First light here at 6:20AM. I always watch the sun come up, finding it a perfect time for contemplation and reflection on life, and my life in particular.
This morning I was remembering some of the things I learned in my 14 years of hospice nursing. I remember so clearly the late December visit to a young family suffering the impending loss of a 40 year old father of two, breadwinner and much beloved husband.
I was privileged to be there, trying to give some measure of comfort to that small family. There was very little to say, nothing that would begin to ease the heartbreak and loss they all stared in the face. Even the two young boys seemed to understand and were exceptionally quiet and still as their father took his last terrible breaths. He died of congestive heart failure, one of the more cruel and terrible ways to live, and worse ways to die.
Administering the drugs via a nebulizer, since he was long past being able to swallow, I adjusted the dose frequently in an attempt to keep him from suffering, and turned it off when the end had finally come.
And then, after I’d made the calls to the doctor, the coroner and the mortuary, I sat with the little family around the bed. His wife continued to hold his hand, as she had done for days, and the grandmother took the children to put them to bed. It was nearly 6:30AM, and I realized that it was the day of the winter solstice.
Looking out the window, I saw the first light, and was struck with the awesome fact that life and light and the potential for future happiness was the constant, especially in the face of death and loss. And that was reinforced when the wife came to me after the mortuary had gone, taking her husband’s body away. She thanked me for all I had done, all the hospice team had done, to help them cope and live and hope.
With tears in our eyes, we shared a hug, and I went out into the cold, clear morning to do it all over again with another family, another patient, another day…
Bless you all on this morning of hope, renewed joy and never ending promise.