Hospice and Tornadoes

April 18th, 2023 – Post #72

In my last post, I shared how my mom laughed about her posture not being quite up to par with her mother’s – but even if it’s been a long time since my mom has been able to stand up as straight and tall as her mom could (due to arthritis, rather than a lack of determination), she does have some similar qualities.

One of which we laughed about the other day. I’d handed her a wet wipe, so she could clean her hands, and soon found her hard at work, polishing the chrome bars of her hospital bed. You can see her in action by clicking here.

She stays busy; but I think her eyes are still shinier than those bars. 🙂

At this point, she is spending most of her time in bed. She does have a beautiful view from her window of the birds, and takes interest in the neighbors passing, so she doesn’t seem to get bored.

In fact, the other night, we had perhaps a little too much excitement…

What do you do with someone on Hospice when Tornado Sirens Sound?

We had a doozy of a storm come in last Saturday. Having her in front of that big picture window was really unsettling – especially when our town’s name came on over the news, and we were told to take cover. Right about then, the tornado sirens went off.

My mom had been mostly unresponsive for about eighteen hours by then; but there we were, trying to pull her out of bed to get her to a safer place. Honestly, we didn’t know if she was going to live much longer; but there was no way we could have fled to the basement and left her lying there with her being so vulnerable. Let’s just say that our efforts to protect her revived her pretty quickly – poor lady!

Our rescue really could have been an episode straight from the Keystone Cops. We were trying to communicate a makeshift plan over the sound of pelting rain, put her in a sort of sling from her Hoyer Lift, and figure out how to carry her to the basement in it without all of us falling down the stairs.

We maybe got two steps into the next room. By that point, she was on the floor, being pulled along on the hardwood floors, instinctively stopping herself with hands and feet on every object within reach – and believe me, in that overly crowded space, there were lots of opportunities to take hold of things. There was a confusing discussion about spinning her around, so that she’d be slid head first, and be less likely to impede the process by taking hold of piano legs, tables and chairs, etc…

Then my dad had the idea to slide her back into the living room, move the couch, and put her between it and the wall. I, with not so nimble efforts, added to this plot by grabbing the twin sized mattress from the floor and hauling it to her proposed resting place. We then, as gingerly as we could, lugged and tugged her onto her new resting spot, and covered her up, pushing the couch into place as a barrier between her and the big picture window. I figured if a tornado did come through, we could put the lighter mattress from the hospital bed on top of her for added protection.

Ironically, the most dangerous items in this make-shift “safe space” were the three framed senior pictures, above her head, of my sisters and I, which we three can’t stand, and refer to as “The Billboards”, because they can be seen on display from the street. I for one was hoping that once my parents had grandkids, our residence on that wall would be replaced, but alas, my mom continues to claim, “I love those pictures! They aren’t coming down!”

I couldn’t help but see the irony in them hanging there above her with possible tornadoes blowing in. Of course, I wouldn’t have wanted them to bang her on the head; but it would have been something had they flown away right about then.

I felt bad for her, laying there on the floor; but remembering a storm we had back in 1982, where a couple of trees came down on our house, I certainly didn’t want to leave her in front of that window. We have a lot of trees in our neighborhood. Last year our neighbor lost a major limb that took my breath away just to look at, thinking of how it could have killed a number of people if it had landed at the wrong time.

These are pictures my mom scrapbooked from our tornado in 1982…

I couldn’t find the ones from our front and backyard before the start of the cleanup; but I believe at least two trees fell on our roof. I was six years old at the time. I remember that after the storm, the dad’s in our neighborhood carried their kids over to our house, where we gathered in our living room, with debris everywhere outside. The next day, and probably for many days following, those same neighbors were in our yard, helping chop up wood, hauling it off in wheelbarrows, mending broken windows, and spending time together.

I think that was my first memory of a community pulling together to lend a hand during a time of need. I couldn’t really understand why they were there. Everybody had a messy yard after that storm; but they came to our house, and helped with a mess that wasn’t theirs.

That meant something to me.

Saturday, I had a similar experience – in a much different way. A friend of mine had raised meat chickens and invited several friends to come over and help to process them. It was – shall I say – an educational experience. I was mostly “the scalder” and still haven’t seen the video footage from the bird that “came back to life” when I dropped him by his feet into that hot water bath. I don’t know who was flapping their wings harder – me or the rooster – when he started a reckless backstroke out of his pool. I just know I ran!

I’m not sure how many people want to know details of that event, like what it’s like to see a chicken plucked in ten seconds or less; but we were talking about how processing chickens together was the closest thing we’d experienced, in our culture, to what the Amish do, when they come together to help accomplish a task too big for themselves. If you can call killing chickens fun, it was – in a very strange and satisfying sort of way.

Those two things – the storm and the chicken slaughter – have spurred my reflections of how you all have come together to help us during this difficult time with my mom. I truly appreciate your desire to come alongside us and lend a hand – many of you in the midst of your own devastating or difficult life circumstances.

I have heard from many people asking, “What can I do?”

It’s hard to know how to respond to that right now without running the risk of sounding ungrateful.

Our greatest need right now is for rest. My mom especially hasn’t been getting adequate sleep. Tired as she is, she doesn’t want to miss out on anything. Sometimes I even have to shut the curtains, just so she will take a nap, because she’s too tempted to look out the window to see who is driving or walking by.

It might not make sense to people, in a time when her care has increased, why we would actually cut back on outside help, but that’s been for the purpose of having more quiet, and less coordination of people. Something was happening so often, or someone was coming by, that it was hard to get our bearings. For a while, stuff and circumstances were just swirling, and it’s been nice to let things settle a little for a while and clean up some of the debris.

But I think I will save some of those details for a different post.

Well, speaking of peace and quiet, my dad’s car alarm just went off – maybe in my next post, I’ll tell about some of the Mayhem that’s been going on around here. Allstate ought to hire us to do a commercial…

(And I just got up to get my mom a sip of water and accidentally slid on the hardwood floor… oh brother!)

If you read this next post, you’ll know that thanks to my mom’s iPhone, we at least had a flashlight on hand for the tornado drill – the difficulty was in finding out how to turn it off when the light randomly came on.

*To read more on my mom’s cancer journey from the beginning, or share it, please click below:

It’s Cancer


I'm not sure what to say here: I once got second place in a dog-look-alike-contest? I know how to fold a fitted sheet? I'm pretty much a poster child for social backwardness - at least as far as social media is concerned; but I have some stories I think I'm supposed to share and am attempting to do that here, in this space.

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