They Used To Call Me “Cemetery Girl”.
Seriously. It’s true. Even as a really young kid, I was fascinated and drawn to cemeteries. Back then, leaving the house and not coming back until dark wasn’t such a big deal, and I would walk and walk for what seemed like hours. I liked to explore. I had two favorite places, the dump and the cemetery. Don’t get grossed out… the dump was cool; people threw away the most wonderful treasures, and it allowed my imagination to go full speed ahead. I used to look for suitcases in hopes a bank robber was running from the cops and threw it in the dump planning to come back and get it. But I would find it and I would come home with so much money and oh… the things we could have.
But that is a whole other story.
The cemetery was my safe place, I was never afraid going there. I would walk through it, looking at all the headstones creating stories about each person buried there and the life they had before they died. I would wonder about their families and how they might be doing. At each visit, I would pick my “favorite” headstone and plop down next to it; I would unwrap my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I would have a picnic. I always brought bubbles and after my lunch, I would sit and blow bubbles until I ran out.
This is where I got the nickname, which the groundskeepers gave to me. As I would walk by them they would say “hi cemetery girl” and laugh. I think they were being mean, but it didn’t faze me. This was after I had been going for quite some time; initially they told me I shouldn’t be there and once the taller guy told me that sometimes bodies come out of the dirt and grab little girls… I am not sure why that didn’t scare me off.
To this day, I find such peace at a cemetery and will often pull over when I see one and walk the grounds for a bit, just thinking about all the lives that were put to rest there.
I didn’t know it then, but I think all of that started me on this journey of working as a hospice nurse. It’s funny how things work out the way they do, how you can suddenly be at this place in your life and have no idea how the heck you got there and yet… you realize you do know… it just took a little while to see all the roads that actually took me here.
I believe that the lessons I learned from having two terminally ill parents at the same time, was not clear earlier on because I wasn’t ready yet to see them. Perhaps I chose not to, I will never know. But from that moment to this one, there has been a lot of growth for me and I realize that while I am in the right place in my life, I am a continuous work in progress. I am on a journey I don’t have a map for but I am finding my way.
I started a blog because I felt I had so much to say about the care of someone at the end of life. Hospice nursing is only minimally taught in schools and while there are websites and podcasts and books on gentle care, I feel that often times it’s the little simple things that anyone can do for someone when they are dying. You don’t need a license to do mouth care, or provide tactile stimuli or verbal comfort. The second half of my book contains my first blog postings from years ago. I cover everything from bedside care, to patient stories, and my own personal thoughts about death and life and the lessons I have learned along the way.
For me, my most powerful lesson has been learning how to be fully present for someone else, and understanding what that really means. We are not taught this, we experience this and the full understanding of it all continues to evolve within me.
This is from my book, "The Hospice Heart" which I wrote when I first started to realize I was meant to do this work all along. This book takes you on walk with me down my memory lane.
Link to the book: https://a.co/d/6f1qRgY