This past week has reinforced my view that, in order to be our best selves, and to deliver truly patient-centered care, it’s important to share your gifts. After 21 months of hospitalizations and brief stays in nursing homes, we brought my sister Elizabeth home to die. Knowing we would have only about five good days before the big decline, my brothers and sisters gathered to say their goodbyes. I have nine siblings. Add spouses, cousins and close friends to the mix and you can imagine the steady stream of visitors we had.
Elizabeth was overjoyed to be able to say goodbye to people who mattered so much – and to do it in her own home. This leg of the journey would not have been possible without the support of so many people willing to share their gifts in order to grant Elizabeth’s final wishes.
I’ll admit that when I first conceived the idea of bringing her home instead of inpatient hospice, I was scared that we may not be able to handle the level of care needed. But I’m a nurse, so that means rising to the challenge and giving it my all. With the help of two of my daughters, and daily visits from hospice, we provided the 24 hour nursing care needed to keep her comfortable and safe at home.
A skilled delegator, I have no problem showing others how they can be of help. Note: my siblings may not refer to me as a skilled delegator, more like – Miss Bossy Pants, but somebody had to take charge.
The beautiful thing is that we all gathered to give Elizabeth a beautiful, meaningful send off. I recognize that not everyone is comfortable providing physical care. And that is fine. My message is that there is always something you CAN give to be part of the mission. For example, one of my daughters made meals to feed the caregivers and guests. Her cooking and baking was incredibly nurturing and helped care for us caregivers. Other family members kept up with errands, cleaning and laundry. This helped create a sense of much-needed order.
Because Elizabeth loved music, my brother and niece played acoustic guitar and sang to her at her bedside. Others read and shared stories even when she could no longer respond. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”
Together, we used our collective gifts to allow her the dignified passing she so deserved. Author, psychotherapist and beloved sister, Elizabeth Fixmer passed away August 12 at home, surrounded by family. Rest in peace Elizabeth.