We've been known as the Cosby Clan or the Cosby Nation. There's no doubt we've been seen
as a "very close family" or an extremely "tight knit family" by many. And for the last three
weeks, I also have no doubt that we somehow became even closer. Not sure if that was
even possible, but it happened. What I have found so neat is that all while I was very
much in the middle of Papa Joe's care and growing closer with my family, I took
various moments to step out of the picture and peek in on the Cosby Clan in action.
When I took a step back, I looked in as a nurse. It only seemed natural to do so ;-) I know every
one of my nurse friends would agree...The Cosby Clan couldn't have done it any better! We
all came into full force from day one of Papa Joe's diagnosis and held strong until the day
he left us. Each member of the Cosby Clan assumed important roles and I can assure you,
Papa Joe was nothing less than proud of each of you!
Family Roles During A Difficult Time
While I was at his bedside through many of those nights, Papa Joe had his own kids or wife
at his bedside every day. Dad, Uncle Rob, Aunt Sue, and Aunt Carrie...you all became his
rock, his support, his opportunity to share life as he knew it, and insights into the dying
process. You should feel blessed he was so willing to share so much with you all. I
always told him he was getting royal treatment by you four and Grandma...as he wished, that
guy never had a moment alone! If anybody left him for 20 minutes he'd say we left him for
2 hours! It goes to show that if you have one laying in the hospital bed, what time is
like for them. Something to think about when you find you're crossing this bridge in your life.
Then there are the spouses of Papa Joe's kids...Mom, Aunt Brenda, Uncle Lance, and Uncle
Johnny. Credit is due to each one of them because if it weren't for you 4, the real Cosby unit
of 4 would not have held up so strong. You became their solid support as they walked
through the process of losing the one man they have always known as "Dad." Papa Joe was
so proud of all the spouses his kids once met, then married. He raved to me every so often
about how organized and a good mother you were Mom, how crafty and a wonderful
cook Uncle Rob is so lucky to have-Aunt Brenda, how Sue was so fortunate to find
a man who has loved and devoted his life to her children-Uncle Lance, and how
wonderful a dad and hard worker you continue to be-Uncle Johnny. Mom, Aunt Brenda,
Uncle Lance, & Uncle Johnny, you all have given up much of your time to allow the original
Cosby 4 to spend with their Dad. I can only imagine how thankful they were to marry
you, whether they've told you yet or not! ;-)
As for the grandkids, I never truly thought about where they fit in the picture from a nursing
standpoint. I guess I've always assumed they were the ones who just came to visit. Not
Papa Joe's grandkids...give Steve, Curt, and Staci a job and they tackle it with all their hearts.
They not only became Team Papa Joe, but they had no problem caring from Grandma Nu.
Nothing like watching Grandma's favorite late night TV shows and keeping her
company in the evenings while her love was in the hospital. You three played a huge role
and as we know, Papa Joe was happy you could fill those shoes. Samantha, your timing for
Grandma could not have been better and how great was it that you had the chance to say
goodbye to Papa Joe on his last day in this world. If it weren't for you, Grandma may
not have had those early afternoon moments to spend with her love. Callie Jo, Jake,
& Danielle, we could feel your love from afar and that's something Papa Joe
will hold close to him. He was so proud of you all!
Suggestions For Families During A Time Of Illness & Death
I've had several people express their condolences all while they've made it clear they've never
lost someone so close. I, too, was there one week ago. Of course, I knew all my great grandma's
but not as closely. And I knew of my great Uncle Fred, but again, I was not close like
the rest of my family. To this day I can sense that feeling of loss in all those that were
much closer to those certain family members. Cherish those moments and be there for those
people because when there comes a day when you lose that individual so close to you,
they are the ones who can help get you through it from their experience. And if you've had
neither, then take a peek at what I came to find in our Cosby Clan experience...
*Take on a role
sometimes we end up in a role naturally and sometimes we need to be given a role. Trust me, it
makes the process a whole heck-of-a-lot easier on everybody! They can be as caregivers,
listeners, long staying visitors in the home or in the hospital, the spouse watcher (idea
behind it being that you help them keep their mind of everything for a short while, give them
time to step away), freezer dinner maker (prepare meals so the individuals can spend less
time cooking and more quality time together), decision maker (obtain the knowledge,
help make big decisions), or as an advocator (nothing better than having a strong willed and
well spoken family member to speak up). There are many more that we can all fit into...
just find yours when the time comes!
*Spouses of those losing their Mom or Dad
be their rock. When your spouse needs a place to come home to, make it available for them to
just talk, sit & relax, and put a little extra time into making their life a bit easier so they have
extra time to spend with their loved one. If you don't clean, then clean. If you never cook, well
it's your time to cook now. If it means it's your time to be a set of ears, then keep that
mouth shut and just listen. Easy as that.
*Take the time off
easier said than done in some circumstances, I get it. But, if there's a chance you can get time
off then do it! Nothing better than looking back knowing you had all that time to be with
that special person or offering your role in another way.
*Spend moments alone with the one you're losing & spend them as a family
the moments you get alone with your family members are ones you'll cherish for the rest
of your life. Plan a time to visit with them, prepare questions you've always wanted to ask.
Write them down, take notes, let them share their life with you. Then share them
*Take a moment away from it all
i'm most guilty of this, I know it. It's been a problem in life for me as is. When I'm into one thing, I
will dive right in and forget to take a moment away. I found during this time how important it
is for each and every one of us to take that time for things like taking a stroll alone if you
need time to yourself or head out with some friends for a coffee date to put your mind
elsewhere. It's ok to enjoy life outside of this process of losing someone important to
you. There should be no guilt or shame in it.
*Never judge the way one copes with the situation
we all cope differently. There's no doubt about that. Some of us have bad habits return to
our lives, some of us are more dramatic, some very quiet while others cope with humor,
some angry or upset, some shed tears and some don't shed any at all, some may want to see
the body after he/she has passed and others have no interest, some dump all their energy
and effort into the situation while others put no effort into it whatsoever, and some don't know
how to cope at all. Guess what? That all happens. It's life, it's family and friends, and it's all
about supporting each other during that time. Don't judge, just be there.
*After the death, don't let the spouse have too much time alone
plan visits with whoever it may be, take them to lunch, have family stay with them for
the first week or so to keep them company at night, and plan family calls to
check in with them. Keep them semi-short so they can get back to their busy life, but make it
a ritual that you call them at 9pm every other night or noon Mon/Wed/Fri. Pick and day
and go with it! At the beginning, they will have lots of processes to go through. If
you can, ease their way...make some return phone calls for them, help them plan activities,
or clean their house.
Advice from the novice is what all that was, but take it or leave it. For the Cosby Nation,
Papa Joe was surrounded by love and support every day, all day just as he wanted
it to be. I've told you this before, but as family I was impressed but as a nurse
I am proud, I am amazed, and I have a feeling of comfort for good ol Papa Joe!
Cosby Clan, you did a wonderful job and I can't begin to share all the
praises you have all received from the rest of the outsiders looking in.