Saturday, January 16, 2016

One Washcloth: To Care for Loved Ones After Death

I was very moved to learn about One Washcloth, a group founded by registered nurses that provides a simple washcloth as a way to help loved ones care for someone who has died.  Here is one story:

My mother had been ill for months and, as she approached her last days, I was hoping for a way that would allow my five siblings who hadn’t been a part of her care, to connect with her and each other. Not many of them had visited regularly, perhaps believing that she would rebound, that there was more time, that maybe she would never die. I thought of One Washcloth and Lynn delivered one right away. Just holding it in my hands, I felt the weight of my mother’s impending death. I wasn’t sure how I would use it, or how it would be received, but the day before my mother died, somehow all of my siblings were able to find their way to her bedside to say good-bye. At first she was restless and we took turns helping her sit up; one supporting her back and two by her sides. Eventually, she lay down and each of us, and our spouses and her grandchildren, told her we were okay and that it was okay to let go. Her shoulders visibly relaxed. The next morning, she left us and everyone assembled once again at her bedside in stunned silence. I told everyone about the washcloth and, while they were absorbing its purpose, I asked a nurse if she could bring us some water so we could wash our mother’s face and hands. She brought us some water and rose petals. I dipped the washcloth into the water and held it out to the room. One by one, each of my siblings lovingly stroked her hands and face. Some were hesitant, but by the time we were done, everyone had taken part. We sprinkled her bed with rose petals. My mother didn’t like people to fuss over her, but on this day we did and even joked that there was nothing she could do about it. It was a simple cloth and a simple gesture, but it brought meaning and dignity to our last moments with her.

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