written by Ginger Keller Gannaway
As we wash our hands to the lyrics of 20-second songs at least 32 times a day, make our own hand sanitizer, and contemplate buying a bidet, we must consider our spiritual and emotional needs as well as our physical ones.
According to John Steinbeck, “A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.”
Ever since Friday, March 13 when Dad’s skilled nursing facility personnel met family and friends in the parking lot to tell us that we could not visit our loved ones through at least March, I have worried about my father’s mental health as much as his physical health. That day, as I held a milkshake for Dad in my hand, I thought, “OMG! I have not explained the Coronavirus pandemic to him! He’ll think we’ve forgotten him!” I have been visiting him at least every other day since September of 2019, and when I ask what he’d like me to bring him next time I come, he answers, “Just bring Pooskie.” (That’s his nickname for me that made me cringe when I was in high school).
During most visits, I’d wash his face, comb his bed-hair, and encourage him to eat more of that day’s breakfast or lunch. Also, I’d refill his blue Wonder Woman water bottle with fresh ice water. Our talk would begin with me saying, “Tell me something good.” He’d give me a predictions for the Kentucky Derby winner; details about life in Ville Platte or Eunice, or a random bit of Louisiana history, “Governor Jimmie Davis got elected because of a song.” We did not fill all our time with talking. We’d look out the window or watch black and white movies on TCM. I’d hold his huge hand and he’d give me a tight squeeze.
Even though he’s 92 years old, bed-ridden, and has lost at least 40 pounds this past year, when I ask him how’s he’s doing, he somehow answers, “Things couldn’t be better.” He never fails to smile and say,“Hey, Pooskie,” when I arrive and “Thanks for coming,” as I leave.
So this last Friday I feared the “no visiting” precautions would send him into a depression. However, I totally underestimated the power of Brookdale Hospice. My dad’s team led by Ali, his smiling and very attentive nurse, have been miracle workers! Ali answers my texts quickly, and on Friday the 13th she was able to visit Dad. She explained the health crisis, checked his vitals, chatted, and gave him fresh ice water. A few days later Armistead, his music therapist, FaceTimed me and he and Dad sang to me! From Dad’s favorite “You Are My Sunshine” to a song I didn’t realize Dad knew (“San Antonio Rose”), they serenaded me for thirty minutes while I fought to hold back my tears. Then the next day Whitney, who gives him bed baths, texted and sent me a picture of a clean shaven Dad wearing his favorite purple shirt (“Geaux, Tigers!”) Also, Ali will tell the Hospice social worker Courtney to FaceTime me during her visits.
Dad calls the young, beautiful, and cheerful Hospice caretakers, “Doll” “Sugar Foot” and “Love Bug,” terms of endearment that let him off the hook for not remembering names. Also, he remembers to tell Armistead that his guitar playing and singalongs are the highlight of his week!
I cannot keep the guilt about Dad being “in a home” from clouding my mind at times, yet I believe he is in a safe place where the staff cares about him and keeps him comfortable. And in addition to meeting his physical needs, the facility and his Hospice miracle workers take care of his emotional/spiritual needs. They stay connected with our family and make sure all our souls can smile.
14 thoughts on “No Sad Souls Here”
Wonderful news that uncle reggie is doing good – despite the corona!! Will keep the prayers coming and well wishes for all of you 🙏🙏😊💕
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Thank you so , Gina! I pray for you and your loved ones. You pray for me and mine. A big round world of love & support!
Hey Ginger, Such a difficult time. Thank you for sharing about all your topics but this one about not being able to see your dad was a really good one for me. I think there are tons of folks in our age range that have parents and loved ones receiving care in facilities. I am so happy for you and your dad that you have found such a good place and he can be safe and well served there. Keep the wonderful writing coming. I look forward to seeing your sittinuglysistahs. Hope you, Gary and your kids all remain healthy and things will get better for all soon.
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Thanks for reading and your wise comment. Dad continues to be positive every time we talk. Gary and I and the boys are fine. I hope you & Ernie are handling the social distancing challenges. Can “shelter in place” be far behind?
I loved this post, Ginger! Thanks for the update on PaPa. I was worried about his mental health too, and in fact, called him yesterday and we chatted for 4 minutes! I’m so glad to hear the staff there is doing a good job. And I want to know more about music therapy. I think that is a wonderful idea.
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Jessie, I think of you and your wonderful 3 boys so often. How are you holding up? Are you homeschooling now!!?? How is Luke? He’s on the ‘front line’ now. Let’s talk soon! I can tell you more about the music therapy. Love you lots!!!
Ginger, God bless you during this journey with your dad. I went through the same thing last fall with mine. He passed September 25. I visited dad every day while he was in a facility for 3 years, doing many of the same things you are. Signed him up for Hospice 10 months prior. Yes, Hospice folks are a VERY special breed of humanity and care-givers! Quite helpful to ME and my dad. Communications with them got me through it. Can’t imagine what it would have sounded like hearing “you can’t visit your loved ones”. Stay strong always! Prayers to all!
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So so sorry about the loss of your Dad. I’m surprised how well my dad sounds during our phone calls twice a day. I think more relatives are calling him AND he’s picking up the landline phone every time! Without the Hospice help, I don’t think we would be finding solace during these crazy times. Thanks so much for the prayers and for reading!
you are a wonderful, thoughtful, caring daughter. Thank you for sharing this story. The end of life journey is one that we all will go through. I think your dad is very lucky to have you so close. And now its not physically, but he is certainly feeling your love spiritually.
Thanks so much for reading and for the encouragement. I know that you know what I’m going through with Dad. Your patient listening these past 29 years!!! (can you believe it?) have given me more wisdom and support and laughter than you can imagine!! (AND always better hair!) Thank you so much! XOXO Ginger
How blessed your father and you are, as you continue to make cherished memories.
Thank you, thank you for reading and for your sweet response!
Prayers for my good friend,Peace be with you
Merci beaucoup! I will tell Dad you sent prayers. Take care back home!