Update on Fr. George Kosicki

Posted On August 8, 2014

“Praised be the Lord Jesus Christ!” [Father George]

A letter from Fr. Gordon Judd, CSB

I visited Sacred Heart Home today [Thursday] for 6.5 hours and although I later saw Father George several times while he was sleeping and since he had many visitors and many of the regular staff check-ups—all of which had verified that he was very sleepy and tired, I wisely decided not to awaken him just to ask him how he was doing or to wish him well.

During my day-long sojourn at the Home I participated in a Care Conference with staff, met for a very long time with the Patti Knight, RN from Heartland of Ohio Hospice who will be his regular visiting hospice nurse, met briefly with the Home’s Social Worker—Ruth Nietz, and for a somewhat longer time with Sr. Augustine of St. Chantal, LPN who has charge of the Lourdes Wing where Father GK resides.

The Hospice RN—Patti Knight visited and evaluated GK as part of preparing the documentation for Medicare to provide services to him.  The diagnosis she has given is dementia since there is no other presenting condition to account for his extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, etc.  When I arrived this morning and met one of the aides in the hall, she said that Father did eat a healthy breakfast, so his appetite waxes and wanes.  Several of his visitors indicated that their visits were difficult since he drifted off to sleep in mid-sentence or while they were speaking to him.

There were several highlights however.  A great nephew, Chris DeRonne, who was traveling from North Carolina to a family reunion in the Detroit area along with his wife Alyssa and their three children—Venus, Orion, and Aurora, stopped for a visit.  Since Aurora was sick, Alyssa first stayed in the car while the other three family members came to Father’s room with me.  Father lit up when he saw Venus [6 years old] and Orion [4.5 years old].  After they visited a bit, Chris went downstairs so that Alyssa could visit as well.  Orion who is very outgoing and verbal and Venus both made a big hit [as was to be expected] with a couple of the other residents outside of Father’s room and left with St. Patrick Day green necklaces.  Children and dogs really make a huge difference with the residents in these homes.

Another highlight occurred in the morning.  During the CareConference I mentioned that Father’s niece, Kathy DeRonne and two of her daughters visited Father Tuesday evening around 8:00 PM.  George wanted them to speak to him in Polish, which they were unable to do, so instead they sang the Polish birthday song, Stolat.
Sto lat, sto lat,
Niech żyje, żyje nam.
Sto lat, sto lat,
Niech żyje, żyje nam,
Jeszcze raz, jeszcze raz, niech żyje, żyje nam,
Niech żyje nam! 
Hundred years, hundred years, may you live a hundred years.
Hundred years, hundred years, may you live a hundred years.
Hundred years, hundred years, may you live a hundred years.
May you live 100 years!

One of the staff at this CareConference meeting is married to a first-generation Pole, so she knows the lyrics as well.  After the meeting she and the Social Worker Ruth Nietz went to Father’s room and sang the Polish Birthday Song.  He asked them to sing it again and then joined in with his papery, whispery voice.  You may attempt this yourself if you’re so equipped and inclined!

I was telling one of his friends this afternoon that it is interesting that he is asking for people to speak in Polish and responding so joyously to this Polish song.  It makes me think that he is in a more emotional state than usual.  As you know, GK is a very cerebral, analytical person.  His mind is usually going a mile a minute with his intense desire to describe his latest spiritual insights, something that has particularly struck him in a book that he is reading, or some latest epiphany about Divine Mercy, Saint Faustina, etc.  Not at this time however.  It’s as if he is returning to the warm, emotional, relational memories of his youth and family.  When I visited with him over the past 2 years I would often ask him to talk about his family, his discernment of his vocation when he was young, etc.  We both always enjoyed his reminisces.

For those of you wondering about visiting him:  I asked this question of Patti Knight, RN and Sister Augustine of St. Chantal, LPN.  In partial recap of their ideas and some of my own, I offer the following for your consideration. . .

  1. When a person enters hospice, especially in the condition that Father is in, i.e., with what is really an undiagnosed cause for decline, it’s impossible to predict how long he will live.  On Tuesday his doctor told the nurse that Father might not be alive on Thursday [today].  His estimate came from his Monday visit with Father and having seen other patients in similar circumstances.  The nursing staff, however, thought otherwise, saying that they did not see his situation as being so dire and imminent.  In short, it’s especially hard to predict how long he will be with us.
  2. Although his energy and wakefulness are seriously diminished, he seems to appreciate having visitors, albeit for short periods of time.
  3. You may wish to visit with Father while there is still an opportunity to engage him in some little conversation or you may be fortunate enough to encounter him on a day or part of day when he has rallied.

