End of the Road

All week long, the buzz has been around our tenacious warrior gentleman, who clearly was at the end of his life. No one wants to be the person who accidentally chokes him on water or rolls him and feels the final death spasm but someone has to be there. It was inevitable that one of us would be the last Health Care representative to attend to him and today was the day. My co-worker and I walked in to find him deceased. We did his last care as an act of closure and a nicety to the family and then we cleared as many of the medical reminders away as we could.

We said our goodbyes, telling his wife in respectful tones,how much we admired her for being so present and willing. Grace under pressure needs to be affirmed. We left the home, looked at each other and decided to go for coffee. I booked off my next client as I could feel my usefulness as around the zero mark. My coworker did the same. Do not think badly of us. We just needed to breathe.

For three years we have been going into that home to care for this man. At first we went to the upstairs bedroom. Next we used a lift for bathing but assisted him to stand and walk. A renovation moved him to the lower area where a hospital bed and an Angel overhead lift made transfers safe for all. Last summer the word came down the pike that the assisting to stand was off the books. He grumbled but acquiesed. His decline necessitated catheter and bowel care, and even this indignity he bore. His wheelchair was modified repeatedly to accomodate his growing needs. Pureed food came before syringe, and this last week, it was very little of anything. The constant throughout all this was his resilience and refusal to have things done any way but the way he wanted. He did not suffer fools but once he trusted, that trust was firm and unwavering.

To see another human being use their will so mightily is an awe inspiring thing. Very few of us possess the tenacity to wrestle Death to a draw. The trouble with a draw is that there is always a rematch, and Death being who he is, always wins.
There are no words for the things we see and do. There is no one other than another Palliative Care worker who understands the feelings that wash over us at such a time as this. We are happy that he has found his rest but we are sad that we bore witness to such incredible pain and suffering.

The reason that man stayed around this planet on this plain for so long is that he understood what is stronger than death. It is love. He had the love of a wonderful woman, bless her heart.

It will be a long time before I forget these two extraordinary people. I stand humbled.