The people we have had the privilege of caring for have touched our lives forever.
Hence, the genesis of our blog; we are asked over and over, “ How do you do it?”
So we have dedicated our website to answer those questions, to share our daily walk while protecting their privacy and well-being and bringing anything of inspiration to our readers.
Let us inspire you today by telling you about Thelma and James.
James was our patient. He was 91 years old and was being cared for by his 88 year old wife Thelma. They had been married for 71 years.
When Thelma was 17 years old, she and James had her parents meet them at the court house to sign papers allowing their young daughter to get married.
Thelma proclaimed she had “loved James since she was fourteen”. She noticed him right away as he was the star player for the basketball team at their school. She often spoke of his “moves” on and off the court.
Thelma had beautiful, piercing blue eyes, as did James. They both said it was love at first sight.
She dedicated herself to James and their three children, Sherry, John, and Karen. Thelma was a proud homemaker, while James became a professional painter and opened his own business.
Their means were modest and their home was full of love.
When James became our hospice patient, he was already weak and frail. Thelma had to assist him to get out of the bed and then walk with him the short distance to his favorite recliner, all the while being mindful of his oxygen tubing.
James was 6 foot 3 and Thelma 5 foot. She would dress him, feed him, bathe him and give him his medicine with pride. He belonged to her, and she belonged to him; everyone knew this.
Their primary goal was to keep and care for James in their home. James wanted to pass in their “marital bed”.
Sadly one day Thelma fell in their kitchen and fractured her hip requiring surgery. She was in the hospital, then in rehab for many weeks.
James and Thelma were grieving; they had never spent a night away from each other.
Their children took turns staying with James and caring for him. They even took James to see Thelma at the hospital and then at the rehab facility as long as he could tolerate it. Sadly, the day came when James became completely bed bound.
Thelma tried to speak to James on the phone but he was so hard of hearing that it just frustrated them both.
James was her drive and strength to get better. She wanted to resume her role as Caregiver.
He still belonged to her!
Thelma was shocked and devastated to see how he had changed, now bedridden, speaking only a few words and in a whisper. The worst part for Thelma: he no longer knew who she was.
Thelma fell into great depression. No medicine could help her broken heart.
Her children then broke the news to Thelma that it was time for she and James to move in with their son John and his wife. They were the healthiest of their children and best able to care for them. They also lived two hours away.
Thelma sobbed as she was explaining to Scarlett and I. They had lived in this home for 57 years and her best friend that happened to be her sister was her neighbor. Imagine how heavy Thelma’s heart had to be!
Everything in her life was turned upside down, and she couldn’t even discuss with James; his dementia was too advanced.
For the next several weeks, as the children went thru their belongings – sorting thru the pictures, quilts, and deciding who gets what. Thelma became somewhat stronger, assuming her role of the matriarch she had once been.
She was directing orders to the children and grandchildren, as she was lovingly caring for her husband of all these years and would tell everyone “He still belongs to me ALWAYS!”
I happened to witness something so touching that I could not fight back my tears. I will never forget what I saw.
I had just walked in James bedroom. He was lying in the hospital bed. The lights were dim and all you could hear was his oxygen concentrator running.
James and Thelma’s wedding picture and bible were there on the night stand.
I then heard Thelma as she was walking in the bedroom say “He is still mine always”.
Immediately James began singing a song called ‘Always’.
Thelma looked with disbelief and began sobbing, holding James’ hand and patting his face.
She explained that James sang that song to her on their wedding day at the court house.
James passed away 2 days later; was able to pass in their bed as he wished.
Is it hard?Of course! Do we get attached to patients’ and or the family members? Yes, honestly at times we do.
In medical training, we are taught not to get attached and to have those personal boundaries. Boundaries have their place and purpose, we get it, we respect it, however we are human after all.
I mean think about it. We are in their homes, their surroundings, their pictures, and their everyday life. We meet the kids, grandkids, neighbors, pastor, in-laws and yes even the outlaws.lol
We are there when they decorate for holidays and even at times will have coffee or tea with them.
We listen to their favorite stories, memories, and we can even recite some of them ourselves because we have heard them so many times.
Scarlett and I have taken care of many, many patients’ family members thru the years, .First the wife, then the husband or vice Versa, to the uncles and aunts etc. The trust has always been there.
What a compliment, to be trusted and to have the opportunity to walk with them.
Scarlett and I consider this to be sacred.
To say they give us inspiration is an understatement. We are blessed and inspired by them every time we walk in their home.
Every home and every family presents different examples of their unique inspiration.
We had a patient, we will call Bill for privacy reasons. Now, mind you I / Elaine was very green, a newbie if you will to the medical field and first out of school seeing patients’.
Bill had retired 5 years ago from the Post Office after working 40 years as a mail carrier.
We learned later that he loved to say “ I always deliver”
Upon our initial visit with Bill, he proudly stated” I would like to introduce you to my 2, yes 2 wives with a huge grin on his face.
He pointed to a very curvy beautiful blonde. She introduced her self as Wife # 1 aka Shelia.
