A Hospice center is a quiet, peaceful and sad place.
The old meaning of a place of rest for travelers is an appropriate one. It is a place of rest between here and the after.
Cheryl and I have been visiting Fr. Gerry Witzemann. He is dying. Gerry married us years ago or as Cheryl likes to say, officiated at our wedding. Her comment is more correct of course. Cheryl’s cousin started out as a Franciscan priest. When his mother became ill and elderly her wanted to do more for her. His order wanted him to go to the southwest to minister. He left the Franciscans to remain in the area and help his mother as best he could.
This is our fourth visit. Gerry is not ready. On our first visit he indicated that he was ready. Are any of us ready for afterward? Sitting with someone that you know will not recover turns one to introspection.
Today his niece Sherri is here. Cheryl can talk to her cousin about things that she knows little about. That part of her family lived close by when she was a child. But as people grow older they spread out. Sherri’s mother Verna, Gerry’s sister passed away a couple weeks ago. Sherri took care of her mother for the last three years of her life, at home, with dementia. What a grace filled presence. She once got up to talk to her uncle, “It’s okay Uncle Gerry. Mom is waiting for you. So is grandma and grandpa.”
Sheri was in the army. She was a nurse and a nursing supervisor. She is a very pleasant conversationalist. Her husband passed away in 1993. They have no children. As a reservist she was called up and spent a year in Iraq in charge of the nursing staff in the hospital set up by the army. Gerry was the Witzemann family archivist. It was his hobby for years. He has lots of notes about the family history. Sherri now has his information.
We exchanged phone numbers.
Gerry won’t be with us much longer and that is sad. Many folks who come to visit him and he has many, are uncomfortable. That is understandable – and sad. Somehow it was neither sad nor uncomfortable with Sherri there. We were just there with Gerry.
Soon Gerry will be gone from us.That is why he is with hospice.
(Fr. Gerry Witzemann passed out of this existence at 5:30 am February 5, 2023. A Sunday the Lord’s day. How appropriate. May he rest in peace forever.)