Thursday, September 20, 2012

Being Human Can Mean A Lot

Someone appreciated me today and it was uncomfortable.
I didn't do anything different than what I do daily, I talked with my patient,
I smoothed his brow, I held his hand,
I asked him if he were scared and he said "no."
I talked with his family and friends, I laughed with them,
and then I held their hands when they cried.
My patients friend then turned to me, with tears in his eyes and thanked me.
He hugged me and told me how grateful he was that I was there.
There was a lump in my throat because I was just being human, sharing their pain,
sharing their loss, sharing their laughter and their presence,
but somehow, it meant the world to him.
I should feel comfortable with appreciation, but I'm not.
Not yet. Maybe never.
Maybe that is why I am here, just to be myself and in being present, and sharing in life is in itself a comfort to those in need. No fanfare, no professional opinions, no certifications, just human.

Who Was I?

Today I was mistaken for somebody else by a dying man.
I had been with him for almost an hour and had to go.
I took his hands and said quietly "I have to go now"
I thought he was sleeping, but his eyes flew open
He looked straight at me, alert and in the clearest voice I had heard the whole visit,
"Oh please don't go!"
So I stayed a bit more, and he clasped my hands as though I was most beloved.
Then he pulled my head towards him and kissed my cheek and said " I love you."
So I told him I loved him too. Maybe I was his daughter in that moment,
Maybe an old friend, a younger version of his wife?
He then asked me to return as soon as I could, said goodbye and closed his eyes.
I hope I was someone he needed to say goodbye to,
to kiss and to hold his hand.
He will be gone soon and I will never know who I was to him but I'm glad I was there.

The Windmills of the Mind

Pick's disease is a progressive frontal and temporal lobe dementia characterized by marked personality and behavioral changes. It sucks. It claims its victims in 2-10 years and most require 24 hour care and likely in an institution.

She shuffles and goes out the door, around the paths that snake around outside and back in again. She stops, briefly, seemingly unsure of how to put one foot in front of the other again. She is found under a tree, she can't move, she is stuck and I give her my hand and we walk out onto the path again.

I help her eat lunch and she is like a mechanical bird, eating around the plate until there is a pile in the middle. If the pile is spread out, she stops. I pile the food again for her and she commences eating again, and then, birdlike, she sips from her glass, doesn't get any drink but the act of sipping is done, then a bite of food, around the plate, then the sip, then the bite, then the sitting and waiting, again and again. I wipe her mouth, she looks at me with eyes so blue and I recall the picture I saw of her when she was herself and I feel sad.

She begins walking again and I chuckle that this is the only exercise I'll get all day, walking hand in hand with her, around and around, stopping, sitting, getting up and going around again.

Her family is devastated, they have lost her and she will never return, there are pictures, and memories, they are too painful to remember somehow for them, they remember her blue eyes and their own eyes fill with tears or become angry because although she is still on earth she has gone and they can't find her.

I can't reach them. I try. But I can't. So I walk with her and I help her eat and I sit with her and hope that somehow she knows that this stranger can feel her families pain and her pain, wherever it may be, and wants to help her to the other side, peacefully.

Lessons From a One Year Old

She runs outside with the greatest of glee,
Taking off in her pink foam sandles, pink shirt and just her diaper,
thrilled to feel the warm evening air on her skin and being free to explore without the confines of a stroller.
She wanders along the road's edge and examines a brick,
She looks at some weeds and picks off the leaves and laughs.
We carry on meandering down the road, happy for a quiet street and an empty house
as she finds the ramp on the vacant house and runs up and down it, squealing with joy.
We stop again in front of another house that has reflectors at the end of the driveway
that sparkle like huge red lollipops and she actually bends down, touches one and licks it,
and I can't help but laugh while cringing at the dirt.
Pinecones are stepped on for their crunch, different leaves are examined, felt, and picked,
and she does a little dance and spins around, so happy.
I notice more on these walks, resist the urge to hurry her along, and appreciate the scent of flowers,
mown grass and spring.
For awhile time has slowed and she teaches me the beauty of a simple, warm spring night.