Monday, April 29, 2013
On my knees...
I walked into the house and remembered them from when our kids were little and we met at the elementary school. They look exactly the same except he is thinner, bald and kind of pale. The anguish of the situation showed on her face but other than that, she was a cool as a cucumber through the introduction except for the tear that escaped every few seconds.
"Hi, I am so glad to see you" I say "and I'm not." "I wish we would have gotten together for different circumstances, like to drink wine" and we both laughed an uncomfortable laugh and looked away.
I turned to him and asked, "Do you feel like telling me your story of how you got here?" "Sure" he replied, with as much cheerfulness that he could work up. He began to talk about his life before cancer and during cancer and now when the treatment has begun to do more harm than good.
I watched the couple as he talked and saw the connection they have...watched as she gently wiped her tears. She didn't take her hands off of him through the whole visit. I glanced up at the pictures on the mantle, and lingered on the one when they were in their twenties and then looked at her. She winked and said, " Yeah, wasn't he gorgeous?" and I nodded. They loved each other and it was very clear that they weren't done being together. This one, I thought about myself for a second, is gonna be really hard.
I was sitting on the couch for the beginning and as I listened, I realized that I needed to be on the floor on my knees. I felt it, I knew it and I did it. I felt the usual feelings that I feel as I listen to someone who has a short time on this earth and felt honored and special and sad. I could feel my heart aching so much to make this better, be it symptom control or a trip to the liquor store to get their favorite wine...I needed to do something.
The professional side of me remained professional..."I am here to help you have the "best" time with your family that you can have...blah, blah, blah"...but I could feel my heart pounding and my soul wishing things were different. In my professional mode, I took vital signs and did my assessment and did my spiel hoping I seemed together, but knew my heart was showing and aching and everyone in the room could see it. I hurt for her, but I also was in awe of her strength, her love for her husband and her fierce protectiveness.
All of a sudden, I felt like it was time to leave...I had stayed long enough and needed to be gone. It was family time and I was not family...as a matter of fact, if I am honest, no one wants the hospice nurse to knock on the door. I talked about the plan for symptom control and and the schedule and excused myself.
I got in my car, stepped on the brake and pressed the button and tried to breathe. The social worker that was with me tapped on the window and I put it down..."you are so good" she said and I said, "no, I am not." I was thinking I am not good at all. I was wishing things were different and I was wishing life isn't so hard and I was wishing that things like this didn't happen. I was not buying into this...but I am.
The professional side of me knows what I need to do and I will do it. The human side of me will cry when I need to and spend as much time with the family that is helpful and maybe will bring a small amount of comfort in this terrible time.
Mostly, I will be cheerleader as the family works their way through the most difficult time of their lives. I will tell them how proud of them I am, how they have such a special family and how it is gonna hurt more than they can imagine when they are done. But...in time, they will be proud of themselves too, know they did the right thing and know that their husband and father felt loved until the moment he left this earth...something we all want but not all of us get.
And, as I always realize as I get on my knees on that first visit...it an honor and a privelage and I pray that I do a good job because in this situation...we don't get do overs.
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,