blink

On a daily basis I am reminded of the "blink and it's over" of it all. Each day I spend time with someone who touches my soul, who says something poetic as if they are speaking directly to my heart. I hear warnings in their stories, memos to go home, and soak it all in. The time between my arrival home to complete paperwork and steve's with the kids is the calm before the storm, full of anxiety and anticipation. Finish that note. Make that phone call. Get dinner on the stove. Change the laundry. Get changed out of your work clothes if you value their cleanliness. And then they come racing in the house and it's almost as if the temperature changes. Sometimes there are tears, usually there are, and I am not sure why, but with one on each knee, heads on my shoulders, they calm and quiet and our evening begins. It's fast and chaotic and when we finally release them to the playroom after dinner is cleaned up and lunches are packed, they attack their playthings. They make messes I will have to clean up and I know from my patients that there will come a time all too soon that they will eat dinner and retreat to their bedrooms, behind closed doors. I will be forced to knock and interrupt their angsty teen evening to get a glimpse of them. I'll be left with just memories of this crazy time and when I think if that I think of my parents, their two person household, with two empty bedrooms, a well-worn family room left empty, with faint shadows of evenings spent with popcorn and the Olympic figure skating coverage.

I watch daughters care for parents and wonder what I would do if I was needed at home, 90 minutes away. I sit with lonely souls whose family they have lost connections with or cannot count on to help and I wonder what could possibly be more important that being here as this person's last bit of sand slowly runs through the glass. I try not to think about a time when I might need to be caregiver, but in this business it is hard not to. In my head I always reassure myself, we have a fourth bedroom, we have a bathroom on the lower level, it would be ok. Then I always think 90 minutes is not too far. There is no question in my mind that if I was needed, for anything, I would be there. The social worker that might be sitting across my own family would not have to ask, where is your daughter?

This work keeps me grounded in a way that would not be possible with another profession. Maybe it would be better to not consider the future so much, maybe it would be better left as something to deal with if and when it happens, but I like my daily reminders. I like hearing from patients that they are looking forward to being reunited with their spouse in heaven, that they know they are preparing a room for them, and that it will all be ok. I like hearing from patients that looking back, say they would not change a single thing, that they had a life well-lived. My heart breaks for those who have no faith, or who see only our staff, and especially for those who cannot accept the circumstances of their illness.

Each night I carry all of this home with me in my work bag, I gaze upon it as I finish my work, I breathe it in as I watch the kids play, Connor kicking a ball over and over again, and I glance at it over my shoulder when I carry Caroline upstairs for bed. It's presence in my life does not overshadow the present, but it's there, reminding me to soak it in, to not will it away, even the crazy, even the hard. It won't be long before it is all gone.


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