Tuesday, November 08, 2005

You meet the nicest people on their deathbeds...

...sometimes. A patient who died over the weekend completely won my heart in his last days. He was experiencing terminal agitation, and was in his agitation very fixated on the idea of home, of going home, of various aspects of home. I understand this partly as a physical phenomenon and partly spiritual, as the patient is aware of being on a journey and not being 'home,' as well as aware of being in the hospital and not in his familiar surroundings. A CNA and I spent hours sitting with him Friday night, loving him, talking to him, watching movies with him, lifting his legs back into bed over and over again, trying to make him as comfortable as we could in his agitated state. He was the dearest man--he was not aggressive or angry toward us at all despite our thwarting his drive to get up (he was too weak to stand on his own and as he was a big guy we couldn't let him try, and fall, and hurt himself and cause himself more pain). His plan, which he revealed in bits and pieces, was to take us all, all the caregiving staff, home with him to his house where his wife and family were. He was going to blow up air mattresses downstairs so we'd all have nice places to sleep, and fix us drinks and snacks, maybe order pizza, then we'd all watch movies until we were sleepy and then sleep on our air mattresses, and then he'd make pancakes and waffles for us in the morning. How could one's heart not melt? In quieter moments he'd ask me what I thought of various housing projects for homeless people, also of Habitat for Humanity. I told him, trying to speak both literally and symbolically, that everyone needed home. Then I'd ask him what he thought, and he'd always think a minute and say, "I think it's good!" looking as if he was surprising himself some. At one point we'd gotten him temporarily settled as long as we were beside him. We were watching The Old Man and the Sea; I was on one side holding hands with him (and he was gripping my hands oh-so-tight, I can't imagine how scary this place must be) and the CNA, who was very bonded with him, was on the other side, rubbing his back. We must have looked a sight, our chairs pulled as close to his bed as we could get, loving him, and feeling loved in return. I told him often that when it was time for him to go home I promised he would have anything and everything he needed. Who knows if it helped him at all, but it was humbling. There is something very immediate about the ministry of holding someone's hand in the dark scary places, just holding a hand and loving.


Blogger Bad Alice said...

Bless you for being there.

6:54 AM  

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