Saturday, June 12, 2010

Will death become her?

I started this blog for myself, in order to express my feelings about my experiences where I am volunteering this summer. Three days I am at a place where there are some extremely sick people, including some people who are dying. I've never been near anyone who was that sick before. It has prompted me to think about nursing, the role of the nurse, the role of anyone who works in such a setting. It really makes you think about the importance, significance of any task, no matter how mundane, one performs in the presence of such a person. It may sound, I don't know, corny, pretentious, whatever... it's hard to express since I myself am not a profoundly spiritual person.
I walked into a room, introduced myself, "My name is ..., I'm a volunteer, is there anything I can help you with, anything I can do?" and the response was "Can you sit with me?". No one had ever asked that before. So, I asked if she, PT L, wanted to talk or just have me sit. She said she didn't want to talk. I asked if I could get a book and was told that was fine. So, I sat with her, and read.
I have to admit, I find it hard to sit still, especially when I have the opportunity to try and see new things in the place I'm at right now. But I sat until she fell asleep. Then I got up and helped the PCAs in various ways, then took a brief lunch break. Came back and sat with her some more. Then, when I had some down time over the next day or so, I sat with her. We talked a little, but mostly I sat and read, just being nearby. I knew what sort of issue she had due to the nature of the floor, but not specifically. Then, I learned that she is dying and from what. This obviously led me to totally reevaluate the significance of my sitting there with her. She's not visited in the daytime (at least, I have not seen anyone visit) since she has no children and her husband is at work. He visits every evening after work.
She doesn't want to be on her own. Now I realize that perhaps it's because she doesn't want to die by herself. I'm imagining that perhaps she's afraid she'll die and no one will realize for several minutes; or perhaps, it's just the process of dying that she fears. All perfectly reasonable, as far as I'm concerned. Also, there are other things that prompt major rethinks (clearly I have had my head in a bucket for years), such as the visit from the priest and taking communion from him and how happy that made her, even if for just a few minutes. Just having the priest there in the room seemed to lighten her aura, her mood immeasurably. I always say when I am leaving and when I will be back. This seems only fair. I was lost for words when she said in response to my telling her that I'd be there for another hour or so, "I guess I have to cherish every moment I have with you then". I had no idea what to say. So, I said nothing. I always say goodbye when I am leaving and always say when I will be back. I hope she's there when I go back next week.
I am certainly thankful for my lovely weekend, filled with a birthday party for a friend's child, running in the park, going for a swim, eating meals with my family, which includes children (thankfully, despite the various frustrations that includes), and sleeping in my own bed, next to my husband.