Shelia then introduced us to wife #2 aka Maria.
She too was beautiful. Interestingly how opposite the wives were? Maria was a tall willowy woman with long straight auburn hair.
Shelia was very outgoing and appeared to me that she would be the one that would be called the life of the party.
Maria to me came across almost timid and fragile.
Boy, let me tell ya, I was so incorrect. So incorrect.
Do not judge a book by its cover.
Scarlett, of course, being Scarlett had their personalities correctly figured out.
We will give you the juice on that later.
Oh, he was handsome with his clean-shaven face, silver hair, olive colored skin, wearing a blue robe just made his bright blue eyes pop and shine. And he knew it.
He proudly stated “ my wife number got me cleaned, shaven and dressed this morning so I could meet my death team”
Well ok then, I was thinking to myself on the inside.
I was not certain how to reply nor could I pull up in my memory bank ever discussing this type of scenario in school.
Before that long awkward moment occurred, where it’s quite and ya really don’t have a clue of an appropriate reply, about 15 friends came in and the conversation shifted.
I was glad the conversation shifted but on the other hand, I wanted to explore his comment regarding the death team AND how do we have the two wives? But how do ya revisit these topics?
Again I was very green so was Scarlett but I was the greenest. We never brought up the 2 wife’s arrangement again but we did revisit the death team comment.
Thirty plus years later we know we would have addressed both topics with a mature, respectful, and professional manner. As we would have been able to utilize our skill sets they we have learned thru the years.
When we asked Bill about what “ the death team meant to him he sweetly described it this way.
“ Oh, sweetheart I say that to kinda break the ice for all of us and more importantly it’s my way of preparing my wife’s for my demise. Just a friendly, gentle nudge of what’s really going on “
As months went by as Scarlett and I would care for Bill, we saw how well Bill and his wife are so lovingly cared and respected one another.
Bill explained how blessed a life he had, wonderful vacations, nice cars, and great health all these years until 6 months ago it all changed when he was diagnosed with Cancer.
He chose to not begin chemo and radiation but to be with “ his girls”
Of all the wonderful things in his life, “ he treasured Shelia and Maria for their love, compassion and most of all forgiveness”
One day Scarlett and I were having coffee with Bill and he started laughing, this was 2 weeks before he passed.
He said “ you two have been coming in our home for 8 months and you guys have never put us on the spot and asked about our husband/wife arrangement.
Oh, you guided us with wonderful education and funeral arrangements ever so gently but respected us and our choices without judgment.
You did not disrespect us and we appreciated it but Damn y’alls expressions when I introduced y’all to my wife’s was priceless. I mean damn.
Yall were saved by the bell when our friends interrupted, oh it was comical. I have really enjoyed how awkward that was for y’all, sorry but true.”
Shelia and Maria both said at the same time “ it’s time to tell them how we three became best friends and where our titles came from.”
Are you sitting down?
Well, Bill took it from there with tears in his not so bright blue eyes.
You see said Bill In a weakened voice, “ I want to share how awesome these two women are thru Prayer and their willingness to forgive, we were all able to heal.
I married Maria and after 20 wonderful years, I had an affair with Shelia. Shelia was only 18. Yes legally speaking she was an adult but she was just a child. I was the adult, I knew what I was doing and I knew it was wrong; enough said.
I was prepared to stop the affair and come clean with Maria. She deserved to know and I deserved to be kicked to the curb. Shelia also deserved someone decent in her young life and clearly, it was not me.
I called Shelia to tell her we needed to talk but it went to her voicemail and as bad as a person as I was I could not end the relationship via voicemail.
So I went home to come clean with Maria.
I didn’t see Maria’s car in the driveway so I decided to call Shelia back again and attempt to get this over with.
As I am walking in my living room calling Shelia I hear Sheila’s cell ringing, and then I literally see her cell lying on the kitchen table.
There are no words to describe how I felt. None!
The reason Shelia did not answer my call the first time was that she was at the doctor’s office to confirm that she was pregnant with my child.
She came to our house to tell Maria herself.
It was extreme courage for Shelia to deliver the news to Maria.
Courage did not stop there. It was only the beginning by a long shot.
Shelia came from an abusive home and when they found out she was with child they threw her out and disowned her literally.
I will cut to the chase! The short version of events.
Maria threw me to the curb, no blame for that at all, and then the unbelievable -she brought Shelia into our home. She took her to every MD appt and was present when she delivered my son.
Maria and I did get divorced, and then I married Shelia when our son was 3 years old. Then we divorced when he was 6 years old.
Maria and Shelia are best friends and they and our son remained in the family home.
When I became ill, both Shelia and Maria invited me back to the family home where they can care for me and allow me to pass here with my not so traditional family, but completely my family where the four of us remain.
Maria and Shelia both smiled and said to him in unison” to death do us part”
What strength and ability to forgive and pull together. We will never forget this family. I mistook
Maria’s willowy quite personality’as being timid.
Boy, was I wrong!
Scarlett and I hope this family has inspired you or challenged you in some kinda way.
We would really appreciate if you would share how this story or another story has inspired or challenged you!