Joan’s Journey

by Allisa Nathan 

Our experience with hospice as we navigated the end of life with my mother-in-law is beautiful, tiring, sad, full of relief and many emotions in between! 

We were so blessed to have CWHT staff, one and all become our guides to travel through the new and unfamiliar territory of Joan’s end of life. They became a collective help for our family as we made decisions and watched the slow decline of our family member. 

We were so grateful for the gentle care provided by the CNA’s, Nurses, and administrators. They do so many thankless tasks, often unseen by anyone and yet they choose to go above and beyond. Some of these noteworthy acts included making sure that facial hair was kept tidied, special aromatherapy scented lotions were used in cares, and night staff took quiet hours to hold Joan’s hand. And milkshake after milkshake was carefully blended with as many calories as could be crammed into a single cup, all to satisfy the sweet tooth she’d developed. 

They wanted to know our Joanie. They encouraged us to share stories of Joan’s life to know her better and interact with in her in ways that she’d have preferred if she’d been more communicative. Birthdays were celebrated, holidays observed, and conversations shared. We learned of talents as personal violin concerts were generously performed. Night or day we witnessed extraordinary care and found community, friendship, compassion, and understanding. 

The kindness was not just for patients, I knew that the mission of hospice was genuinely tailored to care for people and families as they faced the uncertainties of the end-of-life journey. 

Week after week, month after month we were comforted by these many kindnesses. But for me the culmination came in Joan’s final hours. At the sweet suggestion of one of the staff Joan was wheeled out in her bed to enjoy the warm July heat on the patio next to a trickling fountain. For hours we enjoyed that peaceful setting. As our family members sat and visited, we had staff member after staff member come to say their goodbyes. Joan was hugged and kissed and cried over with all the tenderness that two years of care had generated in this loving crew. She was honored in such a personal way. Even employees who were not working that day stopped in to bid her farewell. We were able to visit with and express thanks to each person. And because we were outdoors, for the first time we saw their faces without masks. It was an unforgettable experience. To me it seemed that she was royal- queen for just one day. 

In life Joan had been a social worker, a kind Christian and a selfless human being to family, friends, and strangers alike. That day on the patio I could clearly see that all those seeds of kindness she’d carefully and intentionally sown in her 90 years were returned to her in the final years. She truly reaped what she’d sown. It was a tribute fitting of royalty.