Dad’s medications were already organized by the time I arrived at the house, dispensed into two identical trays which had been labeled with a Sharpie: Week 1 and Week 2.
I noticed the organizers on the dining room table, and for a moment wondered which of my sisters had filled the plastic compartments — my older sister Mary Lynn, who’s a nurse — or my youngest sister, Susan, who’s a hospice chaplain? I didn’t ask because it didn’t matter. And there was so much else to know.
How to help Dad in and out of his hospital bed, for starters. Mom had asked us to move Dad into his chair, now that he’d woken up from a nap. The hospice people had shown Susan how to move Dad safely. We used a wide webbed belt that clipped around Dad’s chest and had large cloth loops attached. The loops would give us something to grab onto. So Dad sat up and Susan clipped the belt around him. Then we got positioned, one of us on either side of our father.
“Slide your whole forearm under his armpit, like this, and use your other hand to grab the loop, like this, and 1-2-3-UP!”
Hold. Pivot. Re-position. And gently release him into the chair. Get him comfortable with pillows.
“Do we leave the belt on?” I asked. “Or should I slip it off?”
“Leave it,” said Dad. “For next time.”
“Does it remind you of that passage in the gospel of John?” I asked Dad. “About getting old and having a belt put on you?”
Dad didn’t respond at first, and I thought I’d been obtuse.