Yesterday, I found myself thinking about one of the families we take care of. This family has been difficult for me and I had an uncomfortable conversation with the daughter on Friday. As you can imagine with nursing, dysfunction is something that is a part of every case, to some extent. Part of your job is to remain neutral, not judge and to just listen, even if you feel their choices are not the choices you would make. Their families issues have stayed with me, maybe because it is the holidays and their anger is felt.
Loss and grief is hard but then you add the holidays to the mix and it can be so difficult for families. In the last few weeks, we have lost five client’s. Some unexpected, some have been ill for a while. As you can imagine, their grief is felt. If loss were an object, it would be an ugly, prickly thing that never goes away. It’s always present for some, and felt when you get up in the morning and when you lay your head down at night.
It’s hard for me at times, getting to know them for a short period of time, seeing them at their worst and then saying goodbye. It’s always hard for me to call the family and let them know how sorry we are. Grief and loss. Two difficult words.
With grief and loss come amazing stories, and I’ll just share a few that have happened in the last few weeks.
One woman we took care of for a short while, will stay with me. She was a dancer, theatre lover, painter and giver to the max. She declined very fast. Family surrounded her and not one ounce of dysfunction. It is rare that all family members are on the same page. Comfort, love and a beautiful view of the river, her one son sang show tunes to her all night. He was close to her in bed and she quietly died with him. What a beautiful way to go. When the son told me the story, I could just picture it in my mind.
One patient died a few weeks ago. She had a naughty cat that was, shall we say, misguided. I would tease her family and her caregiver Roberta that we needed to get rid of the cat. The client also declined which was difficult for everyone, she did not linger long. After she was gone, the cat sat on her empty hospital bed. Where is her owner? Is she coming back? Who can I scratch? Pets also feel loss too.
A few days ago, a sweet, loving woman who was very ill, told her daughter that her son was waiting in the living room for her but he had to go away for now but would be back for her tomorrow. That son that was waiting for her died last year and he was indeed waiting for her. She died on Thursday. The story was a comfort for the family and I get goose bumps writing it.
So with their loss sometimes comes hope, love and comfort. It’s a hard time of year to lose someone but just hearing their stories brings me a little comfort too. Ask any nurse, they will tell you that the holidays are a tougher time of year.
With Mom, we go through the same thing. As in the last couple of years, she and I have written a Christmas letter and we sent out forty cards. She has now been receiving so many letters and I have been hanging them up on her wall. Thank you to all of you who have sent her cards. The disease is a funny one. When I call her at night, she will tell me every single night that she got cards today. Every day is a new day and she forgets about the cards. In a way, I have to laugh. Every day she gets to start over and she gets to enjoy her cards over and over.
Christmas was an important time for her and when I saw her on Friday, she was worried about baking, the girls gifts and what she would bring. Every Christmas for my forty years, she cooked, baked, shopped and wrapped gifts. She is still in that mindset of Christmas and “doing”. Her favorite things to make at Christmas was lefse, her famous cider and her treats. I don’t miss her Russian tea cake balls, which I teased her they were the worst cookies EVER! She’d always put some in a box for me and I would give them away. There is gladness and sadness that she still gets to come to my house but most likely will not remember it the next day.
With the holiday almost here, I am aware of some of your own grief and losses. I have friends who have lost parents, brothers and sisters and even their pets. I wish your heart comfort and peace. Someone told me the other day that with grief, you can’t ever fill that hole in your heart, but what you can do is cover your heart with love to protect that sacred hole.
Peace to you, my friends…