Last December, I found myself sitting at the hospice bedside with my grandfather. He fought a month-long battle with COVID-19, and although he tested negative before his release from the hospital, he passed a short time after. Anticipatory grief hit our family hard when the doctor told us he wouldn’t survive more than three days after being released to home hospice. It sounds strange that this is the way you want to see a loved one go, but it really is. I’ve experienced death but never this way. Death and grief are so tricky, but the beauty of hospice is comfort for your loved ones as they make the transition out of this world.
I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in nutrition years ago. I am notorious for preaching about the beauty of green smoothies and lean protein. I actually had this moment of denial when my grandfather was released from the hospital that I would somehow create some vegetable concoction to heal his dying body. I thought he had been eating hospital food and hadn’t felt the sun on his face in weeks. That’s probably all he needs right now. Denial, a process of grieving that I had to work through. The hospice nurse walked into my grandparent’s home and brought this sense of peace with her. I thought to myself, why would anyone want this job? Taking care of people that are inevitably dying sounds awful… my thoughts on day one. She held my grandfather’s hand, unshaken by the dying process, and offered compassion I’d never seen before. She knew he wasn’t going to make it out of this room, and he would spend his last days here surrounded by family; she was excited for him to enjoy his final moments with an overflowing amount of love.
She left my family a small box that would have everything we needed to help him through his last few days. I found myself passing meds every few hours, cleaning and feeding him when he couldn’t do it on his own, and just sitting there talking with him about how quickly life passes. I saw the “textbook” dying process and found myself admiring nurses more than ever. Just one week into caring for my grandfather in hospice, I knew this was something I wanted to do. Not just for my grandfather but for many others. I wrote my admission essay and applied to an accelerated BSN program the next day. The mix of caring for my grandfather, watching the role of the hospice nurses, and realizing that life is too short to not just go for it, had me making quick decisions. Within weeks I had received an acceptance letter.
A year has passed since I lost my grandfather, and I am already halfway through the nursing program I applied for during his last few days of life. I spent the first few weeks of my adult health clinical on the COVID floor, a place my grandfather knew oh too well. It was a bittersweet moment that I never shared with my preceptors. Nursing school is tough, but moms are tougher. This whole season has been a reminder of that. If we can raise tiny humans, we can do anything! I’m excited about this next chapter, and I am ready to bring another compassionate heart to nursing.