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Home > Medical Services > Hospice > A Family's Hospice Story
Married couples vow to stay together until "death do us part." But, when one of them is at a healthcare facility, they have to sleep apart. Thanks to the efforts of two devoted wives – Barb Rhame and Marilyn Cash Gooding – who lost their husbands – Bob and Ken, respectively – that situation is beginning to change at Mercy with the addition of some double hospital beds.
Below, read the moving story of Ken and Marilyn, written by Marilyn, to how it moved her to help provide comfort for future Hospice House patients.
19 April 2011Donation to Mercy Hospice House for Ken Gooding MemorialFirst, I would like to express my thanks to each and every one of the staff at the Dennis & Donna Oldorf Hospice House of Mercy for all of their kindness and support during one of the most difficult times in mine and Ken’s life. I think every one of the staff people asked many, many times, "How are you doing?" and "What can I do to help you?" Near the end, I began spending most of the night sitting in the recliner by Ken’s bed because he wanted me to hold his hand when he couldn’t sleep. David, the maintenance person, asked me almost every morning, "May I get you a cup of coffee?" or "May I make up your bed for you?"Ken was a very touching guy. He always held the door, holding my hand when we walked and touching my hand or shoulder when we sat together. It was one of those awesome love relationships that I never thought would happen for me. Ken was an only child and he told me early in our marriage that he was afraid of dying alone. We promised each other that when one of us got ill for any reason, we would stay at their side and take care of them and never leave them alone until they were well again or until death. I thought that this was a pretty good deal because I was considered the physically weak one in this relationship.But God had other plans.About a month before our 21st wedding anniversary, Ken was diagnosed with four fast-growing brain tumors. As we went from X-rays to MRI to CT and a brain biopsy, we quickly learned that he was not a candidate for chemo or radiation. As he became weaker and weaker, we contacted Mercy Hospice and they began helping us with home care along with family and many, many loving friends from our church. They brought us meals and stayed with us many nights until he got so weak that I was no longer able to care for him at home.When we moved into the Hospice House, he began getting wonderful care, but Ken was very restless and wanted more closeness than I could give him with that little bed.When I had to tell him it was time for us to go to sleep, he would point to the davenport and say "You?" Then he would point to his bed and say "Me?" He would do this several times each evening and this made us both very sad but I would have to say, "Just call me if you need something, I’ll be right here."I spent the most part of those nights just standing by his bed and holding his hand to comfort him. One night he was so restless (even with medication) and I got so tired standing there that I just crawled in that little bed with him and put my arms around him and he slept like a baby – but – I could barely crawl out and straighten up my back the next morning.The last two days before Ken passed, the nurse kept telling us he could go any minute. The signs were all there, his feet and hands were purple and cold, his blood pressure and pulse very faint, his lungs were full, and his body was shutting down, but Ken just kept trying to breathe. We had all told him how much we loved him many times and that it was OK to die. As I held his hand, I encouraged him to just reach out to Jesus because Jesus was waiting to take him to heaven.The very kind nurse spent most of those last two evenings in the room with us. She asked if there was anyone that he was waiting to see, but we didn’t think so. She suggested that someone stay by his bedside during the night because he may stop breathing at any time. My son, his wife, my daughter and Ken’s daughter took turns all night sitting at his bedside.The next day came and Ken just kept hanging on and no one still knew what he was waiting for. The nurse thought he would pass any minute and suggested that we not leave the building so we were making some peanut butter sandwiches in the kitchen and she said, "Come quickly, I think he is passing."We ran back to his room and again stood at his bedside stroking his head and hands and telling him that Jesus was waiting for him and it was OK to go. But nothing happened. It was 6:00, 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, and 8:00 p.m. and still nothing happened. I saw my son on his knees with his head on Ken’s arm and tears in his eyes. When he got up, I saw him whisper something to his wife and they took a hold of the sheet under Ken and pulled him over as close to the side of the bed as possible to make just a little space on the other side where I was standing. Ken was a very large person; he was 6’5" and 250 pounds, so that left very little extra room in his bed. My son then told my daughter and Ken’s daughter to help me into the bed and they quickly put the side up so I wouldn’t roll out.Then, they turned down the lights and they all left the room. I turned on my side with my shoulder in his armpit and my one leg across his legs just the way we always slept. Then, I pulled his limp arm up beside me and put my other arm around his chest as tightly as possible. Through my tears, I told him again how much I loved him and would miss him and that he was not going to die alone. I was going to hold him tight until Jesus came and he reached out and took Jesus' hand. Then and only then would I let him go. At that point, he began missing some breaths and they became further and further apart. The kids and the nurse came back into the room and lifted me out of the bed and Ken died a few minutes later.I want you to know that is very painful, maybe even cruel, that spouses cannot be together in sickness and death as they were in life. I believe this is a very important aspect of comfort care that is not happening at the Hospice House. I would like to give you this $1,600 from my friends and relatives for Ken’s memorial, and ask that you will talk to your friends and relatives until there is enough money to start buying double-size beds for several of the rooms at the Hospice House. Then, married couples, if they choose so, may be together in sickness and death as they were in life, just like they had promised. May God Bless you for all of the wonderful things you are doing here and for the many, many acts of kindness Ken and I received during our stay at Mercy’s Hospice House.Thank You Very Much.Marilyn Cash Gooding