Avoid regret: Make time for family and friends

Published 7:30 am Saturday, September 23, 2023

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I grew up knowing that next to my parents and my sisters — my extended family, consisting of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and more cousins than I could count — loved me more than anyone else. My cousins were my first best friends.

Vickie Wacaster, Patient and Hospice Advocate with Aveanna Hospice (formerly Comfort Care Hospice)

My older female cousins taught me about makeup, clothes, music, and boys. My older male cousins taught me to fish, play ball, dissect frogs, play cards, and fight back. I, of course, taught my younger cousins all the cousin things I had learned. We grew up sharing family secrets, mysteries, resemblances, holidays, birthdays, joys, and sorrows, and most of all, we shared our love.

Over the years, our families have grown, moved, and changed. Like most families, we have lost grandparents, parents, siblings, children, friends, and cousins. As I type today, my heart is heavy, for recently, I lost another first best friend. Another cousin left this world to join our family that has gone on before.

This past weekend, after we said our final earthly goodbyes, I found a photo of when we were young teenagers without care. Though I was a couple of years younger, I remember her well as a child and still laugh at the antics we would pull on our older cousins. Another photo was of her and her husband and their two daughters; life was good, and they were so beautiful and young.

Looking through my photos, I realized the images told a life story. As I looked at the photographs, I was reminded that every day we live, we are writing our life’s story. Though not everyone has an array of pictures to look at and remember, no doubt, each of us makes an impression in the minds and eyes of others that time will not diminish.

The disease my cousin had was fast, mean, and cruel. She went from Home Health to the hospital for almost three weeks. Unable to travel, she was admitted to an inpatient hospice two days before she passed. Most of us did not have time to plan to go see, touch, hug, and tell her we loved her before she passed. Only a few of us got to tell her goodbye.

Make time for family and friends. Call or go see those people you have been wanting to reconnect with. Friends, let’s write our stories well. May we be kind to everyone we encounter, for we do not know what the day may bring their way.

If you know someone with an advanced life-limiting disease or illness, please encourage them or their family to call hospice. The benefits far outweigh any fear associated with the word hospice.

For the many years I have been a hospice advocate, I have never heard anyone say they wished they had not used hospice. What I hear the most is, “I wish we’d known about hospice sooner.”

As I think about my cousins, I remember a quote I heard years ago. “A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.” Over the years, I have found this to be very true. Hug a cousin today.

— Vickie C. Wacaster is a Patient and Hospice Advocate for Aveanna Hospice.