Today was no different as I started the drive out to the country to see a patient that is dying. He is comfortable, quiet and finishing his long life's journey well. He is surrounded by his family, his dogs and cats and even the horses in the corral visit with me when I show up. I am convinced the animals know more than I do at this time of life.
We sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee and talking about the end of life...what it looks like and how we will handle it when it comes. I stopped for a minute and looked at the faces of the daughters gathered around the table before I spoke. I looked at their eyes and the fatigue of caring so deeply and loving so much as the end is near. I remember those times well...it's why I do what I do.
I began to talk about how well they are caring for their dad and how when the dust clears and the time passes, they will take such comfort from their actions. I told them that they were doing "such an amazing job and that he deserves no less" and they agreed. They were going above and beyond and they will be so glad they did as time rolls on. I hugged them all, told my patient that he is so lucky to have these girls and headed to my next home.
It was a long drive to see my next patient and I have to say...I adore him. He is one of the bravest men I have ever met and selfless at the same time. No wonder his family can't bear to see him go.
I sat down and did the usual nursing assessment that I have been doing for darn near 30 years and then I leaned back in the chair next to him and asked, "how are you really doing?" He looked thin, concerned and I could sense there was something he wanted to talk about. "I'm fine...really...and if I don't wake up tomorrow, I am really good with that." I know in my nurses heart that he is ready...but like his family, I am not. He is funny, intense and one of the kindest people I have ever met. He absolutely adores his wife and is still so in love with her after 30 years...He worked hard, he loved hard and he lived hard...motorcycles, friends and life that was happily busy all the time. A full life...a life well lived and he is ready.
As I was driving home from my day, I began to process what I had the honor to be a part of...and was humbled. I started early with a family who was going to help their dad "finish strong"...and care for him at home with dignity and sweet gentle love until his very last breath. Something I hope will happen to me when the time comes...
Then, a visit with a man I admire so...who lived a full and rich life and is now making sure that he dies the same way...with grace, dignity and completion...Not a person walks out of his house without him telling then what they mean to him, including me.
I pulled into my warm garage as the snow was falling and was thankful that I had that to come home to. I waited for my teenager to make it home and greeted him with a hug and a kiss and thought about next year...at this time, he will be at college.
Time...something I take for granted until I am slapped in the face...watching a family with no more time, turning 50, hugging my teenager and understanding that his time at home is limited...
I have no answers for these thoughts except a song I hear daily as I drive from house to house that also makes me think of how I live my life...
Take the words to heart and cherish the moments...good, bad, hard and easy...those are the things that make for a life well lived.
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,