Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Death and Dying

She smiled, that sad knowing smile, then she hugged me.

"Get some rest." I told her.

And then the newly widowed woman rejoined her family and walked away.

Since February of this year I have had 10 friends lose a parent. I've often wondered how that is. How does one lose a parent? How does one keep living? How does one continue to experience life without them?

I do not know the answer to these questions.

In college I once dreamed that my mother died. I remember waking in my dorm room. I was scared and confused. My chest was heavy and tight. I found it hard to breathe. It was a dream. I quietly began to cry. It was a terrifying nightmarish dream. It wasn't true. But for 10 of my friends it now is. I don't understand how they feel. I cannot relate.

Sometimes, I help people die. I help provide a quality death. I walk the family through what will happen, then it does, then they go home. Death really is that simple. It is the effect of death that is not simple.

"Get some rest." I told her.

And the newly widowed woman rejoined her family and walked away. It was 02:00 in the morning. She was going home. She was going to bed. And for the first night of the rest of her life she would get in that bed alone.

How can you "get some rest" when the place you rest is the quiet place that so profoundly tells you he is gone.

I often wonder if anyone will sleep with her. Working nights, those families leave to go home, to go to bed. I wonder if any of them think about the sleeping. I wonder what happens when they leave my unit. I wonder if they wake in the night to find their chest heavy and tight and unable to breathe, only to realize it is a truth and not a dream.

She smiled, that sad knowing smile, then she hugged me.

They always hug me. Why? I do not know them. I will never see them again. I try to say the right things. I stood with them through one of the most terrifying, horrific nights of their life. Over time I will not remember them. I will not remember the families or the patients or even why they died. I often wonder if they remember me, if they see me in their memories; that girl in the room.

But I suppose I hug them too. I suppose we receive each other.  

I think I will stop counting at 10.


t sanders said...

Blogger Joy Kaye said...

You probably don't really need answers to your questions, but they do wake up with that crushing feeling.

But they also wake up without it.

Sometimes they appreciate the hug of someone who can comfort without intense familial emotion.

And, oddly, they will remember you. Maybe not your name, but you. And the ways you helped them in the middle of the night.

We've learned and taught our girls in the past few years that death is part of life. Kind of hard to think of it that way until you have to...but it is.

And it's okay...really okay.

t sanders said...

Summer Richards said...
Hey Tara...there's not a lot of sleeping right after the someone dies. There's a lot of tossing and turning, and getting up and wandering the house.

The only thing you can really make yourself do is and begin the adjustment to the new normal...a normal you don't want and didn't ask for. You don't want them to be dead and you don't want them to be gone but gone they are.

And for a while you feel the missing of them. Every second of every day seems far more empty than it ought to be and that middle of you where they used to be takes up so much of you, you just don't think you can go another step...but you do...what's the alternative?

On you go without them and more and more of your life goes forward and the empty begins to fill up with other people other things...and soon the time without them is more than the time with them.

Eventually the new normal is just normal and you can imagine your life with that person in it...not that you wouldn't give anything to have them back but you are OK and on balance again.

Thankfully, we only have to walk this path as alone as we want to. God himself has been down this road.

August 14, 2013 at 3:42 PM