Being a companion to those crossing bridges at the end of life does mean that eventually, I will have gone with my client as far as I can go.
My first two long-term clients died within a few weeks of each other. I was with Miss Trish right up until the end. For her, it was difficult, she was not at all peaceful until the last day. She had major anxiety, panic attacks, delusions.
Being with her through her final weeks was a special experience. I was thankful for my previous hospice training, although this situation was much more personal, as Miss Trish and I had developed a deep bond over the years.
I didn’t realize how draining or heavy it all was until afterwards.
I wondered: How would I take the loss? Would I still want to be a caregiver?
I had some time off, and much-needed quiet.
I took naps and walks. I made bread. I went through pictures & notes. I cried. (I still cry sometimes.) I went to the funeral. I got hugs from her other caregivers and her daughter.
And then a few days later, because this is just how God’s timing worked out, I went to Jamaica on my missions trip.
Sunshine, children, the ocean, funny teenagers, winning card games, and heaps of fresh pineapple will do a lot to cheer a person up, I have to say.
When I came back, I had three highly unique characters waiting for me to take over as their caregiver. It happened so seamlessly, as they had been my roommate’s clients before she got a new job. I just took over for her and already knew them a little bit.
I did enter in with open eyes, knowing that I would go through pain again. I also entered in with an open heart, deciding that the pain is worth it and that love is greater than loss. Yes, I still wanted to be a caregiver.
(Part I: crossing the bridge)
5:45 ish a.m. begin to hear the sounds of dueling roosters.
6:00 wake up. Hope that the first minute of the shower will be at least lukewarm.
6:30 grab my stuff, walk down the stairs, across the yard, stop in the dining room for Blue Mountain coffee, go out the gate, look both ways (right first), cross the road, sit on the sea wall, have quiet time by the ocean. (YEAH) (the ocean). Read my Bible. Look out at boats or the fog over the river mouth. Say good morning to joggers & folks as they go by.
7:15 walk back up to the room, make sure
Kalyn the other girls are up, sit around talking with them, get everything together for the day.
7:30 breakfast with my group. Maybe eggs, toast, cornmeal porridge, juice, and a bowl of fresh fruit (pineapple, mango, pineapple, papaya, pineapple!, banana, melon). Eat & talk while sitting at tables with chairs that are too close together. Help sweep or do dishes.
8:00 a rush of activity as everyone makes sure we have everyone & everything. Billy (our driver & a wonderful friend to us over the years) arrives. We load up in the van, count people, chatter & joke & look out the windows & ask questions as we drive.
8:30-9:30ish we split into two groups and get dropped off at different schools. Meet the principal, find the teacher who is the quiz coach, speak with them, they gather the students and chairs and find a room and we set up and run a quiz practice! It’s a blast. Some of the group will go help in classrooms or talk to kids on break or play football with them.
To summarize my mornings last week:
strength for the moment.
sitting in a row with 4 other faithful, amazing caregivers at Miss Trish’s funeral. It’s meant the world over the past three years to chat, help, share tips, share burdens, give hugs, and simply know I am not alone in this.
how she used to take handfuls of mints whenever we went out to eat and stuff our purses with them. Funny little memory and yes I did the same thing leaving the restaurant after the funeral. 🙂
Karen’s arm under Shirley’s, Shirley’s hand on my shoulder, my hand on hers, huddled in the drizzle at the graveside service. (They are two stellar caregivers I truly love a lot & want to be just like someday.)
an awesome care package from a friend who knows I love mail deeply.
more than I needed, and then extra on top of that, coming in to help send me to Jamaica. God keeps telling me, “I don’t want you to shoulder any extra burdens even though I know you like to.” [Busted.] I am a little overwhelmed by that.