Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Clinging to Life

I'm back. F'real. As you know, I had family in town and it was so nice. It's nice to have people at my home, enjoying my space. I would let them eat all of my food and mess up my carpet and throw my pillows on the ground if it made them happy. Luckily my guests were more polite than that, but I loved sharing my space and my things with my people. It felt great.

I took my parents to the hospital where I work. Showed them the floor. The whole nine. I'm sure some of my coworkers thought it was a super nerdy move, but I don't really care. They're my parents and they care about me and they wanted to see! My parents are so supportive- I was so happy to share that with them too.

Luckily I had 3 days off in a row while my parents and sister/brother-in-law/niece were in town. We went shopping, walked around Lake Eola, got massages, had lunch downtown, swam in the pool, had dinner parties, and played my favorite game- Scattergories. Dad definitely won for funniest answers, though his tally marks suffered on the point sheet during the game. "Funniest" is always the best consolation prize, anyway.

Shots from the weekend:


So, something has been on my mind since it happened last week. I had a patient who was reaching the end of her life and she was very emotional. She was afraid of who and what she was going to leave behind. She missed the people and experiences that were gone, like trips to the beach she used to take with her sister and her mother, who have both passed away. She was literally clinging to life-- not quite yet medically, but emotionally. She wasn't ready to let it all go. She wasn't at peace. With teary eyes and white hairs sloppily affixed to her clammy forehead, she turned at me and said in a shaky voice that's likely spoken millions of sentences, "I just can't believe it's all over." I nearly lost my composure, but caught the quiver that was beginning to creep across my lips and eyes, as it made its way down to my throat. She grabbed my hand and squeezed it, tugging downward in a motion that signaled to me that I needed to take a seat. I had no idea what to say, so I sat there in silence. I had never been so close to death before, and I had never before needed to summon "What to say to someone who's dying" from my stash of go-to insightful messages. So I sat there with her in her silence. She held my hand and cried and prayed out loud. I was running behind on my meds and tasks and charting and a whole host of other things, but in that moment, it didn't matter; it couldn't.

Being with someone in their sadness is a really powerful thing. Being the outlet responsible for receiving the messages of someone in their most reflective hours is humbling, and for me this first time around, a little scary and overwhelming. I was scared of my own mortality in those moments. I was scared of the mortality of my mom and brother and dad and sister and all the people I love. I felt like I was the wrong person to be in that chair since I had little if any insight and nothing powerful to say and I couldn't stop the woman from crying and bring peace to her heart. I just entered her darkness with her and sat there, scared and overwhelmed.

But here I am reflecting today. Here I am appreciating what's around me. It's so quiet you could hear a pin drop in my apartment, and I'm enjoying that. I enjoy that only a few days ago, there were many voices in this apartment; Strawberry Shortcake the Movie was echoing from my room while the guys watched preseason NFL and my mom rattled around in the kitchen. There are more fingerprints around this apartment than there were before, and I like to know that they belong to people I love. I'm clinging to life, too, just not so urgently.

From darkness comes light, and it took me going into someone else's darkness to reach this light. I hate to feel that I in any way benefited from that interaction, but knowing this particular patient, I think she'd be happy to know that in her darkness, she shed some light on me. I feel more enlightened than before, and through this experience, I feel I more truly understand the meaning of that word.

Love the little moments while they're little moments.

1 comment:

  1. omg Katy... I was totally engaged in this post. You're such a great writer. I can't imagine what it felt like to sit there with her. Realize though she was not looking for you to say anything. No words could take away her fear and sadness. She just wanted someone to hold her hand and give her comfort. And you were the lucky one she chose and it sounds like you did just that. Being in your profession, I'm sure this is not the last time you will go through something like that. Let it be humbling and a life experience you'll always remember. You remind me of Izzy Stevens ;) and you sound like a TERRIFIC nurse! I'm so proud of you!