I sat in the comfy chair in the room where her husband is dying. I mean, he is not imminently dying but has certainly slowed down. I visit him twice or three times a week and we sit and talk about life, about the good things, the bad things and how things always shake out.
As I care for her husband, this lady cares for me. In the last 6 months, she has been teaching me about marriage and family at every visit. When I ask the secrets of a long and happy marriage, she is brutally honest and talks about the good times, the hard times, the times when she would have thought that she wasn't going to make it...and then now. She always ends the conversation with, "And now, knowing what I know, I wouldn't change a thing."
Yesterday, as I sat in the chair, we talked about the changes coming and what she is doing. It was a little tearful because, honestly, while a person is ready for their loved on to die...they are not. She acknowledged that and then offered her wise counsel..."No experiences are wasted". I asked her what she meant by that phrase and she told me about all of her times in life when she did things she didn't plan to do and how she learned from them.
Then, we talked of gratitude in the every day, and how she believes that there is something to be thankful for even in the darkest of times. I talked of how a lot of times, I can be a "glass half empty person" and she had a hard time believing that. But I can be and because of who I am, for me, the glass can be half empty. Once again, she urged me to see beyond myself to all the gifts I have.
As we sat in the room, I asked her husband as he lay quietly with his eyes closed if it was okay to stay and talk, since I thought maybe we were disturbing him as he slept. He opened his eyes and said he was happy to have us there and to keep talking. I looked over for a long time and thought about his wife and him. They have been together for 60 years...caring for each other and sometimes not but always a team in good and bad. They have grown children and grand-children and are caring for each other as the time clicks away.
Wow, talk about experiences...
Then today, I visited a patient that does not have very much time left. Being here for Christmas will be a stretch and because the pain had become unbearable, staying her isn't a priority. The priority is relief from pain and good time.
Yesterday, I changed all the medications around and wrote them down and made a check off sheet to make sure that the plan was followed to a "T". Then I hugged the caregiver and prayed silently that this was the answer for comfort. Because the patient was hoping for the best, a new plan made sense...
Last night, I called to check on the patient and make sure they had no questions and on the phone, she sounded better. I went to bed last night very hopeful and praying for pain control.
When I arrived today, the feeling in the house was peaceful, and I could tell when I walked in the bedroom that the changes had worked. She was smiling, ordering her family around and moving her legs effortlessly. I wanted to cry...from relief and from answered prayers. I got in the car and sat for a few minutes thanking my God for pain relief and good time for what I know is going to be the last Thanksgiving together.
In the last 5 years, I have watched people have incredible experiences, and many that they would have rather gone without. Many have to do with caring for a loved one at the end of life in a known situation or one that has been thrust upon them quickly. The courage and love I experience every day as I walk with these families is amazing and humbling. I often wonder when it is my time, will I have the capacity to love and care like these folks.
So on this Thanksgiving eve, as I sit on the couch with my pink wine and my cat...waiting for the cheesecake to finish in the oven, I am thankful. I am thankful for experiences...the ones when I fail to be all I can be for a family and the ones that I can give the patient some relief from the pain and some good time for whatever time is left. I am thankful for a job that is a calling, a ministry and a job. I am thankful that when I leave a patient, I can hug them and then kiss them on the cheek and linger to feel the connection that I cherish.
As my mentor/friend/patient's wife says..."No experience is wasted" and I have to agree. It's the reaction to the experience and the learning to be thankful even in the darkest of times that we understand the tapestry of this life...and learn to cherish the good times and hopefully grow stronger in the not so good times.
So Happy Thanksgiving...I am thankful for you!!!
May you have good time, peace and comfort with those you love...and when you kiss them on the cheek, linger and feel the gift of warmth and comfort for today and always...
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,