As you know from her obituary, our dear friend Loretta died recently after four years of living with a cancer that her oncologist told her was not curable. She struggled mightily, but finally succumbed after seven months in home hospice and almost three weeks at the hospice home.
A large parade, perhaps menagerie, of people came to see Loretta there. A non-inclusive list includes a retired priest, a friend who had moved to Florida, the father of Loretta’s ten-year old God-daughter ( and sometimes the mother and sometime the ten-year old herself ), current pastor of a little French church in downtown St Paul, the director of the Department of Liturgy at the Basilica of St Mary, the mother of a female Chicago Police Officer ( both daughter and mother had been in RCIA at the Cathedral with Loretta ), and a middle-aged brother and sister who were born in Lithuania. Because we know Loretta, we know almost all of these people. The ones we didn’t know adopted us almost immediately. These friends brought so much love the room could not hold all of it. Their love overflowed to Ellie and me often and in varied ways, including: taking Ellie’s clothing home and laundering it; bringing food for our sustenance; offering to pray over Loretta with us; praying over Loretta and anointing her; offering to regularly keep vigil well after visiting hours so Ellie could get some sleep in the lounge on a much more comfortable sofa than was available in Loretta’s room; keeping watch so Ellie and I could have some time, which included going to Loretta’s to spend time with her cats. This so touched me it brought tears to my eyes and brings tears to my eyes still when I think of it.
We initially went to the home, we were thinking, for a couple to three days, to get Loretta’s pain under control. It soon became apparent that returning home, with Ellie caring for Loretta as she had been doing, was not viable. It became apparent even sooner, and this is not a knock, that although the place was very nice, it was a place. Loretta didn’t want to die in a place; she wanted to die at home. There’s a song, “You can’t always get what you want.” This want was going to be denied.
The staff at the home was wonderful, very caring, very hospitable, and able to figure out what both Loretta needed for pain control and we needed to be able to keep our watch. The social services person was a gem; the spiritual guide was a woman that both Loretta and Ellie knew from one of the parishes around town.
Ellie had lived with her for the last seven months of her life, stayed with her at the hospice home, and was with her when she died. They were alone. It was a fitting end to a life very well lived.
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