude that I knew was my mother-in-law’s way of thanking me for helping her in her final hours..

My brother-in-law related a few days later, that although he had been on vacation in Georgia when he got the news, his intense sadness was quickly replaced by an extreme sense of peace – a peace given to him by his mother that there was no need to be sad. She was in a better place, she was no longer suffering, and she was reuniting with those she loved.

It’s been a few weeks now and these experiences have had the chance to sink in. My answer about becoming a hospice volunteer has clearly been answered, and I have begun the process to make that happen. Some day soon, I hope to provide the same peace and love that we received to other families who will move their loved one to hospice just as we did.

I consider it a gift — a gift given to me by God and by Betty.

I have been blessed, and now, I can be a blessing to others.

God At Work

31 Mar

A couple of weeks ago we had a speaker at our Compassionate Friends meeting.  Mitch Carmody lost his son Kelly to cancer in 1987 and he’s written a book entitiled, Letters to My Son.  I had read it several years ago and have wanted to meet Mitch for a very long time.  I contacted him last Fall and we set in motion his coming to town to speak to our group on March 14th.   Our local paper did a really nice front-page interview with Mitch that ran the day before our meeting.

We had a great turn out and the article brought out many more than our CF membership.  We had one couple attend who had not lost a child, but were about to.  The Harlicker’s have a 7 year old son, Tyler, in the final stages of a cancer battle.  When they read the article in the paper about Mitch, and the fact that he also lost a son from cancer, about the same age as Tyler, they felt compelled to attend as they said they felt it was a sign from God.
 
Everyone in town knows about Tyler and his cancer battle.  We have been praying for him for over a year in church every week.  Roger and I met Tim & Sue for the first time that night and they are amazing — very strong and we both were very touched at the openness with which they have dealt with this painful journey in ther family.  They have also talked very openly with Tyler and his brothers and sisters about his impending journey to heaven.
 
When Mitch Carmody’s son Kelly was in the midst of his cancer battle, he clutched a rosary and it brought tremendous comfort to him and his family.  Several years after Kelly passed Mitch came upon the rosary and began to lend it out to other people who were also fighting cancer or some other life crisis.  Some  were healed and sometimes the rosary became a very comforting symbol that helped them through the journey.
 
The rosary had been out on loan for the past three years.  However the week after Mitch spoke and met the Harlicker’s, the rosary was returned to him.  And, he immediately knew that it needed to go to Tyler.  The next day the Harlicker’s took a road trip with Tyler to meet Mich and his wife Barb and accept the rosary.  Tyler was able to see pictures of Kelly – who he knew would be his new friend in heaven.
 
Tyler completed his journey this past Tuesday and the rosary served the purpose for which it was intended.  Here is the heartbreaking but amazing account written by Tyler’s Dad, of Tyler’s transition from this world to the next.
 
http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/tylerharlicker/journal

Listen Live Tonight At 5!

3 May

I will be Suzane Northrop’s guest tonight on Blog Talk Radio. 

Listen Live at 5 pm CDT    OR    listen to the archived show

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/suzanenorthrop/2010/05/03/the-suzane-northrop-show

A Story That is Meant to be Shared!

13 Mar

Those of you who know me well, know that my greatest passions are sharing my stories of extraordinary connections to my daughter Liz and fire safety prevention.

I came across a story today that combines them both.  It is a wonderful story and for all of you skeptics out there, I hope it will make you stop and think, scratch your head, and wonder … maybe there is more to life than what can be seen?

http://www.fox11online.com/dpp/news/local/hero-boy-honored

Books N Beyond

28 Feb

There is a new book club starting up in town.  The first book selection is True Stories of Messages From Beyond by Julie Aydlott and Friends.

I have been asked to be the kick-off speaker this Thursday night at 7:00 pm at the Hy-Vee Club room.

Our paper did a story about it yesterday.

http://www.owatonna.com/news.php?viewStory=114857

Take A Soul Step With Me

25 Jan

I will be a guest on the radio program, Take a Soul Step with Me, hosted by Cathryn Taylor on Blog Talk Radio on Wednesday, January 27th at 5:00 pm CST.

Click below to listen to the show.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/healthandharmonynetwork/2010/01/27/take-a-soul-step-with-me-beyond-compassion

If you would like to learn more about Cathryn Taylor and her work please visit her website:

http://joincathryntaylor.com/

EnJOY your day!

Guest Blogger

3 Dec

I’ve been asked to provide some of my writing for two different blogs.  Both of them have been published this week.  Here are the links:

http://lesleehorner.wordpress.com/2009/12/03/kims-click/

http://moniquechapman.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/putting-the-pieces-of-the-puzzle-of-life-back-together/

If I get enough hits on Monique Chapman’s blog, I will be a guest on one of her radio shows!

