By Carol Preisler
I was not in their lives to solve problems. That would be a gift no one, at this point, could give. Nice thought, though. Conversation and comfort were all I could offer. I hope it was enough.
Many times throughout my life, I spent time as a patient. Hospitals can be a lonely place. I remember putting on a brave face for my visitors. I longed to be at home with my first child, while losing my second. I longed to be with my first child, while nearly losing my third. I missed the cuddles, his sweet face and the normalcy of my life.
People would say the time will pass. That felt dismissive. They seemed to lack comprehension of my predicament. It felt like a vaguely positive “move on” statement, but perhaps better left unsaid. My heart would hurt even more in the solitude of that room when they left.
Those deeply stored memories and experiences awaken when I visit patients in nursing homes and hospitals for Hospice. I become a listener, and a vessel they fill with emotion.
Over the last eight years, I have visited 100 people. I can drive through my city and remember all of the homes I have been in and who was inside.
At times I feel apprehensive about visiting strangers and not knowing what their full medical circumstance is. I know they are enduring the end of their life, but what stage of that will I see? I let them lead me with their conversation and they usually do.
I visited a sweet lady who did not have any family. She had private nursing care around the clock. Somewhere in her past she was wise enough to give that to herself.
When I bent over her to introduce myself, she told me how beautiful my earrings were. And from that point on, I fell in love with her spirit. For a moment she was able to go outside of her pain to pay a compliment to a stranger.
I’ve spent hours with other folks who just needed to relieve their brains of all their thoughts. Within a short time, I felt as if I was a part of their family.
Only, it is very different. What I have learned is that these people can tell me everything about everyone they choose. Since I do not know the people they are speaking of, they do not get feedback that might make them have to change their mind.
They get to say good things and bad things about everyone, and weave the story however they want. I am so grateful when that happens because I know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.
This happened with someone very close to me. I would visit her in what was the biggest battle of her life. She would talk to me about her brothers and sisters as well as her parents. She would laugh her husky laugh. There would be good things, and bad.
I was surprised at her openness and relieved she felt at ease speaking to me. Each time her truth rolled out, I felt a weight being lifted from her. She enjoyed being able to say something to a neutral party without any judgment. Anything she said would not impact my feelings for her family and she knew that. She impressed me with her perception and honesty.
This beautiful young woman would be leaving all of us way too soon. Could I have been involved sooner? Would my guidance have made any difference? You can’t open a locked door. I treasured being by her side during the time we had.
We learn lessons throughout our lives that impact our actions. The ability to comfort is a strong gift to give.