The hospice contacted me Friday desperately needing someone to sit with one of the patients on Saturday for four hours. I am less than two weeks from a very special vacation and wedding anniversary. At the same time, the pressure to get things done at work before my vacation is at its highest. However, I had not volunteered for a while and I desperately wanted to get back to my volunteer work. I finally agreed to take the assignment as long as I could work while sitting with the patient. The next day as luck would have it, I could not log on to the Internet while sitting with the patient…and it was the best reminder for me.
Being in the moment
When I first arrived at the patient’s home, my mind had not arrived. I was late from having to stop due to an upset stomach. I had not slept well–having one nightmare after another, which were maddening blends of every worry and discomfort in my life at the time. On top of it all, the caregiver could not get me on the network to do my work. My patient looked annoyed. “I don’t need a babysitter!” she said, as we talked as if she was not there.
That jolted me to the present. I looked at her and said, “I know that’s right! I would be annoyed, too. Because I wouldn’t want a sitter and that is not my intention.” I put down my computer and I told the caregiver to take all the time she needed. My new friend and I would get to know each other if she would let me. She gave me a second chance.
Even through her weakness I could tell by her eyes that she was a spitfire and underneath her agitation was someone who had, so far, lived life to the fullest. Since learning to embrace the real me unapologetically, I learned the real me (flaws and all) was quite refreshing for those around me. As I explained that while I could not relate to what she was going through, I knew as a Lupus patient there were days that I did not even have energy to think so I would follow her lead.
I just want to talk about it
We bonded on some of the similarities of our life and we were entertained by the differences. I told her I was going on vacation with my husband. We married young and spent so much time raising siblings and our own kids that we had worked the first quarter century of our marriage–working and waiting for things to calm down. We finally learned that life just happens and we had to make time to enjoy it.
She mentioned how much she traveled and how she loved traveling and ended it with “but I am dying.” At first I did not know what to say but asked her how it made her feel. I just listened as she talked. I will not disclose what we talked about except the fact that she wanted to talk about it. As you can imagine, it is hard for loved ones to talk about it but she wanted to. She wanted to make sure her children were okay and had processed it and she needed to talk about it.
Enjoy the simple things in life
While we visited, I told her the simple things I enjoy: a child’s laughter, laughing and just spending time with those I love. I also told her how sitting and chatting with her brought me so much joy and I thanked her. “Enjoy your food,” she told me. Her illness makes it impossible for her to eat by mouth. She said more than eating she misses liquids. She craved a glass of water. She looked at me and said again, “Enjoy your food.”
The things that matter are the everyday things
The Supreme Court ruling that gay marriage was legal caused a lot of stir among my Facebook community and I had my opinions just like the rest of the world. I think the things that saddened me was none of us was listening to each other, which sometimes led to us lashing out at each other. I did not do a great job of getting the message out of compassion because it was muddled in my own beliefs and fears.
So far, the things I have heard the dying tell me were:
- wishing they loved more
- wanting more time
- wanting to make a difference
- being in the moment
- wanting to be remembered
- hoping that their life mattered
I am convinced that we are all connected and at the end of our lives we come to the same conclusion. I doubt that SCOTUS, flags or rulings will be the last things that cross our minds. It truly is the simple things in life that matter. Today my patient reminded me of that very thing.