Hospice is not a scary word.

“Hospice” is not a scary word. Way back in our language, it meant “lodging for travelers,” especially lodging provided by monastic orders. It’s always been associated with comfort, a place to stay and rest on your journey. Forbes Hospice has provided that comfort for us now with its home hospice program. We entered it because Jarvis could no longer get his chemo down; he could no longer eat anything. In the great battle between cancer and modern therapies, it seems that cancer was getting the upper hand

I wonder if Jarvis had been younger than 77, he would have been better able to fight this evil invader. He always seems so much younger than that old-sounding number

Medicare pays for everything associated with home hospice care (because it’s a fraction of the cost of hospital or institutional care). Medical Supply came and delivered a hospital bed, wheel chair etc. for the anteroom to our bedroom. Which means the junkman could come for that pink sofabed nobody ever liked.

Jarvis is not in pain. Occasionally he feels discomfort from lying in bed so much. He gets restless. Sometimes he feels anxious. When I asked him what he felt anxious about, he said, “Dying.” I wish I had asked whether he meant the physical part or the after part. I did ask about his minister but he didn’t want me to call him yet. The hospice pharmacy delivered an emergency box of stronger medicines than oxycontin, so that if Jarvis becomes seriously agitated or his pain worsens, we could immediately give him something stronger. I told him about the emergency box.

Over the course of the last few days, a social worker has been here, then a nurse came, then an aide to bathe and shave Jarvis. Named Megan, the social worker was a young pretty woman with a nice way about her.  But the aide: what a drill sergeant she was!!  I heard her barking orders to Jarvis, louder and louder the way you would to someone who couldn’t understand you.   But Jarvis understood all right and doesn’t want her back.  She was competent, but hard.

Jarvis looks wonderful and clean and he’s sleeping now in his new digs.  I have to laugh.  In a way he looks like Dozier napping in his crate. Jarvis’s daughter, Missy arrived last Friday, and Betsy comes Wednesday. Devin & Malin are flying in from California either this coming Sunday or Monday; my daughter, Allison, lives in Pittsburgh and has been a constant support. Jarvis has everything he wants. He woke up one day asking for a strawberry milkshake; Missy or I can always run out and get him one. He took about a teaspoonful of his last strawberry shake. Otherwise he sips water and Gatorade. Nothing else.

All Jarvis’s senses are heightened, it seems. Caretakers like me have to keep especially clean and sweet-smelling. I had hand cream on my hands this morning after my shower, and Jarvis smelled it when I handed him pills, although I had shaken them into a little egg cup. He asked me what a new glow on the floor was. It was from a monitor Missy bought for us, the kind used for babies. It’s a Fisher-Price design.

“That’s for children!” Jarvis exclaimed. “And sick puppies,” I told him. Jarvis is the dearest sick puppy you could ever imagine. I am so happy Jarvis can stay at home, with me, in our bed at night. He can still walk to his hospital crate “day bed” when the afternoon sun slants through the skylight across our real bed and makes it too hot to sleep there.

For me, being so busy is how I avoid thinking.  Friends and neighbors bring food (which Missy and I eat gratefully), and they keep us company; they visit Jarvis, call and email. It helps so much. The only bad part is that then Jarvis realizes even more vividly what he has to leave. That is very, very hard. Yet Jarvis never takes more Oxycontin than he absolutely needs. Despite the awful sadness, and some fear, he wants to be really clear and with us. There has never been a better human being on this earth.