8/25/09

change=the only constant

many moons ago, when i was a young, impressionable young woman, i met a young, angry man who was dying of AIDS.
i was assigned to him by the home health agency to help with personal care, but for many months, i ended up being more like his personal assistant.

when he yearned for pizza, i loaded up him with his wheel chair, his jacket, (even though it was a sweltering colorado summer) sunglasses and hat and hit the road in my old decrepit subaru.
always heading to the pearl street mall, where of course there was the best pizza.

scott would manage a bite or two, then announce that he was overwhelmingly tired, or full, or nauseated or that he simply did not want pizza anymore, and we would roll on out the door and back home where i would help him back into the apartment and into his bed.

i am not a large woman.
in fact, i am rather small.
scott was not a large man either, in fact, he was rather small.
to gently lift his debilitated body, fragile and bony, in and out of the car and in and out of the wheel chair was no small feat.
he made it clear that he didn't like it and i tried my hardest not to take it personally.

we had an interesting relationship.

as the months wore on and scott declined, i did end up helping with personal care.
scott never once hid his horror that another human being had to help him with the most basic bodily functions.
i am sure that my lifting him on and off the bed pan as his body declined, pained him more than the bedsores that multiplied on his emaciated body.

very shortly before scott died, hospice was called in.
too shortly, as is typically the case.
i stood on the periphery and watched as these men and women, experienced in working with the dying, took over his care.
i felt a calm take over the house.

the social workers sat and talked with his mother and aunt.
the nurses turned and washed his tired body.
the chaplain came, volunteers came, candles were lit, music was played.

the family kept me on out of habit, i think.
they didnt quite know what to do with me.
i had been coming to the apartment now for many months. i am embarrassed to admit that there was friction between me and scott's mother and aunt.
they had expectations i did not fulfill and scott kept me out of necessity.
it seemed i couldnt please either party and yet, this was my job.

i spent alot of time simply sitting at the bedside reading to scott as he faded away.

i observed the calm and the storm that comes with dying.

i absorbed the peace and beauty that comes when a body cannot sustain life and a soul departs into the unknown.

my journey with scott ended with a calling i would not hear for a few years.
i began applying to nursing programs and landed a spot in a southern colorado college, where i moved, and got a job at a small, rural hospice as a nurses aide.

i spent the next several years going to school and driving to the homes of those who were dying. there were ranchers, farmers, teachers and doctors.
there were cowboys and indians and children.
death, i soon learned, did not discriminate.

when i took the time to listen, i began to hear.

now, over a decade later i hear the calling loudly, and it has been tugging at my sleeves and ruffling my hair.
i am heading back into the land of caring for the dying.

the past 3 years spent in primary care as an advanced practice nurse have been trying for me.
i have been frustrated, overwhelmed, saddened and unsatisfied with this choice. but, i dont regret it. its been an amazing experience, but it simply does not satisfy my soul.

i've had some very meaningful relationships with patients over the past few years, but none can compare to the opportunity i will have to make a difference in the life of a patient and family whose time together in this world, is limited.

4 comments:

it's just me....searching for hidden treasure said...

as you know, facilitating the ritual of dying is my calling as well...those moments of hand holding, pain med giving, and family discussions about the work of dying are a privilege...they give me, like you, a few moments of time that are the most real, the most human...you are a gifted soul...i am so pleased that you are home in your career...i am tearfully writing this as i know you will have many stories to tuck away so that, in the End, you will bravely face death yourself...as we all must...i love you for this...delta

RunninL8 said...

Wow-I'm humbled by the bravery and selflessness you must possess to (re) enter the field of assisting the dying and their loved ones. I noted the other day when i first saw your FaceBook that you were hoping for that dream job in palliative care-I sent out a wish that you find your way to this someday soon, so congrats!!!! What an incredible journey this will be for you!

Karen Travels said...

THis was written soooo beautifully....I am moved to tears. I am so glad there are people like you on this planet, and I am honored that I know you!

Leslie said...

Oh, I so remember your time with Scott. There is such a sad nostalgia there but it's wonderful to remember the instances that move us forward in life, in our dreams and in our callings. It is amazing how many directions (south, then north, then west) your calling has taken you. Hoping that PH meets all of your expectations!