The weirdest thing about being in a room with someone who is dying is that feeling that they are more in that room than they have ever been in any room before. The second weirdest thing is realizing that there are only a few other people who completely get that concept. There is an unexplainable kind of energy that affects everyone in a distinctively different way. I always find myself wondering if the person who is dying uses the interactions of the other people who enter the room as a sort of distraction from the intense work of separating themselves from this life. Almost like live reality television.
Some people are like Nurse “D,” who has been a Hospice nurse for many years. She is fully aware of Ellie May Clampet’s existence in the room, but only speaks to her if she performing some nursing practice on her. I think this is her way of remaining objective during the process. Nurse “D” is one of the batshit crazy nurses. Highly religious hands held in the air praying type, who speaks in a loud thunderous voice. Her confession began by first asking me how long I had been married. She, and her husband have been married 5 years less than we have.
As I bathed Ellie May Clampet, she began telling us her story. She was unhappy in her marriage. Her husband is a cold man, who shows her no affection. She attributes his coldness to a distant relationship he shares with his mother. He hasn’t physically touched her in years. Everyday is the same for them. They wake up, go to work, come home, and he eats his dinner in front of the television. Every day she attempts to have a conversation with him which always ends in a heated argument with him throwing his dinner away, and walking out. She has been reaching out to the men in her church about this, and one of them has reached back. As she continues her story I see that she is no longer really speaking to us, but to herself outloud. She was trying to avoid taking responsibility for her affair by saying that the Godly thing to do was to stay in the marriage. I knew she was trying to convince herself, because the idea of ending things was more than she could face.
Nurse “M” unlike Nurse “D”was a much happier person. She had been happily married since high school, and had raised 6 children. She told me with 6 kids in the house she and her husband had become quite creative in their love making. On one occasion they told their children they were going to clean out the basement, knowing none of them would venture down the stairs for fear of being recruited to help out with the cleaning. Feeling quite adventurous she threw in a load of laundry, and then her husband threw her on top of the washing machine. In her words I quote “As he was cleaning my laundry our youngest wandered downstairs with my in-laws catching us in full cycle!” She looked up after hearing her MIL scream while covering the eyes of her son. Now Nurse “M” was laughing so hard she could barely tell me that this was one of the best things that had ever happened to them, because her in-laws never came over again uninvited.
Nurse “H” a sassy little number from N.J. was not the sitting type. He insisted on helping me with Ellie May’s bath & linen changing. Like myself he seem to be aware of how much Ellie May was in the room. His confession was directed to us both. He started out by telling us how he ended up being a Hospice nurse. His mother had colon cancer, but by the time it had been diagnosed it was too late. She had been placed under Hospice’s care while remaining in her home. Nurse “H” was in his early teens when this occurred. He played a large role in caring for his mother in her final days, and knew in his heart that he would someday work for Hospice. His way of honoring his mother. He spoke with Ellie May in the gentle way a son would speak to his own mother. He also had hopes of communicating with those who had already passed on from this life. Although he did not directly say it to us I understood he was holding on to the hope of one last conversation with his mom.
Ellie May’s family wander in, and out of her tiny room. Most are unable to directly interact with her. For those members just being in the room conjures up painful thoughts of how she may be feeling. Believing that she is consciously there makes her condition unbearable. Then there are a couple who believe like Nurse “H” & I do. We feel her presence, and continue to speak to her in the same way we would if she were completely conscious. Energy is a powerful thing so irregardless of how a person chooses to be present for someone, the important thing is that you are there. As for those of you who are worried about what is occurring when you can not be present I can honestly tell you that for the most part your loved one is being well entertained with some pretty interesting confessions. 😉