Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Healing Purpose?

(This photo has nothing to do with this post.  I just liked it.  
The painting in the background is by my talented mother.)

Last week at work I re-met a lady whom I'd met last year while working at hospice.  Last week she was just accompanying someone who was in for a colonoscopy.  Last year she was at the bedside of a young woman who had suffered a sudden event and was sent from the emergency room to our hospice home.  Over the course of a few days she'd gone from independent living to being on her death bed.  I was with her and her family as she breathed her last.  I was the one who said those sad words, "Time of death...."

At the surgical center where I now work I am finding that I often meet people from my past jobs.  I guess that isn't surprising as this is not a metropolis.  Working at hospice I often got to know patients and family members over an extended period of time.  Even further back, as a chemotherapy nurse, I developed friendships with patients and their families that often spanned a number of months or even years.  Actually, that was one of my favorite parts about those jobs.  Many of those patients gave more to me than I ever gave to them.

My concern, now, is the effect seeing me has on the survivors.  I am seeing them at a time when they are likely a bit nervous as they are coming to our center for a procedure.  They are vulnerable.  Then, in I walk.  Does it give them comfort to have someone they already know enter their room?  Maybe.  I am happy to see them and greet them with joy, but I know that the sight of me represents painful memories as well.  That doesn't make me happy but it is what it is.

As I thought about this, wondering how I could make it easier on my current patients, I realized I may be looking at it all wrong.  Maybe these meetings are a time when I'm supposed to offer something of a healing presence.  Do you suppose that I can say or do something that helps them through their grief?  Maybe just knowing that I remember their loved one, cared about their loved one, sometimes even still mourn their loss myself could be healing for them.  I don't know.

Yesterday a patient came in who was a family member to one of my previous patients... a nurse herself who became a friend and mentor to me, even as I cared for her.  I gave her chemotherapy over the course of several years.  I loved her!  When I saw her family member, I knew they would know me.  My friend/patient had kept my photograph on her refrigerator and had included me in some of her family events.  Since her death, though, I'd only seen her family a few times.

I prayed before I entered his room.  I wanted to help him face his procedure.  I did NOT want to cause him pain.  So, I went in smiling.  We hugged.  We talked.  I tried to pay attention to what he might need to hear.  Finally, I felt he needed to hear me say some of what she had meant to me.  I told him how I still go to her grave site sometimes to pray.  I told him I still think of her.  I still miss her.

THEN, we moved on.  We talked of his life now, four years after his loss.  We talked of his family.  We talked of the future.  I think it was good.  I realized then, that maybe these meetings could be more than just painful reminders to people.  Maybe they could have a healing purpose.  Maybe that healing is for me, as well as for them.  I don't know.  


Maria Rose said...

How could he, or anyone else, not want to hear that their loved one is still remembered? I am sure it is a comfort.

Allen said...

AMEN, Praise the LORD for SUE.

Annmarie Pipa said...

I can see what you are thinking...but I know I am comforted by seeing the nurses that helped care for my mom when she was dying. They were like angels and we so appreciated their gentleness and care. I would like to see them again and like to be reminded of my mom.
what a change this job must be for you!!

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