We all hope that those we love will have access to the best possible care at the end of life. But what does that look like? What does it feel like? We think maybe Chuck Haacker knows. We thank him for letting us show you his Agrace experience:
A week ago, my bride of 46+ years, Daphne, passed away in our loving arms. All of our loving arms.
My son and I took turns staying with her, and we were both with her at the moment she passed. She came to Agrace to die, and die she did, of complications of dementia. She was visited daily by her family, but the real constant presence, around the clock, was Agrace staff.
Daphne came to Agrace from the hospital kitten-weak, but still feisty, physically fighting being “cared for” and swearing like a Marine. Staff stroked her hair and skin, spoke gently to her, told her exactly what they were doing and why, and managed each time to calm her enough to do what needed to be done. She probably still hated it, but those of us quietly observing were consistently impressed with the genuine love shown by staff, even for a very crotchety, dying old lady.
She hated being an Old Lady. In our youth and vigor we really have no concept of what it is to grow old. Aches. Pains. Eyesight. Hearing. Stomach. Hair. Fear of falling. At some point I realized I was old. I suspect we all do. But we don’t feel old; not mentally. I’m 75 but I still feel, oh, 35-ish. I still want to DO stuff. So did Daphne. We had miles to go, but were derailed by a stupid, irreversible disease.
We had visits from social workers and doctors and nurse practitioners and spiritual & grief counselors. We had access to quiet rooms and a library. When our beloved daughter-in-law arrived with our 18-month-old granddaughter, no one asked her to quiet down. We were constantly asked, “How are YOU? Are you eating? Are you getting some rest?”
Afterward, when you ceremoniously rolled Daphne out, I could hear her stifling a giggle. She would have been by turns deeply touched and amused. “For ME?” she would have said, “Oh, gosh, don’t do that.” Thus I was, by turns, deeply touched, and amused, but mostly grateful. That procession past staff standing silently at attention was very moving, and, I suspect, also very Agrace.
Daphne’s death was long-expected, so there wasn’t the crushing shock of sudden death, but there’s a certain weirdness. We have all cried, but we stop, then start again. We know she is not here, and that knowledge sometimes washes over like a wave on the shore, then recedes.
I know Daphne was always—inside—that young, intelligent, funny, vibrant young woman I fell in love with all those years ago. If the soul survives the death of the body, I hope she went to the light.
Thank you all, again, from all of Daphne’s family, and many others who loved and miss her.
— Chuck Haacker