Decorah family lives fully with the help of hospice care.

Paul Jordahl surrounded by his grandchildren.
Paul Jordahl surrounded by his grandchildren.

Living fully with the help of hospice care.

Pastor Paul Jordahl and his wife, Jenine, answered a missionary call to Papua New Guinea, half way around world, taking their family to many new and exciting places. But it was his journey with cancer, treatment and hospice care that created unexpected opportunities for family togetherness, love and making memories.

When Paul’s doctor suggested it was time for hospice care, Jenine and Paul were ready for this next step. Paul’s melanoma had metastasized to his brain, and it was time to stop experimental treatments and accept the care to keep him comfortable. The initial meeting with Winneshiek Medical Center Hospice was held in the Jordahl home. “When Paul became a hospice patient we had one overriding request: that Paul would continue to live until the end,” says Jenine. “The visiting WMC Hospice staff smiled at us and said they would help us do just that.”

Hospice is a special kind of care for families facing life-limiting illnesses. Hospice is available to anyone, regardless of their ability to pay and offers services families need during end of life, such as pain management, emotional and spiritual support, personal cares, and bereavement support. “Our primary hospice nurse, Nancy, became part of our family during the last few months,” says Jenine. “Nancy and her colleagues at Winneshiek Medical Center Hospice helped create opportunities for Paul to continue to live. When we needed a walker, they brought one over, and as Paul needed a wheelchair and then a hospital bed, hospice provided what we needed. The hospice team even set up a stair ramp so I could wheel him out of the house and to the car. That piece of equipment alone brought us total freedom again and opened up a world of possibilities.”

The Jordahls were fortunate to have time to get their affairs in order, from legal documents to untold stories of love and laughter, and Paul was deliberate about doing things that would leave the family with good memories. Jenine recalls, “When we retired Paul began writing stories of his life, childhood memories and family tales. His project was hastened along when the melanoma metastasized. On one occasion, he called the family together and read letters he had written to each one of us. My letter opened with: My dearest Jenine. We are happy that event is recorded so that we can replay those precious moments.”

Possibly one of the most unique things Paul did was to write a song for each grandchild, with each song as different as the child. Jenine says, “Paul captured our grandchildren’s personalities with words and melodies. A friend helped him record those songs just three weeks before he died.”

Jenine’s experience with her husband’s passing, and how Winneshiek Medical Center Hospice made such a difference in their lives, reminded her to recognize the blessings in small things: a letter from a friend, a day out with grandchildren, the opportunity to be a comfort to another. “I am thankful for the care Winneshiek Medical Center Hospice provided to us in our greatest time of need. I strongly urge families to seek hospice care as early as appropriate to benefit fully from their services. Hospice care allowed our family to focus on living and making memories… for Paul to leave his legacy.”

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