A softer landing...
With every patient or family member I have the honor to sit with as a life is about to end, I learn and I grow. There is always a take-away for me, whether it is something that will help me to do this work better, or to remind me to appreciate my blessings even more than I already do. But always a take-away.
I speak a lot about meeting someone where they are, which is a very important practice to be mindful of in this work. I recently went to see a patient who had family that were anxious and struggling, so as I walked up to the door my intention was very focused on comforting and supporting them, which is a good plan for sure, but I realize now that I should not set that intention initially, and instead should wait to see what I might be walking into, and what is really needed, and go from there.
In this case, I was honored to witness two siblings who were providing incredibly beautiful care for their mother, so much so that they did not hire someone to come do the work for them, they instead rolled their sleeves up and did it all themselves. And for any of you who have cared for someone who is ill, you know how hard that work can be, both physically and emotionally, and the lines between patient and parent can blurr. They took turns sleeping and having a "shift" and while they had different perspectives, they met in the middle to determine what was best for their mother.
When I walked in, I immediately felt the energy in the room, and then I too found myself with heightened energy, wanting desperately to comfort them. I actually found myself stumbling over words, trying to "fix" things for them, which was not helpful. And then something happened and I took in a deep breath, and I sat back and I just listened. I allowed them to share their story, the work they have done, the path that led them to the moment that I walked in the door, and what they needed and wanted for their mother. I heard them. I honored their words. I met them where they were, not where I wanted them to be. And once I did that, we found ourselves together, meeting at that exact spot where we were on the same page and it was such a peaceful, and beautiful moment for me. I was reminded once again that this is not about me and I am not the fixer, I am there to provide whatever they need, and I was able to honor that.
I knew she was dying, and I knew it would be soon. I shared some things that could happen, hoping to remove fear, I offered suggestions of things they could do for her, and I looked at them both and said, "you've already done such an incredible job... just keep doing that... and if you need us... we are here for you." And I left.
I think that too is a lesson for me ... when to know it is okay to leave. There is a part of me that feels like I need to stay, but at the end of the day, I actually think that if I hand over my tools, and provide them with what they can use to do this work for someone they love... it is okay to walk out the door. I love the feeling of knowing I provided enough tools to someone else so that they can provide the compassionate care that allowed the landing to be softer for someone they love. Their take-away gets to be that they did the beautiful work and that fills my heart up in a very big way.
I met them where they were, I listened to them and I heard them, I honored the work they had already done, I shared tools so they could see their mother through to her last breath, I left... and they did beautiful work. She died with them at her bedside... peacefully.