Sunday, August 21, 2016


I have been thinking about time, that we have 1440 minutes in the day but there are people who seem to have less time than others.  There is no such thing as less time than others in a day...although when I was raising kids, I felt like I had less than other folks.

So now, I think about time in a life.  I had less time with my mother and less time with my father in this life.  My sister had less time with her son and less time with her husband than she ever wanted.  So then, if you look time from that standpoint, some people have more time than others.

Whats the rub?  Well, we don't know who will have more and who will have less.  We just don't know who will leave earth too soon or who will leave earth well after they were ready to leave.  That's the rub.

That brings me to those who kinda know that time is running out.  I mean, in my brain, I think my time is running out because I am 52 and the years ahead are not guaranteed.  I think about when I was younger and thought that I had so many years ahead to do the things I wanted to do that I felt like it was okay to put it off.  But now, at 52....thinking about my mother leaving at 72 and my brother in law at 59...well then, time is becoming more precious.

I see it everyday in a different way.  I see my patients who have that dreaded diagnosis and have decided they are done with treatment or they have been told that there is no other treatment to have.  They have been given the ticking clock of life and they know time is running out.  

I care for two patient's that are very frank about what is going on.  Most visits, they tell me they are dying and just don't want to suffer.  I had the honor of sitting with one of my patient's for a couple of hours the other day.  Her husband needed to go to town but would not leave her alone.  I looked at my schedule and decided it would be fine to sit on her couch and visit for an extended time...to understand her better and to know how else I can help this family.  At first, we were quiet and watched the Olympics but then she started to talk.  "I know I'm dying, and I'm not afraid, really...." she said.  I just sat and waited..." I just don't want to suffer, is all.  I have pain now and it is okay but I just don't want to suffer."  After waiting what felt like 5 minutes, I asked her what suffering looked like to her...and she slowly answered.  " I don't want to be in bed awake with pain and trouble breathing...If I have to be in bed full time, I want to sleep and be comfortable." 

I agreed and told her that makes total sense to me.   Then I told her how I have witnessed death without suffering and told her exactly how we would keep her comfortable and how we would support her husband.  We finished our conversation and turned toward the Olympics again.  

Her husband called 10 times (no lie) to check on her.  He is her caregiver, her one and only and he will be beside her to the end.  He has put off all of his hopes and dreams, jobs and plans and will stay by her side.  When she got her diagnosis, they made the plan and have stuck with it.  

There are other situations that aren't so cut and dry.  Time is used up with work, caring for families, and doing the things they need to get done.  Or, the dying person feels like a burden and doesn't communicate how things are going.  I have been a spectator in situations like that too.

Jim tells me I have a warped perspective on life and living.  I look at death and think that for whomever is dying...it is "showtime" for the family.  This is it, no do-overs, no way to wish things were different and time is going to move forward and your mother is going to decline and die whether you are with her or finishing the big project on your job.  I remember telling my patient one day last month as she said told me her daughter just got this job that she really wanted and could not come to care for her, "  She is going to get tons of jobs, she's young but she only has one mother...."

Listen, I made a ton of mistakes in that area.  I was too busy while my mother went to chemo and radiation for lung cancer.  I wasn't there...I didn't rub her back while she was vomiting and I didn't get the chance to take her to lunch when she felt good.  I was there when she was dying in the living room, fairly unresponsive but comfortable.  But I wasn't there...I regret that so much you have no idea.  

I could claim that I had two little kids and a job, that they probably wouldn't give me off, that the kids would have been pulled out of preschool, that we didn't have the money...I could claim all of that because it was true.  But you know what, after almost 20 years, I wish I was there.  I do.  I wish I would have loaded up Christie and Mac and took them to Florida and sat on the couch and listened to her complain.  I wish I would have had her yell at my kids because that's what she did.  But again, as my kids used to say, "wishes are life what ifs and they don't happen."  

So you can't get back that time.  I can't and you can't.  But what we can do is look forward knowing that we can use the time we have better.  Learn from our mistakes and make sure that if  you claim that something means a lot to you...you are spending your precious time on that...

I didn't have the sense when I was 32 to know that I would be without both parents at 41 years old...that my kids would be without grandparents.  I do have the sense now to gently help my patients and families understand how lucky they have to be here together at advanced ages, and what an honor it is to be there for your parents when it is there time.  I tell them what an example of love and devotion it is for their kids to watch.  

We all get old, we all die...we all get 1440 minutes in the day.  Now, it is up to us to decide what is important and spend as much time on that because when all is said and done, we don't get do overs and we can wish things were different but often that is not helpful.

Think back to your kids and how they were little and how for most of us, they are big.  That is what is happening to our parents and to us and when it is my time...I can only hope my kids are hanging out by my hospital bed telling stories of the good family times while my morphine keeps me quiet and comfortable.  That is my wish...but I have time to at least do that for others right now with my time!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

1 comment:

dnddorgan144sBlog said...

Thank you for an awesome post. I truly believe you must have a calling to be in your chosen profession. This post really struck home for me. At 60, with my own health problems, I'm very aware of time running down. I nursed both of my parents through lung cancer 5 years ago, they passed away within 4 months of each other, and were married 60 years. Darn near killed me! But, as I often tell myself, I have zero regrets. It was an honor to spend that very special time with them. To help with the final loving duty, although duty is not the right word. Again, thanks for a beautiful and eloquent post.