We want to share a touching story about how a small act of kindness from a hospice nurse helped one woman see her dying father through his final days.
When Maureen O’Rourke’s father got sick from Alzheimer’s disease, she promised she would stay by his side until the end. A Registered Nurse, she felt she could provide him with the comfort he needed.
“My dad was a typical Massachusetts Irishman. Very stubborn, very opinionated but also very emotional,” writes O’Rourke. “Over time it became obvious he had Alzheimer’s disease. When he developed pneumonia and was taken to the hospital, I talked with him about his last wishes. He did not want to be on a ventilator or have feeding tubes so they transferred him to a nursing home.”
Over the next few weeks, her father started hallucinating. “He was gasping for air all the time so I called in the hospice team.” The hospice team told O’Rourke her dad was going to pass away peacefully in a day or two.
But weeks later O’Rourke’s father was still alive. She was “basically living at the nursing home, napping in a chair while attending to all of his physical needs, holding his hand. And he was just gasping, gasping.”
But her father “just kept hanging on. Nothing to eat, nothing to drink, but he was not going anywhere. And we’re jokingly telling him ‘Uncle Ed’s waitin’ for ya…he’s got a tee time.’ But he wasn’t going anywhere.”
So after three weeks, O’Rourke “was just spent. I had a lot of support from my brother, my cousins, my friends were texting me all the time. But it just isn’t enough to sustain you,” she writes. “I was exhausted physically and emotionally, and — though I had promised him that he would not die alone, I was beginning to think this was not possible.”
The night before O’Rourke’s birthday, she was at a breaking point, thinking, “This is it. I couldn’t do it anymore.” She was trying to figure out how to tell her father, “You know I love you. I’m sorry, I know I made this promise, but I just can’t really keep it.”
Then a nurse came into her father’s room, “she was leaving for the evening. She came in to say goodbye to me and slipped me this little brown bag.” In it was a small bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream.
The nurse said, “This is just for you. You know, maybe you could drink this and you’ll be able to get a little sleep tonight.”
“She went and got this herself,” writes O’Rourke. “This had nothing to do with work. This was just a human connection. Whatever the reason, it meant she saw I was suffering, too, that it was difficult for me, and so I drank my Bailey’s Irish Cream that night. I stayed with my dad, it was a very, very difficult night, but my dad died at 7:00 the next morning.”
After her father passed away, “it really struck me. Without that small gesture of kindness from this nurse, I probably would have left that night, and my dad would have died alone,” writes O’Rourke. “That seemingly small gesture was incredibly important to me, and is something that I will never forget.”
Read the story here.