This time it's personal
Updated: Nov 15, 2019
When I was 17 I dated a guy whose mother I rubbed the wrong way. The midnight intoxicated teenage calls to him didn't help. I got a lecture or two about the time I was calling, and was encouraged not to do it again (I believe I was not a good listener and did it again, and again). I feel blessed that almost 40 years later this same family, became my family and my love for them is real. I have a different relationship with each member of the family and I cherish each one of them for their differences and the gifts each bring into my life.
Recently that same woman I annoyed as a teenager became one of our patient's and I found myself being torn between being a hospice nurse and a friend. This was a new experience for me. I found myself almost unsure of what to do or what to say or how best to provide comfort and care for people I love. We ended up taking her to our hospice house, which was such a blessing for her and her family. I honestly didn't need to do anything, I just felt this need to do everything and this was difficult for me. I was able to check in with the staff, suggest increased medications or at least collaborate with them as we moved forward, but the truth is, they did just fine without me and they did not need me to help. This too was hard for me. I didn't have a place and I struggled with this.
I found that the best thing I could do, was to educate the family on what was to be expected, support them as her condition changed and alert them as she declined further and became imminent. These are people I love so much and each were going thorough their own ways of dealing with this. They are private people, not terribly emotional and certainly do not throw their emotions out for all to see. I am the exact opposite, so my additional struggle was to hold back from forcing them to express feelings they preferred to keep to themselves. The one thing I did, which was private, lovely and special for all who participated, was to take a photo of each one holding her hand before she passed. I don't think they would have done that on their own so I am glad to have encouraged that.
Once again I am reminded that this is not about me, which also includes accepting and respecting how other people deal with death and dying, even people you love and care for personally. I was honored to share in the care of this woman. I was in awe of the staff and the wonderful job they did. And I felt lucky to be at the bedside with the family as we all said goodbye to the woman responsible for bringing us all together. These are my friends, they are my family... I will keep them forever.