Thinking of the ‘H’ word

Published 2:00 pm Sunday, March 31, 2024

Hospice is a word not foreign to my vocabulary, but a word I choose to hide in a vault and let it wither from lack of use. I have reasons.  When Daddy’s terminal sickness destroyed the good health he had known, THAT word was given to the family as our only compassionate choice.

From a hospital bed in the familiar surroundings of his home, our family was guided by hospice workers in meeting Daddy’s last needs. His health was so deteriorated that there seemed so little we could do, but we sat and stood close — and talked to him until he drifted into a morphine-sleep.

Death was waiting nearby, knowing the hospice hours would become too painful to endure. I had threatened death to stay back, but he just kept waiting. He knew he was considered the darkest enemy, but he was also the solution to usher my daddy into a place Jesus had prepared — a place free from pain and sickness.

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I guess it’s the partnership that hospice and death have that makes me draw back from that “H” word. It deserves gratitude for its sensitive task, but I struggle with even using the word.

Othel’s dad was the next of our loved ones to need THAT word. He, too, slept calmly at home while gentle caretakers shared our pain. Again, death waited until it was his turn.  He came, and the hospice caretakers were finished. Their tasks were completed.

It seemed too soon, but THAT word was again our last option. This time it was Mother resting in a sun-filled room with birds serenading outside her window. It was spring, but winter in my heart. Somehow my experience with hospice should have prepared me for this path, but experience offers little solace with hospice days.

I was face-to-face with death again, and loathing the reality of his presence. I sensed the warmth of Jesus holding me — giving me strength, but the coldness of death was evident too. In just one breath, he was finished and gone. Hospice was terminated too.

It’s spring again. I’ve thought much about that spring as I’ve listened to the birds sing in our Brandon backyard, but I’ve read and reread about another spring happening that changed the world for everyone.

I don’t ever want to get used to the Savior’s death on the cross — the horror, pain and humiliation He endured because of His great love for me — for you. In His death, there was not a single act of kindness offered to Him — not one comforting gesture. He died alone and in agony.

“See from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and Love flow mingled down.

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?”

It would be appropriate for each of us to mentally survey the Wondrous Cross. It would remind us of His sorrow and agony in choosing a death that would leave Him dying without a single comforting word from loved one or friend. As for me, it adds a softer meaning to that “H” word. In fact, Jesus transformed that “H” word to a joyful one — Heaven!