Monday, March 10, 2014

The right thing...

Tonight I am home sitting on the couch while I listen to music and my cat's loud purring behind me.  The phone is close as I have a patient that is waiting for the angels.  I am thinking I will be awakened in the middle of the night with the call...

The family is ready.  They have cared for her for about 6 months and she has had her good days and her bad days.  She, too, is ready to leave this earth because she is tired.  She has fought the good fight, raised kids, buried a spouse, dealt with illness and acquired some dementia.  She forgets things that she did earlier in the day or if she was having pain or if she ate breakfast.  She needs her family to remind her of things and it is clear that she doesn't appreciate that.  She is done.  The gift of caring for her is that she is old, in her late 80's and lived a very full life.  So, while her family doesn't want to lose her, they have come to a place of acceptance...

Last week, it was not that way.  My patient was leaving us and the family, including myself, was not quite ready.  He was younger and had good years ahead of him, or so we all thought.  But, it wasn't to be.  He became ill and lived full on until he could no longer and then he gently went into the night.  No pain, no suffering...just a lovely sleep and a last breath with his family by his side.  

I notice when I help families and patients at the end, I pray for peace and comfort.  I pray for simple sleep and a last breath that almost goes unnoticed as the family sits quietly holding their hand.  I pray for quiet and connection that is peaceful, comfortable and as it is supposed to be.

My outlook on things is skewed.  My husband reminds me of that all the time.  Because I deal with death and sometimes suffering, life becomes very clear.  It is important to figure out what the right thing is and do it.  As hard as it is sometimes, the right thing is the right thing.  I watch families make that choice every day.  They have a situation where they would rather do anything than care for their loved one.  Not because they don't love them but because they are exhausted, it is hard and sometimes downright icky.  But they get up every morning and do it knowing it's what you do for the ones you love.  Then, when they watch their loved one take that last peaceful breath at home with everyone sitting around, they understand what doing the right thing is, and how hard doing the right thing was and how doing the right thing is very rewarding.

Caring for each other in the good and the bad is the right thing.  Some days, I wake up and think...I can't do this today, I can't watch one more family grieve and I can't go one more night without sleep.  But then I think of these families that are counting on me to support them as they do what they consider the right thing and I pull up my granny panties and get going.  Sure we all get tired and we have to take breaks but honestly, it is not that complicated.  It is actually very simple...we just need to do the right thing.

I have a missionary friend that lost his mother today.  She had a brain tumor and lived far from him.  He took is new baby and wife, moved to where his mother was and cared for her until she left.  He put his life on hold and did the right thing.  I know tonight, his heart is broken and he will grieve and miss her for the rest of his days but I also know that he will look back in time and take comfort that he did the right thing.  Looking in from the outside, it looked hard to do what he did and I am sure it was...but he shined as a son and as a person and as a husband and father as he did the right thing.

It's never easy, it seems...to do the right thing.  It seems like in every aspect of life, the right thing is the harder path.  But as I get older and I watch my families make choices, I am in awe of what folks can do for their loved ones.  They do the right thing and while they may wonder at the time about their choice...in the end, they take comfort in doing the right thing.

That's my chant prayer these days..."God, help me do the right thing" because if it was up to me alone,  I am taking the easy way out!!!

Good to be back and hope you are all well,
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,


Elizabeth said...

I thought immediately of that crazy movie "Do the Right Thing," Terry Joy, when I read your post, and while it was certainly about a far different subject, it's just so true. Do the Right Thing. Why is this so hard for so many? That being said, I do hope I will do the right thing when called upon --

ain't for city gals said...

my mantra was "It is an honor and privilege" when I took care of may dad for six months. I had it taped to the refrigerator door. And you are so right...it is the right thing to do. I never regretted a minute of it during and after.

Ms. Moon said...

Julianne taught her kids to pray by saying, "Help me make good choices."
Very similar.

Anonymous said...

First, thank you for your work in Hospice. I took care of my parents for four years, until they both passed away within 5 months of each other in 2011. It was a very difficult journey, and absolutely life altering for me. We (my husband, myself, and my brother) could not have managed without the help of Hospice. We went through everything from surgery, chemo, losing independence, etc. My parents both died from lung cancer, both lifetime smokers but both lived into their 80s. I never dreamed I would ever be involved with their end of life care. But it was the right thing to do and I have absolutely no regrets. I enjoy your blog postings. I know many people want nothing to do with Hospice people after their loved ones pass but I still admire and thank them for their (and your!) life altering work. Thank you for a nice post.