The drives between patients often is my own thinking time. The radio is off and as much as those calling and texting, my phone normally lays buzzing away on the passenger’s seat. I need to process what I have done, what I have seen, what I have heard and how it all felt. I am a person who is big on feelings… I tend to pick up on the undercurrent – what isn’t being spoken by words but shouted loudly to those who are paying attention.
Looking into someone’s eyes is often all that is needed in order to find yourself in their world. Anger, sadness, frustration,grief, anxiety and a multitude of roaring emotions present themselves. My heart often aches for what I see and feel. But, what is often revealed is probably just a grain of sand on the constantly evolving shoreline of one’s emotional state during the path towards death.
How can it all be understood? I find myself wondering what these souls are feeling? Questions come roaring into my mind like a midwinter’s avalanche.
Are you angry?
Do you feel this is unfair?
Have you accepted this as your path or are you screaming on the inside?
Are you afraid?
When you close your eyes, what do you dream of?
Does the loss of control frustrate and anger you?
When we tell you we are sorry for what you are going through, what does this make you feel?
Are you angry with God?
What is one thing I could do to help ease this for you?
Was there a moment when you accepted that you will not survive?
What does the idea of death mean to you?
Do you feel like you are already detaching?
I want so badly to tell patients that my heart just aches for them… for their families. Seeing a young mother, who is dying, hold her little daughter tight and tell her that she is going to Heaven sears through my soul. As a mom, I don’t know that I would have that kind of strength and courage. Knowing that you will not walk her in for her first day of kindergarten or comfort her during her first heartbreak literally causes an instant lump in my throat. How could you not feel angry about that? How could you not feel cheated?
I try to help with acceptance, even though I don’t really want to accept it on their behalf. I try to make them feel like they have some dignity and choice left by honoring each and every one of their decisions. I try to help them feel included by talking to them and not about them. I try to help make whatever time is left full of all that makes them happy. You want nothing but ice cream? Deal. You want to try to go somewhere with your family? I will move Heaven and Earth to make that possible. It’s all about you, my sweet patient.
And when that moment comes where you might find the answers to your questions, you and your spirit will never be forgotten. You won’t be forgotten because of the feelings you evoked and the questions that you bore.
Your words reveal the true heart of a hospice nurse. Thank you for sharing such personal thoughts and emotions.