Enjoy your day!

Dr. Louis LaGrand

30 Mar

Dr. Louis LaGrand is a world-renowned grief educator and author of eight books as well as numerous articles on the phenomenon of “extraordinary experiences of the bereaved” also known as after death communication.

I first learned of Dr. LaGrand’s work when he was a guest on Carolyn Carlson’s radio program, Life After Loss.

Since that time, I have had the opportunity to share  many of my own personal extraordinary grief experiences with Dr. LaGrand, and it has been a real blessing.

Dr. LaGrand also publishes monthly ezine articles that deal with the various aspects of grief, mourning, death, and dying – but most importantly he focuses on how to heal and live life in joy.

The topic of this month’s ezine was “What To Do If You Uncover A Secret About Your Deceased Loved One.”

Reading this article reminded me of an anonymous letter we received shortly after Liz’s death.

Dear Family of Elizabeth Wencl,

I know you must be feeling incredible amounts of grief right now, and I am so sorry about your loss.  But I never got a chance to sincerely thank Liz, so I want to thank the people who brought her into this world.

When I was in high school, Liz was a senior.  Liz didn’t know me, but I guess she knew my older sister a little.  I had a crush on one of Liz’s friends.  One night at a party he decided to take advantage of that.    I was very scared and very sad, and I was crying hysterically.

I knew nobody because they were all two years older, and the guy was too busy making fun of me to care.  Your daughter saved me.  Liz asked me if I was ok.  She sat and held me and talked to me and told me that it would be ok.   The next morning she took me out to breakfast and gave me her phone number and told me if I needed anything I could call her.

To some people this may not seem like a big deal, but it was to me.  Your daughter, without knowing me, took me in under her wing.

Liz was an amazing girl.  Maybe someone in heaven needed her, like I needed her that night.  But like I said, I never got a chance to truly thank her, so I want to thank you for bringing her into this world and for bringing her up to be such a wonderful and caring girl.

The world will truly miss her.

To this day I have no idea who this girl is.  And although I am so sorry she had such a traumatic experience, I am so thankful that she was brave enough to send us such a wonderful letter.

Everyone who knew Liz, knew she loved to party … way too much.  But the fact that she was able to help someone else as she did, says alot about her true character.   As her family we are so blessed to have had her in our lives.

To learn more about Dr. LaGrand, his work and his books check out:

http://www.extraordinarygriefexperiences.com

Make Your Day Great!

A Wise Teacher

1 Mar

In the realm of metaphysical thinking, everything is happening just as it should.  We often times can’t fathom that because we tend to see the world from a narrow perspective (or at least I do).

But I really believe this is true … everything happens for a reason … we just don’t always know what that reason is because we aren’t privy to the bigger picture.  But trusting that all is right with the world at all times brings a strong sense of peace and calm to life.

God does provide us with everything that we need.  He brings people and experiences to us on occasion and if we allow them in, amazing things happen.   A very wise and wonderful woman came into my life at just the right time.  Her name is Kathryn Harwig, and she has helped me more than anyone on the planet to widen my view of this world, to “see” the world in a new way, and to know that all is right with the world and with me.

If you would like to get to know her a little better, click on the link below and watch the 8 different You Tube videos.  It will give you a sneak peak into this wonderful world and will perhaps help to remove the side shields from your view of the world and take in something new and different.

http://www.thegigstunk.com/Listen_and_Watch.html/

I Hugged Liz Last Night

22 Feb

I seldom dream it seems … if I do the memories are fleeting.

But last night I remembered.  It truly was a dream and not a visitation.  It was fragmented, it didn’t make alot of sense, but Liz was there.  All I remember is thinking I need to go back and check on our house to see if anyone was there.  There were dirty dishes sitting on every table as well as dirty clothes.  But then there she was.  As I push myself to try to remember all of the details I recall her hair as seeming short and very curly, but still sandy blonde.  She was wearing a pair of jean shorts and a summer top … it was a blue plaid.  She was not wearing glasses as she always has in past dreams or visits.

As soon as I saw her I ran up and hugged her and told her how much I loved her and how much I missed her — which is what I would choose to tell her … or I do choose to tell her … always.  It is always what is most important. 

My dream didn’t end abruptly as they usually seem to do – in fact I don’t remember much of anything else after that … but none of that matters to me.  What matters is that I got to hug my daughter last night and tell her how much I love her and miss her. 

It doesn’t get any better than that!

Make your day great!