I've been out of town handling family things and unable to post for a few weeks. I am working on writing something about that, which may or may not ever get posted. But one thing I did want to write about was some of what I've learned in the last 2 weeks. If you know of anyone who is caring for a terminally ill person, or dealing with the death of a loved one, these things are good to know.
1. Food is good. For some reason, the idea of taking food to people seems old-fashioned. I suppose since it's easy to get take-out, or order something for home delivery these days, bringing food might not seem necessary. But trust me, it is SO welcomed and needed. During times of crisis, the last thing you are thinking about is food. You don't even feel like ordering out, let alone cooking something. Sometimes you don't even have an appetite. But if someone brings you a roasted chicken, you'll eat it. A neighbor even brought us some take-out pasta, apologizing for not having made it herself, but we didn't care. We ate every bite of it. From now on, I am going to try to take food to anyone I know that is going through serious family illness or death. It's such an easy thing to do, but it really does go a long way.
2. Send a card. Or write a note. Or call. When you feel overwhelmed, confused, sad, angry, exhausted, or whatever, it makes you feel good to know that your friends and family are thinking about you. Don't assume that they know you are, make a point of telling them. A short note, a card, or even a voicemail message to let them know you care is critical to their well being during tough times.
3. Be specific. I know I've said it many times to people, and I always mean it: "If there is anything I can do, don't hesitate to call." Funny though how 99.9% of the time, they never call. While it is still nice to hear that help is available if you need it, most people won't call and ask for it. So if you can, offer something very specific instead. ("Can I call some caterers for you?" Can I bake some cookies for the wake?") It's hard to think clearly when you are dealing with so much, and often you don't even know what help you might need. Even if it's something that seems minor, it probably will be a big help.
4. Hospice rules. Everyone I've spoken to that has had an experience working with any hospice organization seems to agree: they are incredible. The kind of work they do is unbelievably difficult. It most definitely takes a special kind of person, and unless you love it you probably don't do it for long. All of the people that we dealt with were patient, kind, caring, and really supportive. If you ever have a chance to give back to a hospice organization, do it. It is a very worthy cause.