Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Life as a Travel Agent

On a recent morning I was at work and as one of my patients was waiting for his death, I thought again about an idea that keeps popping into my head... the thought that I am now some sort of a travel agent, someone who's main job is to assist travelers as they prepare for a big, big trip.

My patient, thanks to good medications, was reaching a level of comfort.  He knew it was almost time for his departure.  His daughter was by his side.  She wasn't going with him but she wanted to wait with him until it was time for him to go.  She was sad because she knew she was going to miss him, but she was happy for him because she knew he was going somewhere very lovely and exciting.  Although she couldn't travel with him at this time, she expected to join him at a later date.  

Together, they waited and waited and waited.  It reminded me of a train station.  I don't think in terms of the grim reaper or anything like that.  I was thinking of an elegant train that was coming and he was the only passenger at our station who was waiting to board at that time.  The station seemed pretty empty to me, but our traveler reported there were "a lot of people" present.  Just because I did not see them does not mean they were not there.

Although this traveler was originally reluctant to make this trip, as the train approached, he was ready.  In fact, I think maybe his mother was already on that train, coming to escort him to his destination.  I think this because he thought he saw her; he was watching for her.

His daughter left the room for a few minutes.  It wasn't long before I saw the train coming, I could hear it, I could see it, I could almost feel the ground trembling... almost.  I stepped away from our traveler for just a few moments to summon her so she could hug him good-bye.   I knew it was important to her to be present when he climbed aboard.  I could see pain in her eyes but she smiled as she approached him and held his hand.  She did not try to stop him from going.  Her husband joined her for the send-off and they were ready to say good-bye.  When they reassured me they were prepared, I quietly left their side.

When I returned, the train was just pulling out from the station.  The traveler's daughter was crying and smiling at the same time.  Her husband held her close.  It was quiet.  It was peaceful.  We all felt we'd just been very close to something amazing, something we could not yet fully understand.  

14 comments:

Anne Marie said...

Beautiful and powerful post! You are touching so many lives in a positive way.

Cathy said...

Beautifully put and very poignant. It brought me back to when I sat with my mom as she "got on the train."

Emily said...

That brought tears to my eyes! You describe the journey so well.

Maria Rose said...

Wonderful post

EJN said...

What a lovely and beautiful ministration to the departing. Bless you, dear Sister,
Jojo

Carrigan's Joy said...

I hope my mom will be there when my train arrives. Very beautiful...thank you for sharing.

Darla said...

Beautiful post Sue. Your new job is not an easy one, I'm so thankful you are there for those whose loved ones are departing.

Susan said...

Thank you all for reading my post. I feel funny when people think working at a hospice is a hard job as I don't usually see it that way. I often find that the part I play is very minimal. I actually feel like I am intruding on a very private time and consider it an honor to be a part of it.

If any of you feel interested in learning more, most hospice homes have need of volunteers. I know at the one where I work they use volunteers for things such as sending out mailings, playing the piano to entertain people, assisting patients still in their own homes with little chores, providing respite time for primary caregivers, and even keeping vigil with dying patients who are alone. Our volunteers know their own challenges and issues and can choose ways in which they may want to be involved. I believe most find great satisfaction in this way.

elizabeth said...

transcending the temporal ... those words came to me one night at work when there were three in my wing so close to boarding that train ... you've written it so poignantly .... i've written my version of this post in my head more than once ... maybe sometime i'll write it on my blog ...

Kate W. said...

Sue, that was beautiful. Having put a loved one on that train in your hospice, I can only say that we were blessed with a nurse as wonderful as you. *sniff* Thanks for sharing this today!

Susan said...

Elizabeth, I like that... transcending the temporal. I hope you do write your post one day. I'd love to read it. Sometimes it is helpful to get another person's perspective.

Kate, thank you. I often think of your loved one (I loved her as well) when I go by "her" room. Most of my memories of her, though, are from before she was at hospice. I have a lot of smiling memories of her. And I do not believe I will ever forget her beautiful eyes! What a lady!

AKM said...

I was blessed to be at my grandmother's side when she passed, and your description was EXACTLY spot-on. She was also blessed, as were we, that the nurses she had were just as compassionate and wonderful as I know you are. Truly you are doing God's work.

I've considered doing my concentration (2nd) practicum at a hospice. I know of several social workers who feels as you do about working in a hospice, and they say things like, "I didn't know I could love working there so much." It might or might not be for me, but I won't know unless I try, and it may very well end up being exactly where I want to be.

Kate said...

This breaks my heart and it was beautiful. In undergrad, I remember a particular class {one of the many, many anatomy classes we had} in which our professor walked in red eyed and quiet. This woman was a ... {ahem} stern lady, to keep it rated-G. She wasn't a crier and she wasn't terribly sympathetic, but that day, it was clear she'd been dreadfully upset. We asked her what was wrong and she looked all 7 of us {it's a tough program, so most people drop out early} in the eyes and said, "I lost one of my clients today. She died this morning. I've had her for 3 years." That professor worked with the babies; the birth-3 program. I was just thinking yesterday that I wish I had given her a hug. She worked with that child for her entire little life. I wish I hadn't been so eager to escape the awkwardness. I think my own children's little bright lives have made me more compassionate AND more willing to face those terrible/beautiful parts of life that I've always tried to avoid.

Happy Elf Mom said...

Wow. Thank you for linking this post to your blog hop. It was hard to read... but we all have to take that trip sometime...