  4. It’s not necessary to always be in conversation with Father when you visit.  Sitting quietly can be re-assuring to those who are in hospice and certainly is less tiring.  Praying the rosary near him so that he is hearing a prayer that is familiar to him is also comforting.  If you know the Divine Mercy chaplet, he loves to hear that.  The home has a wonderful lounge area just outside his room if you want to give yourself a spell.  He has a fridge in his room that we will stock with bottled water for your use.

  5. If you do visit, please sign the Guest Book that is on the built-in desk to your left as you enter the room.  If and when he rallies, feel free to take the book by his bedside and read the entries that have been made since August 1st.  I am also going to prepare another notebook with recent postings to his CarePage, letters and cards that he’s received, etc.  You should also feel free to read these to him since he won’t have heard them before.  Perhaps even reading them by his bedside when he seems to be or is asleep is another option.
  6. Typically in our extrovert-driven culture we think we have to fill the space between us with words.   Keep in mind that Father lived his last 12 years of ministry as a hermit living with the Community of Companions of Christ the Lamb in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  He is used to silence and loves it.  He grows very impatient with “small talk.”  In fact, this was a frequent complaint well past his first 12 months at the Home.  He likes to speak about and listen to conversations about spiritual matters.  But, again, silence is golden with him.  Hospice literature instructs us to refrain from speaking about ourselves, our concerns or worries, our emotional challenges, etc.  This is without a doubt Father George’s time and it is a very special and sacred time for letting go and moving on in a way that is profoundly unique for him as it is for anyone of us confronting the imminence of death.  He may respond to having you hold his hand, laying your hand gently on his shoulder or forehead—take your cues on whether these gestures are welcome by his response.  He is used to having someone lay a hand on his forehead in prayer—that’s quite familiar and should be re-assuring and comforting. 

    Note:  He appears to be experiencing some bone or muscle pain so strong gripping, etc. should be avoided.  When you see hm notice how thin his wrists and hands have become.  Please avoid considering him as a prisoner of his bed who must accept whatever the visitor wishes to do; in other words, be cautious about imposing on him if he is clearly demonstrating some signs that he is uncomfortable with certain gestures, conversations, or the length of the visit.  I am not sure how comfortable he would be with kisses or hugs and these may be difficult.  Please avoid physical contact if you’re fighting an infection or you yourself are very susceptible to infection.  There are excellent online resources to give us guides for visiting the hospice patient.

  7. Finally, it always helps to ask Sr. Augustine of St. Chantal, the nurse on duty, and especially the aides to help you understand how they perceive his cognition and mood that day.  If you witness anything distressing about his behavior, don’t be reluctant to ask one of them if they’ve noticed this and how this is being handled.  They’re the experts.  Sacred Heata Home and now Heartland Hospice are premier institutions.  All of us should be so fortunate as to their ministrations in our last days.  He is getting excellent care.  Staff repeated tell me how much they love “Father George.”  He’s made a very positive impact on them and on many of the other residents.  Any questions or concerns that I’ve had about his treatment over these past two years have always been explained with respect, patience, and clarity.  You are also encouraged to contact me if you have any concerns, which I’m confident will never or hardly ever be the case.
  8. Well, one more thing, could you send an email to everyone on this email list, indicating when you are going to visit and/or have visited Father George.  That may help all of us in planning our own visits.
So, in short:  Father’s death does not appear imminent, but this diagnosis could change unexpectedly.  Visits are welcome.  You will be kept in the loop thru these emails and thru the CarePage [same content however].  Please keep us all in the loop on your visits so we’re not all inundating Father George on the same day.

One other thing—A reminder that he is not taking phone message at this time.  Much better to send greetings by email or as response to an update on the CarePage.  These will all be printed out and clipped into another notebook on his desk.

As George always says in beginning his conversations:  “Praise the Lord!”  And I would add, “for He does marvelous works—even when we do not perceive them.


Enter the Conversation...

4 Responses to “Update on Fr. George Kosicki”
  1. Mary Ann says:

    Sto lat, sto lat, Father George

  2. Barb says:

    how fortunate and blessed we were to have been in the holy presence of this man -sometimes only knowing him as part of our family and forgetting his incredible influence. An honor to have shared any time with him at all.

  3. michael fields says:

    Hi Vinny! I will keep Fr George in my prayers. Always will remember you two coming to Brookville (1997) when we were novices. Best retreat all year.

  • The goal, the destination, or the purpose [of our life] is the encounter with God ... who desires to restore us ... ~ Pope Francis