I knew that it would happen in steps. Today, I heard of the deaths of two residents from where my first clinical experience in school was. I didn’t witness it, but it was the first time that someone I had some responsibility for, even in a very limited manner, has died.
I’m analying/overanalyizing my reaction. I was very worried about it, selfishly. After some volunteer work a number of years ago, I saw a rape victim in the ER I was in. It really rattled me for a while. So I was concerned that with each step like this, with each stage, (like the first time I did anything with a hospice patient) I’d back down. I’d decide that nursing wasn’t for me.
But I felt sadness, and fond memories. I found out through the obituary that a name that one resident would say all the time was actually a special relative to her. That made me smile, because it meant even though the fog of dementia, there was still someone from before that touched her so deeply, it stayed. That spoke to me a lot about the human condition, and the power we all have to touch people. Who will I remember? Who will remember me?
And it was nice to talk to family members a bit about this. They knew who I was talking about, and could share in my bit of sadness. The thought of that ripple, of people even from the fringes of your life, thinking about your passing and remembering you.
Anyway, my reaction was not what I expected. I found myself thinking, “Did I do enough? Did I make the last days of their life more pleasant? Or was I a burden? Did I rush too much? Was I impatient? Or did I pick up on their non verbal cues and give them what they needed to be as happy as they could be?”
I’d like to think that I was a positive part of their life, or at least neutral. I’d hate to think that I was part of what was sad about the end. And I have to focus on that, throughout my career. Am I doing enough? Am I making their life better, or worse?
And I hope to constantly check my feelings, like this. I want to be good, and I don’t want to burn out. So, lots of navel gazing for me.
And goodbye to my friends, both in their 90s, who I was just a small blip in their long, long lives. They touched me.
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