I spent the day digging in the dirt. My flower beds were covered in mulch that Jim had ground up after cutting down trees and placed over the flower beds to keep them warm through the long winter.
My favorite two beds are on my patio and they get tons of sun. I had that patio done after my father passed away with the money he left us...so it is a place I love to go and to have people over and to have my flowers blooming.
As I dug the mulch out, I could see the little sprouts of the daisies and columbines and other things I planted but can't remember. All I could do is rejoice that they are coming back.
It reminded me of the seasons of life...
Today marks the official beginning of "empty nesting" for Jim and I. It's a long story with returning children and invited guests...but now, after Howie graduated in 2015 from high school, Jim and I are alone.
While I dug in the dirt, I thought of that...being alone...being done. Now I know, most folks reading this will assure me that they will come back and probably live in my basement, to which I will be sorry. I had one bounce back and after the shock of it all, I enjoyed it alot!
But, I digress. I am thinking about the ends and beginnings...seasons of life. As you all know, I care for the dying and see the seasons of life and end of life on a daily basis.
The last few weeks have been a microcosm of life and death...sadness and celebration that is life.
Two Saturdays ago, I went to a funeral. It wasn't the death of a patient of mine but of a dear friend. It was the death of Uncle John. Jim had a dear friend that passed away, after what they think was a diabetic problem. He was 55 years old and one of Jim's greatest friends. He was the guy that helped Jim when his mother passed away. After his mother's funeral, Jim was sad, lost and needed a friend...and the phone rang and it was Uncle John. He was at our wedding, around for our kids and just a crazy, wonderful Uncle figure to our kids. I remember Christie playing with his hair, sitting on his lap, because he had grown a pony tail when she was 3. He was a wonderful friend and uncle and now he is gone.
After the funeral, I drove to the airport to fly to Spokane to attend a wedding of a daughter of a dear friend. I sat on the plane and thought about what a mess life is. How one minute you're so sad you can't see straight and then next, you can be on top of the world with happiness.
The wedding was beautiful and the bride and groom were so obviously in love and I prayed that when the ups and downs of life come...they stay that way.
I flew home Monday morning to a full schedule and work to be done.
I have quite a few patients that are living well knowing that they are dying. I stand in awe of them and the strength and love they give to their family while they are in this place.
Fridays are my days to see all of my hospice patients or as my husband says, "tuck them in" for the weekend. Yesterday was no different.
As I went from house to house, I felt confident that I was doing all I could do to make them comfortable and ready to enjoy the time with family.
I have one patient that is close. She is not here on earth but is not gone either. I always tell families that the patient is doing the work and when it is time, they will go. I compare dying to birthing and how there is work to be done by a body to bring a life into this world and when someone is dying, there is work to be done to leave.
I walked in and the house was quiet. This family has done everything right and cared for this patient well. She is just not done with her work and so she is still here. She isn't responsive but she is comfortable and quiet.
I bent down to ask her the questions and she didn't respond. I took her vital signs and touched her hands and feet and they were warm. Then, out of nowhere, I asked the family if I could give her a bath. They responded that she had one yesterday but if I wanted to, it was okay with them.
I gathered all the things for a bed bath, making sure that the water was nice and warm and the soap smelled good. I began with her face and gently washed around her eyes and mouth with care. I thought about all the kisses that were given with that mouth and how there may be more before she is gone. I moved slowly to her arms and legs and I washed and dried every finger on her hands, knowing her family will be sitting with her holding that hand until the end.. Then I moved to her body, washing and then drying her gently all the while telling her that she was doing a wonderful job doing her work to leave this earth. Then I rolled her over and washed her back, dried it and applied a lovely smelling lotion. I thought about how long she has been lying there doing her work and how it must feel great to have her back rubbed. While she was on her side, I asked the family for clean sheets. I took the old sheets off and put cool, clean sheets on the bed. I rolled her over, dressed her, brushed her teeth and rinsed with mouthwash and put new pillow cases on the pillows. I took the covers, and pulled them up over her chest, held her hand and told her she was ready now. I watched as her face relaxed and she fell quietly back to sleep and hopefully to a place of deep comfort.
I sat on the couch and talked to the family. I reviewed the plan of care, encouraged them and told them she would leave when it was her time and I couldn't tell them when. I just told them it would be over soon and that they were doing an amazing job.
I got in my car and backed out of the driveway. It was around 4:00 on Friday and she really didn't need a bath. But, I needed to give her one...I needed to provide more comfort for her and in turn for myself.
You see, this job is hard and all the nurses have days when they think they can't do one more thing or their heart will break. I think the last few weeks were like that for me. Between awesome beginnings for my kids that took them to faraway places, the unexpected death of a wonderful friend, patients that I have fallen in love with that struggle with life and death and the changes of growing older, I needed to offer comfort and enjoy the comfort I gave. It was a holy time for me and for that I am thankful.
Why am I telling you about a bed bath that I gave a patient at the end of the day on Friday? Because most of the time, the little things are so much more than that. Because time goes by and I wish I would have spent more time doing things like that. Because 27 years of marriage and raising kids and making a life has gone by in the blink of an eye. Because you get a phone call of Friday night that makes you wish you would have called and checked in, or stopped by or treasured the last time because it was the last time but you didn't know it. That's why...
Life is short and it is long...it is amazing and amazingly difficult and the little things matter. You know why? Because the little things are the big things...
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,