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Haberman taught a lesson in living and dying with dignity

Editor’s note: This is the seventh in a series following Marcia Haberman and her family in their experiences with Roaring Fork Hospice. By Carrie ClickPost Independent StaffBATTLEMENT MESA – Marcia Haberman’s journey came to an end on a Monday morning. The 70-year-old Battlement Mesa resident died at home at 11:45 a.m. on May 24. Marcia was diagnosed with terminal cancer last July. Since February, she and her husband, Chuck, elicited the help of Roaring Fork Hospice to help Marcia make the transition from life to death. “Hospice’s role was to support Marcia, and to make it safe for all the family members’ talents to come into play during this process,” Roaring Fork Hospice social worker John Lutgring said. Chuck and their daughter, Suz Hutchinson, who lives in Grand Junction, teamed up with hospice members early on to give Marcia the best life possible near the end of her own. And in the weeks before her death, the couple’s four sons came from in and out of state, joining Chuck and Suz in providing care and comfort. “The family really stepped in and cared for Marcia,” Lutgring said. “And this really allowed Marcia to keep her dignity all the way through.” The last breathSuz was in the room when her mother died. “Dad called me at home about 7 a.m.,” Suz said. “He said Mom was getting very close.” In Marcia and Suz’s case, it was important for mother and daughter to have their “girl time” – balancing the care Marcia’s four sons and husband were giving her, with Marcia’s relationship with Suz, Lutgring said. Suz said the last time she had seen her mom was the previous Saturday night. “I saw a huge change in her then,” Suz said. “It was like her spirit left her body. She didn’t look the same.”When Suz arrived at the Habermans’ Battlement Mesa home Monday morning, she was surprised to see her mother still alive. She was alive, but in a comalike state.”I’m there looking at her, thinking that it’s time. It’s time for her to let go,” Suz said.A little while later, Suz looked at her mom again. “And then, her head came off the pillow just a little,” Suz said. “She had a little smirk on her face, and she opened up her beautiful blue eyes really wide, and took an overwhelmingly big breath. I could swear she was looking right at me.”It was a wild sensation. I kept thinking, ‘She’s got to exhale.'”Then, Marcia did just that.”I realized I had watched her take her last breath,” Suz said, “and when she finally exhaled, it was like a warm breeze coming through me. Her last breath was coming out of her and right into me.” No guide bookMarcia’s death brought a full swale of emotions to Chuck, the children, and their families – and the hospice team that helped take care of her in the last few months of her life. “Whenever we lose someone, I repeat a phrase a physician friend of mine used to say whenever his beeper went off signaling that one of his patients had died,” hospice director Tim Heflin said. “He’d say, ‘The home team just lost.'”We grow attached to these people,” Heflin said. “We come into their lives at undoubtedly the most vulnerable and traumatic time, and they allow us in to their lives. We bond with them and their families.”haberman: see page 2haberman: from page 1When Marcia died, feelings ranged from unmitigated tears of loss, to relief and even elation because Marcia was no longer suffering in a body that couldn’t sustain her. Hospice volunteer coordinator Sean Jeung said people sometimes misinterpret when members of the hospice team or family members express positive feelings when people die.But Heflin said people process death in many different ways. “There is no guide book for this,” Heflin said. Several phasesSocial worker John Lutgring said Marcia and her family experienced several phases throughout her journey.The first phase involved putting Marcia in charge of her own dying process, Lutgring said.”At hospice, we focus on what matters to the patient, and in this case, to help Marcia remain in charge and comfortable at home,” Lutgring said. “And all along the way, Chuck was there.”Once Marcia experienced what hospice care could do for her and her family, Lutgring said, she expressed a strong desire to share her hospice journey with others through this series in the Post Independent. She wanted other people to know about hospice, and the kind of care available.”This was her gift to the community,” he said. “It was her way of giving back.””She taught all of us at hospice how to live and die with dignity,” Heflin said. “And she has taught all of those who have read this series, too.” The final phase centered on Marcia’s physical decline and her death.”She was very much at peace,” Dee Morris said. “She wanted peace and comfort, and she received it,” Heflin said. Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518cclick@postindependent.com


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