I am a hospice nurse. This is not the first thing I tell people when I am asked at parties what I do. Because, well, first of all, it’s a real party pooper and conversation killer. But mostly, it’s just that when I do tell people I get worshipped and that embarrasses me. “Oh, I could never do that!” they say. Or “My mother had hospice. They were great! What you people do is so special”. Or “Isn’t it hard?”
Isn’t it hard. My response to this is usually, “It’s much harder on the families. I’m glad I know what to do so I can help.” And I can help. That’s the neat thing about hospice. I help teach how to give a bath, or I give a bath for someone who just can’t. I can teach how to reposition a person in bed so they don’t get pressure sores. I can teach them how to relieve pain and respiratory distress. I can prepare the families for what is to come so when it does, even though the tears flow, I know they are ready to accept what is, will go through a grieving process and will get through it just fine. They’ll get through it, because when they think on those days they will know that their loved one was at peace. If I have reached that goal then I know I have done a good thing.
It does get tense at times, but when it does, I go home, take a nap, hug and spend more time with my kids and husband, watch comedies, take a walk by a quiet stream, pray to my God and enjoy what is to be enjoyed in life.
I used to tell people these things at the parties and they would nod their heads and then, like the people I care for, the conversation takes it’s last breath and dies. So, now I try to avoid the subject or tell them I don’t want to tell them what I do. This sometimes lightens the moment, makes for more interesting conversation and is easier to make new friends.
People find it hard to discuss death. And that is as it should be. It shows our love for each other. When a wife or husband tell me, “It is hard. I miss him/her so much”, I tell them, “That’s a good thing because you have had so much love for this person. If you didn’t miss them, I’d worry.”
I wish I didn’t have to do my job. But since I do, I believe life is a precious gift, meant to be cherished, and meant to end quietly, peacefully, comfortably and with dignity. I’m glad I can do my part.
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