Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Rhythm of Hospice

NB - This is the essence of the opening meditation I gave at today's Hospice IDT (Interdisciplinary Team) meeting.

There is a rhythm to Hospice.  

You go along in your day or your week, doing your work, seeing a patient and then the next patient and then the next. 

You show up. You are present. You represent. 

You listen to stories. You offer some help - some of it actually works. You hold a few hands. You bring some comfort.

You hit a few bumps. A family member has a melt down. Someone dies sooner than you expected. You get thrown off a bit. You find your grove again and continue.

And then, one day, you have that patient. The one who, when you weren't looking, tangles him or her self right around your heartstrings. 

It could be something about their story - the courage, the creativity, the resilience. Or, it's something about the essence of their spirit.  Or, both.

You suddenly know, deep in your heart that, when this soul leaves this earth, the world will be a little darker - a little poorer - for their absence. 

And, you begin a process of your own anticipatory grief. 

Despite your own best efforts to avoid it. Despite the pride you have in your years of experience. Your "professionalism". 

It throws off your rhythm. You find yourself a little off balance. You are more emotional. Perhaps your thinking isn't quite as sharp and clear as it normally. 

You find yourself going over things a few more times, just to make sure you're right. 

And, when you get home at night, your walk from the car to the front door takes a bit longer. Your step is a little slower. Your energy level is lower. 

You don't really want to cook. You really don't have an appetite. 

Ice cream sounds like a good supper. A whole container. With some dark chocolate. And, maybe you'll wash it all down with a glass of wine. 

A big glass of wine. 

Sometimes, I can't even pray. Words simply fail. I just let my heart open and hope God can read the jumble of words and feelings that are all mixed together in there. 

At some point in the midst of this time, you may even find yourself questioning why you do this work. This work called Hospice. 

In times such as this, I find myself turning to poetry. I love the way the poet can move me to the essence of emotion, directly to the heart of the matter. 

One of my favorite poets is Mary Oliver. Her words, the choice, the arrangement and rhythm of her words, have a way of helping me find my own rhythm and get back into the groove of my life and my work.

If what I've said has any resonance with what you may be feeling now or have felt before - if you can relate to what I'm saying - I offer these words from Mary Oliver, in her poem, The Messenger, for your consideration.
The Messenger
Mary Oliver

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird — equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect?

Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes, a mouth with which to give shouts of joy to the moth

and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam, telling them all,
over and over, how it is that we live forever.
Allow me to lift up these words, especially, for your consideration:
Let me keep my mind on what matters, which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.


Melody said...

Beautiful. Thank you.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You are most welcome