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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

In The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Nursing-homeMy heart goes out to those who are in the waning years of their life. Often, their families try to arrange the best care possible— whether at home or in a retirement or assisted care facility. It’s a tough call.

My mother-in-law has been living in such an assisted-living home for the past five years. In her mid-90s, with a birthday in a few days, she has not been tremendously conscious for many of our visits. But still we go and chat and pray and reminisce.

I mean, if comatose individuals can wake up and recall most everything that has happened to them while in that state, who says she can’t hear us if she appears to be sleeping off and on?

So over the weekend, Benedetto’s sisters called us. The nurses reported that his mother recently stopped eating. She had done that before, but this time it looked serious. The professionals gave her less than a week to live.

Neither sister could travel to see their mother; one lived far away and the other had just arrived to a vacation destination. All was temperednursing home by the knowledge that their mother was pretty out of it. That’s how my husband ended up reassuring his sisters that our family would make the trek to see her.

I received a text message about the seriousness of the situation while driving on a multi-hour trip with my eldest son. Benedetto had gotten word in his vehicle while he was motoring with the rest of the kids and dogs. Petya fielded my text message as I dictated responses that he dutifully typed back to his father. On top of an already-long travel day, we finished an important meeting, fed the kids Chinese take-out so that they could go to bed, finally heading to the airport to make further arrangements before midnight. Long story.

nursing_homeEarly the next day, we dropped Petya at work and steamed toward my mother-in-law’s bedside. Wonderful facility that it is, they allow us to take the dogs in, as well, every time. Misha, of course, hates it and starts shaking uncontrollably as though he’s going to the vet or something, although he never shakes when visiting a doctor, perhaps because he receives treats there, too. But this time, he shook for only a couple of minutes. The kids put he and Grisha down on the floor rather than hold them like the big Scottish Terrier babies that they are. It seemed to help.

Maybe they knew this was a special visit.

The children speak with Babushka, telling her of their latest accomplishments and activities. She does not stir, sleeping through it all. We parents follow-up by giving her our own accounting of what’s new, in addition to telling her we love her. It’s not as though she’s drugged out of it; the nurses can’t even get her to open her mouth to take any medication. She’s simply tired and her body is saying: enough.

We adjourn to the nurse’s station, thanking the nurse who had put the word out to the family. The two of us explain that we are probably elderly-carethe only ones who will be able to come.

“She might have been waiting for you,” she acknowledges.

We turn and retire to the tree-shaded, lovely lawn where the children are walking the dogs. They tell us of another friend they met, a social worker that we often see when visiting. Both of us decide to return inside and check on her, since we know that her daughter and husband were suffering some serious health issues. We sit with this dear young lady who offers so much encouragement to so many and give her our best support.

At last, it’s time to go. Turning down another hallway, I suggest to Benedetto: “One more time.”

We turn into her new room, 104B, and he bends down to kiss her forehead.

handsShe stirs. Her eyes slightly open. He speaks with her, an only son thanking his mother for her many years of love and dedication. He recites Psalm 23, stopping for some reason before he gets to “the valley of the shadow of death” and inserting a couple of other verses about “…with long life will I satisfy you and show you My salvation”.

I caught that.

We take our leave, ready for another long trip, but not before another resident wheels her chair over and pours out in Italian problem after problem. She is troubled and confused and so I do what I do best, “Noi preghiamo…”, we pray, I tell her.

And so it goes at the home-away-from-home where my mother-in-law awaits her repose.

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