Julie from Colorado

My grandmother Laura, who at 81 had been in very good health her whole life, was suddenly faced with imminent death. She was diagnosed with advanced stage melanoma during a routine check-up. There were few options because the disease had already progressed extensively and she would not have been able to tolerate the toxic effects of the potential treatment. My mother and aunt were shocked and shaken by this news - as daughters they had many emotions to process knowing they were losing their mother so quickly. They were unable to direct or manage my grandmother’s care in the ensuing weeks and my sister and I took on this role.

Because I was an RN everyone turned to me for guidance. As a mother-baby nurse I certainly didn’t have all the answers but accepted the responsibility. I worked with the hospice staff to coordinate her care. Together with my sister and her daughters we administered medications and provided daily care, which became total care as days progressed. We took turns sitting with my grandmother, sharing and listening to stories. During the process, I felt spread a little thin - making sure that my grandma had the care she needed and also providing support for my mom and aunt. I had no breaks to deal with my own emotions, it just wasn’t possible.

She passed ten days after entering hospice care. Aside from the birth of my children, helping my grandmother have a ‘good death’ was the most powerful emotional experience in my life. She died in my sister’s home, surrounded by those who loved her the most in the place she loved the most, Colorado.

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