It doesn't get easier
Updated: Feb 15
Before I started my day, I called a family to let them know I would be there about noon. I left a voicemail. I was with another patient when the daughter called me back to say that noon was fine, but that they would be there all day and time was not a problem. (I repeat… time was not a problem.) These are words everyone takes such advantage of, and this time was no different.
While I was with a patient, my phone rang, I did not recognize the number and I never take calls when I am with a patient, but there was such urgency in the sound of the ring as though the universe was telling me I needed to take that call. So I did. It was the daughter calling me back, her mother’s breathing had changed and she asked if I could come now. She was crying and while I didn’t know how her mother was doing, I knew for sure her daughter needed support and reassurance, so I told her I would be there soon. I was already preparing to leave at the time of the call, so I grabbed my things and headed to see them.
When I walked up the doorstep, there was this feeling I had that told me things were not okay in that house; I felt the urge to cry but I had no idea why. I rang the doorbell and within half a second, I heard footsteps running towards the door. This lovely young woman opened the door; she was in her early 20’s I am guessing, eyes swollen and red from crying and she hugged me tight, thanking me for getting there so soon and said “please come check on my mom”. I just knew… even before I knew… and my heart ached.
When I walked into the room, I honestly thought she had passed, but I could still see a faint pulse in her neck and knew that while she was still breathing, it wouldn’t be for long. I felt the need to give the family more time and told them they only had a few minutes, and to use this time to give her some more love and I stepped out of the room. Her Aunt came and sat with me and told me that her Niece had put everything in her life aside, to care for her mom. She stayed at her bedside providing wonderful care until the very last breath. She called her an angel. I would have to agree.
I walked back in, I sat down on the floor next to the bed and I looked at her daughter and let her know she had taken her last breath. I wish so badly it wasn’t me giving that message because the look in her eye’s made every ounce of me want to cry. They were not prepared for this news, they didn’t want to say goodbye, and they were not ready to let her go. Are we ever really ready to let someone go? Does it ever get easier? Why do people say things like “it will get easier”? No, it DOES NOT get easier on either end; the saying goodbye to someone, or telling someone they need to say goodbye. It does not get easier.
I let them have time with her and I waited outside on the couch. Her daughter came out to me in tears and sat next to me. I wrapped my arms around her and let her sit there with me and cry. She kept saying “why?” I wish so badly that I had the answer for that. I wish so badly I could fix her heart and make it ache less. But she wanted an answer; she needed me to say something. So I told her that while I was not practicing any specific faith, I do believe that wherever she goes, she will be without any pain or discomfort. And then I shared with her something I have always hoped to be true, which is what I feel about my sister when she passed away, and that is that she was so wonderful and so good and so giving, that she filled her role here, she did what she needed to do and now she is needed somewhere else to continue the gifts she gives. Her daughter said she agreed, that she did do “good” here. And she cried some more, and I held her longer.
Before I left, I pulled her daughter aside and reminded her what a beautiful job she did caring for her mother, that it was because of her that she was able to take her last breaths without any distress or struggle and that it was so peaceful and so incredibly gentle. I told her that her gift to her mother was her love and kindness and that she will always carry that with her.
And as I walked out to my car I started to cry… and I am crying now as I write this because it does not get easier. Loss is loss and pain is pain and when the heart aches… it just aches. And while I can go days or months without feeling sadness for my losses, it is days like this that they are brought up again. But then I smiled, because I got to remember about my sister and how good she was to me and how truly lucky I was to have her for the amount of time I did.
Saying goodbye doesn’t get easier… and having to tell someone it’s time to say goodbye doesn’t get easier… today was one of those days.