Love Never Fails…

mother-teresa-do-not-wait-for-leaders

I went to visit my hospice patient today, but when I arrived I discovered he had fallen asleep during his lunch — his meal was barely touched, and he was sleeping deeply. I waited a few moments to see if he might stir, but ended up leaving to let him rest. I’ll admit that my heart dropped a bit when I saw this… something that out-of-character just feels significant, and I can’t pretend it doesn’t. It’s been a few weeks since my other patient passed on, and right now the one I went to visit today is the only one I’m seeing every week. Seeing patients decline is part of the struggle of this work… dying isn’t only hard for the person living it — it’s hard for those who care for them as well… When it’s a family member you’re expected to grieve, but the world often forgets that all the caregivers grieve too.  Volunteers who sit with hospice patients know that it isn’t likely that they’ll be invited to a funeral or memorial — if there is one — we make connections with patients that we know are only for time, but they can still be deep. For them our companionship lasts the rest of their lives… and for us… we carry their stories for the rest of ours.

This work is beautiful and life-changing… but it is anything but easy.

After I left my patient’s room today I went to leave and ended up passing the man who runs the No One Dies Alone program in our state. I did a double take since I wasn’t expecting to see him there, and then called out his name to say, “Hi”. We greeted each other in passing but he appeared busy so I continued on my way — I didn’t want to hold him up. But when I got to my car I started to wonder if he was there because of an impending vigil or something so I checked my email before I turned on the car. Sure enough, he had sent out an alert for a vigil at the facility where I currently was… I called him to ask if there was anyone signed up for a vigil period at the moment and he replied that no one had been able to sign up at all until 6 this evening. My heart squeezed. There were things I had planned to do today after my hospice visit, but I knew I couldn’t just drive away when someone was in the process of dying alone. I had to at least spend a couple of hours with him — I mean, I was already right there at the facility, and the patient I had planned on visiting was asleep! Needless to say, after contacting family members so they would know where I was, I walked back through the pouring rain with my guitar in hand and went to sit vigil for awhile.

I met my NODA “boss man” in the lobby and he took me to the patient who was dying. We talked a little bit, but the patient was already unresponsive and declining rapidly, so there wasn’t much to convey. He was truly alone — he had outlived all his family and friends — it’s patients like these that NODA was really set up to serve. Throughout a vigil the idea is to keep the person who is dying as comfortable as possible, and thankfully I could tell the facility staff was already doing a wonderful job of that — while he was unresponsive he was also at peace. There was no sign of distress of any kind, and I settled in to a chair by his bed while I let him know who I was and that I was there to keep him company for awhile. We know that people continue to hear long after they become unresponsive so I always introduce myself when I enter a vigil space. In the brief hours that I spent with him I noticed his breathing become shallower and faster… a sign that he was continuing his rapid decline, but he remained at rest and peaceful. If he continues on the same trajectory I wouldn’t expect his vigil to last very long… but death is like birth… you can “guesstimate” a period of time when the transition is going to happen, but everyone is different and no one can say for sure when that will be…

When I finally returned home I was tired.

…soul-tired and physically tired…

I did the dishes. I did the laundry. I wrote a piece that needed to be done — I have one to write tomorrow as well — and I just surfed the internet. I’m still tired. Tomorrow I have a final interview to attend, and if I had energy or was in a different head-space, I would be a bit nervous. But days like today are grounding for me… whatever happens tomorrow is what happens. The repercussions of the interview, the mistakes or successes I have, the tasks I accomplish — it will all be what it will be, it will all pass…

I blinked and The Professor is about to turn 20 years old — the next 20 years will pass even faster… the only thing that will be left from whatever happens tomorrow will be the relationships I foster… the only thing that I can take with me when I’m lying at my own vigil is the Love I’ve known. The dear ones who have shared their love with me… who have shared their lives with me… those who are a part of me — their love will not cease simply because my body does — and my love won’t either.

“Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Love never fails.

… and I am grateful…

  1. serendipitous meetings…
  2. surprise interviews…
  3. new kindle covers…
  4. piles of Christmas packages… :)
  5. rearranged furniture for a Christmas Tree… :)
  6. Christmas music on the radio in the car…
  7. windshield wipers!
  8. reminders…
  9. rain on the roof…
  10. a bookstore date tomorrow! :)

It’s all Grace…

(And Also — NODA in Oregon is celebrating its 16th birthday this month – so thankful to be part of this amazing group of people!)

2 thoughts on “Love Never Fails…

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