I had a tough day yesterday...
I responded to a call that a patient had died, a homeless man, living alone in a shelter. I won't share what I witnessed, but my heart felt torn and broken because he was alone and it was not the ideal circumstances for any human being to die in. Having said that though, this is a man who preferred to live outside, he chose to be homeless and while it was not easy, it was his choice... and I respect that.
This was the reminder I needed, one of which I say to anyone who works in end-of-life care, and that is: THIS IS NOT ABOUT US. We should not project what we think someone else needs or wants, whether they have a voice or not. It is not for us to say he should or should not be alone when he dies. As he started to decline, he chose to accept the room, the roof over his head, the bed & blankets and the care to manage his symptoms, and yet all of it still on his terms.
I was reminded that it does not matter who someone prays to, kisses, votes for, or how they live ... this is their choice and it is not for us to judge, insult, ridicule or verbalize any unkind words or energies in their direction.
At the end of the day, what matters most, at least to me, is that all human beings are cared for well when they are dying, despite their choices, their lifestyle or anything else that we might not support, agree with or understand. I was able to find out from many that knew him, that he was funny, he was was kind, he never begged or bothered anyone. He should not be defined by where he lives or what choices he made. As long as someone is not causing pain or harm to others, they have the right to have a choice. I respect that.
I walked his body to the car, I whispered goodbye, I hugged my heart a little and I thanked him for the lessons and reminders that he gave me.
I found this quote by Colin Powell, which I believe says it all...
“Don’t just show kindness in passing or to be courteous. Show it in depth, show it with passion, and expect nothing in return. Kindness is not just about being nice; it’s about recognizing another human being who deserves care and respect.”
Some people want to die with family and friends gathered around them, some want to be left alone, some want to be in a cozy room with a view and some are simply grateful to have a space they can call their own. I am reminded to honor and respect this.