Saturday, December 6, 2014

Important things...

Yesterday went well, really, if I think of what could have happened.  I started off seeing my dear patients and ended up dancing at  "The Little Bear".  In between, I got to have a day like no other, with profound moments of love and pain weaved with profound moments of contentment and joy!

My patients are holding their own.  Hopefully as I write this, they are in bed with their loved ones feeling peace and comfort as they journey through the last days of this life...

As for me...my cup is full.  Last night, I headed out to drown my feelings in some adult beverages and look at the lights of the season.
 For the last 4 years, a group of us have been meeting and drowning in honor of a dear friend whos husband was killed in Afganistan. That year, in 2010, we sadly visited wondering how she will go on and how we could support her in her grief.  This year, we drank to her and her strength and his memory of the love that was so intense and how we think of him now with honor and love.   Needless to say, the Maker's Mark was flowing!!!

Interestingly enough, my "of age" daughter and her roomates joined us.  I looked down the table and felt a rush of thankfulness and peace to have the honor of these amazing twenty-somethings choosing our group to hang out with.  Jim and I were humbled and proud to be on the short list on a Friday night!

We danced...we talked and we solved the worlds problems...and when the night was over, I had quite a few extras crashing all over my house.  They slept in beds, on the futon, fell where they were and were under my roof.  In the morning, a few left to go skiing, but a few stayed around and we put up the Christmas tree.  

They stayed the morning and went off to live their exciting 20 something lives.  I remember being that age and how exciting it was to be finishing college and planning a future.

When they left, the house was quiet and I didn't turn on my music.  I just fell into my head and thought...

As I cleaned the house, I remembered a moment yesterday that got me .  My patient, a favorite, is starting to "turn inward" which is a fancy hospice term...and what it really means is that he doesn't care about the things that don't matter.  He sits with his wife and children and they talk...almost too much that I worry he is getting tired, but he wants them there and close.  He cares deeply that they are by his side and that they remember him well.  But, if the phone rings and it is not a person he wants to talk to, it is easy now for him to just say no....not talking today.

We talked about that...his willingness to let things go.  He told me that he wished that he had the wisdom of dying twenty years ago... That so much of life really doesn't matter...the day to day things that we worry about.  He told me that really all that matters is your loved ones...the people you love and the time spent with them letting them know that.  As his time here with them is limited, and he he gets reminded daily with his symptoms...he feels like he wasted some precious time worrying about stuff that just doesn't matter.  I watched as he sat in his chair and smiled as he imparted this important wisdom to me.    

Finally, it was time to go and I bent over in the recliner and put my cheek on his and then kissed his cheek.  I felt the stubble of the days of not shaving and cherished the feeling.  I thanked him for his wisdom and time with me...time he could be sitting with his daughter that is my same age...

Makes me think...is anything about life easy?  The day to day stuff that we struggle with and forget the important stuff...

I am happy to say that this morning, with my house full of college kids, I took a moment to look around and feel the sweet contentment of human connection and a quiet heart that was full.  My college girl was putting ornaments on the tree, my son's roomate was cooking breakfast for whoever wanted it, and the rest of them were drinking coffee in my livingroom.  I was happy....almost ecstatic.  I thought of my patient and imprinted this picture so I could tell him how much his time  and advice means to me...

This kind of stuff is a perk of being a hospice nurse...working with those who are dying.  As people ask me how can I do it...I counter in my head, "how could I not?"  Yes, I do some drowning occasionally with adult beverages, but honestly, who gets to work in a job that keeps the important things in life front and center?   Who gets to kiss their patients after every visit....Do you know every cheek has it's own warmth and feeling?  And who gets to be loved and hugged daily and told how much you mean to them?  I bet you don't.  Especially at your job...I mean, I get paid to do this? 
I knew I wanted to be a nurse but never dreamed I could have this kind of human love and connection when I chose this field.  Honestly, I wouldn't trade it for the world....

So tonight, what do leave you with?  A question....what if you had a short time on this earth... with the people you love and adore?  What would you change?  Anything?  

No one is perfect and I am sure there are things that we would do differently...but what....and is it something to change now to love your "people" more and better?  

I got my work cut out for me...
We'll tawk tomorrow, 
I love you all,

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Friday routine...

This morning, as I walked into my son's room...I began to think about what lies ahead.  It made me think of the quote, "These are the times that try men's souls"...but in my head it was, "these are the days that try nurse's souls" and woke him up.  He stirred, more like a grizzly bear then a sleeping child and told me he heard me.  I walked out with a heavy heart.

Today is going to be a usual Friday at work in some ways but not so usual in others.  This Friday is most likely going to be the last Friday on earth for a few my patients.  They have voiced there wants and needs, they have said their good byes, they have made the plan.  Now, it's all up to the human body and human spirit to let go.

Sometimes, no matter how badly someone wants to be done with life, it's not time  yet.  They have a strong heart, a strong spirit, a strong will to live even though they feel ready to go. From a hospice nurses standpoint, that is the time when I have to do my best work, my most holy work...helping the patient and family find some peace in the process.

I use the term "process" daily with dying because it is...a process.  People get a diagnosis, stop treatment and are done.  But I can tell you that there is a time for everything whether we are ready or not. But today, I have watched all week as the patient's, their bodies and the caregivers have become ready...

So, today, as Jim says, "I will get all my patients tucked in."  My day will  consist of visits that include teaching...talking about all the medications, and planning for things that come up that aren't planned.  The clinical, nursey things that make me know I am doing the best I can to help the patient with their symptoms. 

Then,  knowing me,  I will spend the most time with the family letting them know they are doing a beautiful thing for their loved one,  and leave hoping that I said enough to calm their fears of inadequacy...their fears that they are not doing enough.  

I'm sure I will be running late all day...on Fridays, families don't want me to leave.  I will drink 5 cups of coffee at the table and honestly have a hard time leaving them.  Interestingly enough, the patients, at this point are good...they give me the knowing wink that after all of these years I have learned means, "take care of my family" and I give them the nod.  When you take care of someone so intensely for so long, it's almost like we can read each others minds.

So today, like other Fridays, I will say my goodbyes...I will hug them and feel their cheek on mine...and tell them I will see them on Monday.  They will give me the knowing wink again which means, "don't be so sure" and I will wink back, but knowing this Friday,  they are probably right.  

When it's time to go I will walk out of the house with the main caregiver and we will talk by the car...saying it all again to make sure they know what to do should this be it...and we hold each other tightly...them caring for me as much as I have cared for them...

I'll get in my car, wipe my drippy eyes and go to the next house...to do it again.  

It's going to be a tough day today...and I want it to be my best day of nursing ever...

May it be so!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,