A Beautiful Ride Redux

Susan came home from the hospital on Friday, exactly one week ago yesterday. It was a beautiful, sunny spring day in California; So when the hospital transport lady and the nurse on duty wheeled Sue out in a wheelchair, dressed in a matching pink and white striped pajama top and bottom and shocking yellow non-slip socks, she tilted her head back and enjoyed the sunshine and the gentle spring breeze running through the hospital breezeway. We loaded Sue into the car and slowly drove home.

The ride home had that surreal, slow-motion feel to it. Sue looked carefully at the hospital and its landscaping, at trees loaded with delicate pink blossoms, at fruitless plum trees in splendid first purple leaf. She looked at them as you might look at scenery you don’t expect to see again, committing them to memory. Even the flowers in our neighborhood and in our own front yard looked especially colorful and pretty. We had quite a collection of flower bouquets under the front porch roof, lining the path to our front door. As I took Sue inside in the wheelchair and got her situated in her new bed, she commented what a nice day it was, and what a beautiful ride we had home from the hospital.

Friday morning I had received delivery of the hospice hospital bed, rolling hospital-style overbed table, commode, wheelchair, and supplies. Saint Agnes Hospice provides everything, including medications, syringes for PEG tube feeding and administering medications, pill grinders, disposable gloves, disposable bed pads, disposable diapers, Jevity isotonic nutrition (with fiber) etc. After we got Sue home and situated in bed, a hospice nurse came to the house to give me an orientation and training. Then I was on my own for the weekend. Saturday morning Sue and I interviewed a couple of the in-home-care workers I had contacted previously. We hired one lady, Saroj, to start Monday morning at 8. The in-home-care workers are the only thing not covered by insurance.

Saroj has worked for a week now, from 8 to 4. She’s experienced doing in-home care, and she’s very caring. She was referred by one of our pastors, and we really appreciate having her help. Both Saroj and I have noticed how much Sue’s condition, particularly her physical strength, has decreased during the course of this first week. When Sue came home last Friday she couldn’t use her legs or her left arm, and she couldn’t swallow, but she could still use her right arm a little and had enough core body strength to sit up by herself in the wheelchair or on the commode. I got her dressed and took her to Church last Sunday in the wheelchair. She slumped over and slept on my shoulder for part of the service, but she was happy to be there. By Wednesday Sue’s right arm also stopped working, her speech was getting slurred, she had become incontinent, and she had lost her core body strength. By today, she was like a rag doll when we got her up. Saroj got her dressed though and took her outside in the wheelchair to see her flowers. But we had to strap her to the back of the wheelchair using the safety lifting belt to make sure she didn’t fall out of the wheelchair. After 15 minutes outside she was worn out and had fallen back to sleep. So we put her back to bed.

Her recent conversations with visitors don’t always track well, and sometimes she doesn’t have much to say at all. But still, amazingly, every visitor gets a warm welcome and a smile and some kind of happy greeting. Ask her how she’s doing and she’ll tell you “Good. Good. I’m happy.” Everyone, from family to visitors to hospice workers, have commented how content and at peace she seems.

It doesn’t seem fair that such a beautiful person would be knocked down like this. But it’s another sunny spring day, and Sue’s not consumed with self pitty. She is at peace. She’s at peace with her circumstances, and with her decisions, and with the world, and with God. She’ll greet you with a warm smile and thank you for coming, then drift back into an oblivious, pain-free contented sleep.

As I sit here looking out the window at the late afternoon, and see the trees and roses and flowers in bloom with spring leaves and colors back-lit by the waning sun, and hear the neighborhood birds and squirrels and dogs, and I think of the hundreds of people out there somewhere, you blog readers included, who have prayed for Sue and whose prayers for her are being answered beautifully, if not differently than we hoped or imagined, I am again reminded of the Gary Allan song “Life Ain’t Always Beautiful” I blogged about last June under the blog title “A Beautiful Ride.”

“No, life ain’t always beautiful
Tears will fall sometimes
Life ain’t always beautiful
But it’s a beautiful ride”
“What a beautiful ride”