For Joan Mattson and her four siblings, it’s all about the subtle differences conveyed in such significant ways to define her mother’s journey with Emmanuel Hospice at her side.
Especially during this month, featuring Mother’s Day as a gentle touchstone.
“One of the Emmanuel Hospice aides, Tanya, always kisses the top of mom’s head before she leaves,” says Mattson, drawing a breath. “I mean, just that kindness. It means so much.”
Mattson’s mother, Bea Blasingame, is 87 and has been under Emmanuel’s care since late last year. Initially, it was difficult for Bea to accept and adjust, given her life-long sense of independence. She was also missing friends in rural Truman, Arkansas, where she and her late husband, Robert, spent most of their 67 years together.
These days, Bea resides in Mattson’s Grand Rapids area home following a series of seizures and discovery of a related tumor that have affected her speech, mobility and other aspects of her daily life.
With Mother’s Day coming up, Mattson relates that it’s bittersweet to wax nostalgic on how things used to be.
“My mom was a morning person,” Mattson recalls. “She might be up as early as 4, and I can remember her going into the cold kitchen and standing on a rug by the register where the heat came up, saying her prayers and reading the Bible.
“And if you know how noise carries through those vents, well, her voice would come to me in my bedroom, and that’s just a very special memory.”
Mattson’s sister, Barb Raymond, says Emmanuel Hospice has been helping the family harvest and express those remembrances as they work to make their mother’s final months as comfortable as possible. In return, Bea personally thanks her Emmanuel Hospice care team – by name, when she can – during evening prayer.
One time, she couldn’t quite recall specifically one Emmanuel team member, but knew she was a spiritual caregiver. “The shepherd,” she managed to whisper. In another instance, she couldn’t conjure the name of a therapist who comes with her guitar and harp to sing hymns and more with her. “Bless the ‘music-maker,’” she offered.
Indeed, music and prayer have always loomed large in Bea’s life. She led songs at her church, sang solos and played the accordion. Her favorite Bible verse is from Psalms: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Losing her husband – whom she married at 17 (she fibbed her age up to 18 on the legal document) – was tough four years ago. COVID made the grieving worse.
When Bea fell ill last winter, her son and four daughters helped her battle back, but eventually, it was decided hospice care would be best. The whole family shares their mother’s gratefulness for Emmanuel Hospice. In addition to providing medical care, the nonprofit has prioritized making space for opportunities to create lasting memories and have joyful experiences as they cherish time together.
“We don’t know where we’d be without Emmanuel,” Mattson says. “I think honestly that God has had a hand in all of this, in having Emmanuel beside us.”
Raymond adds: “We’re just floored with the quality of people at Emmanuel. What they provide is just beyond what any one of us expected.”
To learn more about hospice care, visit EmmanuelHospice.org.