I will remember, Love…

photo credit skilled-nursing
photo credit skilled-nursing

There is the power of healing even when caring for the very sick and dying.  Healing is a word that encompasses much — healing of the heart, soul and body.  It’s ministering to all three, and its success is in the hands of those who give the care. But its destiny is in the hands of God.

At the bedside, it was my patient and me and my accountability was to them alone, unseen by others.  Many of our patients, but not all, started on our oncology unit newly diagnosed when a sense of hope still prevailed in the days where treatment was not that hopeful at all, and was brutal.

We saw them through those treatments until their final admission. This was during the time when the beautiful bloom of Hospice was just a seed, and people came to the hospital to die.

I was 19 the first time I brushed the hair of a chemo patient off her pillow.  She was so very sick, and I sat with her on the side of the bed, holding her body against mine as she wretched, gently rocking her when she was done.  Long dark hairs covered her pillow and I reached over to brush them off so that she wouldn’t see them.

I knew in my heart, like many of the women who worked with me, that I didn’t want to be anywhere else, but comforting that woman at that moment in her life.  And so it went, patient after patient, relationships formed, and then lost through a deadly disease, or stroke or other illness.

Family became our family, recipes were shared over the beds of the very sick.  Homemade soups sipped, special treats tasted. Stories spoken, pictures displayed. Memories shared and made. Smiles spread across our patients’ faces as they watched their loved ones talk.  Oh, the beauty of it all.

But, mostly for me, and others, it was our patients and us, alone.  The gentle rhythms of dying.  They say that hearing is the last sense to go, I would disagree, I would say touch is the last sense, and it was the words unspoken through the hand on the arm, the gentle massages, warm bed baths, caressing soft hairless scalps, and the kisses on foreheads.

This time we shared may have died with them, but has lived on in us, and each somehow clings to our hearts and minds and has become a living and breathing thing inside us.  No one ever dies completely, they live on forever in those who loved them. Love is eternal.

I hear a lot the theory that everyone is forgotten eventually, but I don’t buy it.  I think the carbon of their lives were imprinted on those who loved them forever. These were mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters, brothers and friends.  They were my patients, and the patients of the other ladies and men who worked with me.  They were not famous, they just loved, and were loved, and that was/is enough to honor their memory forever.

I know talking about this is sad for so many, and we baby boomers are now facing the final sighs of our parents and grandparents and maybe even a child or a grandchild or sibling.  We weep for the dying and for those who have gone before us.

A friend of mine tragically and suddenly lost her brother a few years ago.  She was going to visit his wife and decided to check Google to make sure she had the right address still.  She went to “street view” and watched as a car turned into the driveway of his house.  She could clearly see her brother in the car, she saw the white shirt he always wore.

Dying is like that image for my friend, we never forget, we can hear their voices, see their smile, hear them singing to that song we loved so much.  We taste their love in the soup we make, or see them in the dress we wear.  We smell them in the summer heat on the water, or the icy cold.

I know my husband’s grandmother, and carry her love in my heart, even though I never knew her.  She lives on in me through his and my sister-in-law’s memories, through the recipes passed down, and the wooden turtle she gave my mother-in-law for a wedding gift that sits on my table and is called Lucy, after her.

Sorrow must have its day, no doubt, it might have to have its months and years, because sorrow is so very personal to each of us.  But eventually all that love will be the healing balm and will live on for all eternity.

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13 thoughts on “I will remember, Love…

  1. This is your best righting yet, period. Have you considered a book of these people you cared for? The world would love to read about all the lives you touched; about the lives of these people before they ended up in your care. You are in a special position to tell us all and give dignity to dying.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did actually write a book about taking care of my husband’s dad who passed away in 2000. I wrote it because it was amazing what happened in those months here in our home, his courage, and the beauty of caring for him. My husband’s precious care for his dad. But, also the pain of it, the anger and fear, and falls.. It was never intended for publication, just for my family.

      I find that while this blog post has been read by over 30 people since this morning, it’s not a comfortable subject for many of my readers. But, I need to write it because it is my personal truth. Not sure about a book, but I didn’t think I’d be writing a blog this time last year either. 🙂

      Thank you for your kind words and for stopping in. I truly appreciate it.

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  2. This was so beautiful..thank you for a heart wrenching honest and incredible post giving us the insight into a world frightening for so many. You are truly one of God’s angels. It takes a special someone… I am in awe..

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  3. Oncology caregivers are saints in my books; I see you guys when Sam & I do our hospital shifts and I am in awe of your care, your compassion, your thoughtfulness. The technology takes care of the rest but they haven’t invented a machine that dispenses love. Continue your amazing work of providing that ‘love care.’ ❤

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  4. I agree, people who work with the terminally ill, people who volunteer, who bring their dogs to make their day (!), each of us has a role to play.

    I am no longer at the beside, I’ve been dispensing chocolates now for a long time. I just wanted to honor that time in my life, remember those faces and their family and the amazing people I worked with those ten years on oncology. ❤

    I am blessed to have them all be a part of my heart.

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  5. God bless you, and God bless all the kind-hearted oncology nurses and trauma nurses and respiratory therapists – all the truly loving people who help not only the patient but the family through a very difficult time. I love knowing that the dying are receiving such tender care.

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    1. They do, it’s so beautiful how dying is a family thing now, as it was in the past. People are involved in the care, and it’s not easy, but it’s beautiful in its own right.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

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