When asked the date of my daughter’s death, my response used to be “Easter Sunday, 2008.” With the Christian calendar rotating every year, Easter Sunday can fall anywhere from mid-March to April. The day she died was significant to me because my girl loves Easter. Yes, Megan is a Christian, but loves the Easter Bunny, owned a real bunny, lived for the Easter egg hunt at her grandparents, and hoarded the Peeps.
Let me back track to the week of her death and tell you that because her pain had become so unmanageable at home, even with the extraordinary help of Tana and the Visiting Nurses Association, Megan was moved on Monday, March 17, 2008 to Josie Harper Hospice House. With the average stay at Hospice House being 30 days, I had settled in my mind that she was going to be there at least a few weeks.
That thought changed on Friday, March 21. With tumors up and down her spine, pain had become unmanageable even with the motherload of narcotics. By mid-morning on Good Friday Megan was contracting in pain every fifteen minutes as though in labor.
Medical personnel was scrambling. A palliative care physician was called on the case. By early afternoon, with pain contractions every few minutes, the only viable solution was palliative sedation…placing Megan in the same kind of sleep you experience for a major surgery. Pain was keeping Megan fully alert as I signed the paperwork at the foot of her bed, taking a seat next to her, she asked me, “Mom, will I ever talk to you again?” My reply was, “All I know is that for now this is the immediate solution to your pain, and we will take it a day at a time.” I told her I loved her, and those were the last words we spoke.
Friday night moved into Saturday’s dawn. During that night-watch Megan was seizing from the high narcotic load, but the grimace on her face proved it’s ineffectiveness. Tana came back to make additional medication adjustments. I was glad for the relief for my girl but also glad for her conversation and company. We talked for what seemed hours. She told me to write a book. When Tana left for her home I slipped back into the cushy recliner and from time to time flipped on the television to give me but momentary relief from our extraordinarily cruel circumstances. Television allowed me to catch my breath.
When your daughter is dying you have heightened awareness of details, as every last moment counts. Funny, I remember the small television in Megan’s room. It was hard to forget since it was just like the one my parents gave me in the late 1970′s. Small screen – VHS in the front. Josie Harper Hospice House runs on a tight budget, and I assumed the television was someone’s old, yet generously donated t.v.
Exhaustion overcame me by late Saturday and Aunt Shirley took watch that night into the Easter Sunday morning shift. I went home and slept deeply, arriving back at Hospice House in the 9:00 a.m. hour. I set my purse down and said, “Megan, it’s Mom…”
From that moment on her breathing changed. I had told Megan in that gloomy, uncomfortable calm before the maelstrom, weeks upon weeks ago, to please let me be there when she died. Though in a deep sleep, she had awareness of my presence, and my arrival started her journey toward eternity.
Aunt Shirley stayed. I called for Dann and Ryan. My parents quickly arrived. And for the next 15 hours we listened as Megan labored for every breath. At approximately 11:45 p.m I told Megan that “God is rarely early, never late…and if you want to die on your favorite holiday there are fifteen minutes left in the day.” She took two deep breaths of air and was gone. Time of death: 11:53 p.m. March 23, 2008. Easter Sunday.
The days and months ahead moved in slow motion. The year anniversary of Megan’s death was also the annual memorial service for those that died in Hospice House the preceding year. I went with Mom and Dad, and the pastor spoke on Psalm 23: ”The Lord is my shepherd…I shall not want…He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He allows me to catch my breath.”
I thought first of me…those nights after Megan’s death where I could barely catch my breath. I even wondered if I was having a heart attack. Then I thought of my girl…the reality of dying was that her lungs filled with fluid to the point that she could no longer catch her breath. I wept at the thought…”He allows me to catch my breath…”
Time marched on. Early this year a long time friend re-connected with me via Facebook, having no idea of Megan’s death. I told her it was on Easter Sunday, March 23, 2008. Nancy, who I affectionately call “The Numbers Librarian” wrote how powerful it was that Megan died on the 23rd and referenced it to the 23rd Psalm.
