I will sort them out later...

I listened to this podcast yesterday about palliative care and what exactly that is. Dr. Puri shares a story about staying beside an older gentleman, a veteran, and holding his hand through his last breath. It was beautiful and filled with kindness and respect, and time. She gave him her time. With this podcast and Dr. Puri’s words in mind, I want to tell you a story.

Right before this pandemic and shelter in place was happening I had a “client” who was quickly approaching the end of her life due to disease, not old age. She was estranged from her family, and her one close friend was in another country. She was alone. She didn’t trust anyone, refused to pay for care, and was on the verge of being removed from her home in order to keep her physically safe. Emotionally, the idea of this was terrifying to her and from what I could see, would break her spirit, finalizing her belief that no one can truly be trusted and life is only filled with pain. Of course this was causing tremendous stress for herself, and for the professionals who were trying desperately to help her manage her care. She fought everything and sabotaged everyone’s efforts....I could only think that this was her broken spirit, her broken mind, that was convincing her that no one could be trusted, and all would be fine if she was just left alone. She was quite obviously riddled with fear that came out as anger, control, demands, accusations, and threats.

We could all see that her condition was changing rapidly. I knew I could feasibly stay with her through to the end. (A gigantic head nod and thank you to the dad who supports me and lets me do whatever I feel I need to do) I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate though, and there were lots of opinions being tossed around about what to do. We couldn’t “enable” her poor behavior, we couldn’t allow her to use and manipulate people, she had created this situation for herself. But she was also dying. This was our last chance to share something good, some sort of benevolent kindness, with her.

Finally, I decided for myself that this was something I could and should do. That this woman’s poor behavior came from being wounded in this world. She was leaving soon. I had the ability and the power to surround her with kindness and calm and safety for her last few days. One of her neighbor’s volunteered to pitch in and stay with her while I went to my other clients if it meant she could stay at home. I would return to my new friend in the evenings and spend the night and part of the next day, until I needed to leave for my other commitments, then come back and do it again.

That too was something beautiful. Two strangers who had never met, joining forces to care for this woman.

As she lay sleeping in her bed, I could see so many bursts of beauty around her home, that showed me who she had been during better days. She was an incredibly talented fiber-arts artist.

She passed after about 3 days of our co-operative schedule, during the middle of the night. I was up with her, gently rubbing her feet with Valor essential oil, infusing courage into her soul to carry her forward. She wasn’t alone and if nothing else, and maybe even selfishly, that comforts me. I walked beside her for the time she needed someone and I’m so grateful that I was able to. That I was given the opportunity. She made me think of that meme we all have seen...

It wasn't mine to decide what she deserved or what she had reaped during this life. It was just mine to show up for the time I was given with her.
                          ~ Annette

Comments

Anonymous said…
Annette,

Thank you for this beautiful post ... I so admire this work that you do.
My father died in April and we were able to keep him at home and be with him until the very end. It was the first time I ever experienced being with someone at the very end like that. Difficult as it was it was a comfort to know that he died at home like he would want and he knew his family was there. The day before he died I held his hand at one point and told him I was going to put some water on his lips. He wrapped his hand around 3 of my fingers and squeezed. He held onto my hand for a long time. I'm not sure if he knew it was me but for sure he knew someone was there. In my version ... he knew it was me :)

Having read some of your posts on end of life really helped me through that time ... thank you for that.

Mary
Annette said…
Oh Mary, let me say that he absolutely knew it was you! I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing our parents is so hard.

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