The lights went on. Megan Bosselman knew one Psalm by heart and it was Psalm 23. Suddenly it became a message from her about “He allows me to catch my breath…” I’d missed it all along.
Over the last three years I’ve thought of those old t.v.’s at Josie Harper Hospice House. When the 2009 annual report came out with a request for money for new flat screen televisions I thought it was a great idea. I prayed.
By March 2010 the same annual report arrived with the same shout out for funds for flat screen televisions. I prayed.
It’s now year three, and I remembered a wise, old Pastor that told me “prayer never replaces action.” A few months ago I called – surely that need had been fulfilled. When it was made clear that the budget was tighter than ever, I decided that Project 23 – Tune In To Humanity would become my mission.
The world may say you don’t need a television if you’re dying and there is partial truth in that. Megan was in and out of consciousness, but I was fully alert most hours of the day times the six days of her stay. The average hospice patient resides at Hospice House for 30 days. As a family, imagine 30 days with no audio or visual relief…just the sound of your loved one dying.
To this day I don’t remember a single show I watched – I just remember my gratitude for an electronic device that broke the silence. If we have showers for our friends’ new babies, lives freshly arrived to this world, and give them strollers with i-pods, shouldn’t we give those that are on their way out the very best we have to offer in life?
Project 23 needs funds for 26 size 32″ flat screen televisions (one for each room) which will be mounted on a swivel base to direct to any part of the room. The project includes 2 jumbo size flat screens (one for each family room), and one mega flat screen with surround sound for the training room (which trains staff and a host of volunteers). The training room can also be used by families for private get-togethers where they can eat, play music, and/or show home videos. Lastly, there will be two moving carts with dvd players, giving everyone access to home movies in their rooms, upon request.
This project has been thoughtfully and methodically planned out by Gary George, Executive Director for Josie Harper Hospice House, along with Terry Richarz, of Nebraska Furniture Mart’s Custom Electronics Design & Installation Department.. NFM Employees Andy Hemminger and Scott Patton are part of Terry’s stellar team of installers who surveyed the property and gave creative vision to carrying out this project with excellence. Last, but not least, I’m grateful to Ron Blumkin, who has embraced this project on behalf of Nebraska Furniture Mart and finalized all pricing. Nebraska Furniture Mart has exceeded my wildest expectations in low pricing to make Project 23 a reality.
Absolutely no funds transfer through my hands. You can donate online at:
or mail a check directly to:
Josie Harper Hospice House
7415 Cedar St.
Omaha, Nebraska 68124
Your donation can be made in memory of your loved one, but be sure to specify Project 23 if you want the funds used for the television project. Every dollar counts. Your donation will affect the quality of life for countless people for years to come. To date Hospice House has served over 3,300 residents. The average length of stay is 30 days; median length of stay is 8 days – meaning half of their residents come to Hospice House to live out their last 8 days. Megan resided at Hospice House for six days.
All donations are tax deductable, and Hospice House will send you a receipt.
Many have asked me “What is the cost per room?”
- Single Room – $1,000 (26 rooms total)
- Family Room and Dining Room $3,000 each
- Training Room $4,000
- 2 Extra DVD’s – $300 each
- Estimated total cost for project, including all wiring*, extended warranties and installation: $36,000
*A substantial portion of the cost per room includes electrical work (not handled by Nebraska Furniture Mart) to make wiring and cable functional and safe to fire code for each room.
Again, every dollar counts, but if you are purchasing ‘a room’ a plaque will be mounted in memory or honor of your loved one, or with notation that your corporation has generously provided a television.
On a Lighter Note:
- Is it a coincidence that this week Terry Richarz (my new BFF from NFM that is spearheading this project) celebrated her 23rd year of employment with the Mart?
- I miss my girl, but thank the living God I no longer have to watch “The Bachelor.”
To My Girl, On The Third Anniversary of Your Death
Oh how we loved our television, from The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders – Making the Team to American Idol. In your memory, may Project 23 give life and breath to those in the last days of their lives.
Always remember my last words. I love you.