She loved music. Songs would often burst out of her mouth, strong, melodious, so full of life.


But no song came out of her gaped open mouth now.

She was dead.

My ears tuned out my coworker’s gasp and choked sobs.

She was still warm.

I called her name, softly nudging her. I put an ear to her chest. Maybe… do I hear something?

Coworker’s voice from behind: “She’s dead! I’ve never seen a dead person!”

My eyes briefly meet my coworker’s. I asked her to get the stethoscope. Doubt filled her face, but she raced off.

Nothing but silence. Her heart was at rest. It’s final rest.

Somehow I called her husband, the on-call nurse, the hospice worker. A small crowd of other overnight girls came.

I became The Comforter.

I was the doctor who could tell others the bad news and keep composure. Never a tear. A shoulder to cry on, the person that made that dreaded call to a distant relative for you. I pulled up chairs for the gathering family to sit in. I passed around water bottles, hugs, tissues. I answered questions.

“Was she alone?”
Yes.

“Last I checked on her she was sleeping comfortably,” I said.

“Did she feel pain?”
Undoubtedly.

“She was given her morphine just a short time before,” I answered.

“How can I go on? I already miss her so much!”
Another image of my dying mother filled my mind.

“I miss her, too,” I replied.

Numb.

Every blink of my eyes showed another flashback of Mother. They were so alike. Both had such a zest for life. The singing. The joking. The stubbornness. Even their appearances were similar. Same hair color and style. Same height.

The numbness shattered the following morning.

Voices from the row in front of me.

“Did you hear who died last night?”
“So sad… she was so young, too.”

My vision blurred. Hot stinging tears flowed forth. I could not stop them. Corbin held me. Ella found my hand. Anna wrapped her arms around my waist.

My introverted self realized a truth that day. We are all so interwoven. Lives cross and crisscross each other. Sometimes colliding, sometimes just passing by like ships drifting in the fog. Aware there is someone else out there, but unable to make out just who.

But they are out there. No one is alone. Even when we think we want to be.

A profound realization just occurred to me the other day: Everyone I provide care for at work is going to die. They are all terminal. Somehow my mind had chosen to overlook that harsh truth.

I feed them, cloth them, change their soiled undergarments. I fight for ever little ray of hope. So-and-so feed herself today! She walked around a lot! She whispered to me today! Yes, she’s on hospice. Yes, she is just the shell of the woman she was when I first started working here almost a year ago. But it never occurred to me that she was for sure, no-way-around-it going to die. That I would probably find her…

No, maybe she’ll pull through…

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. It is a progressive disease… the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others… Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, they can temporarily slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers…( partially quoted from the Alzheimer’s Association website)

My job is like a horrible drug. It makes me anxious. It robs me of sleep, appetite, and time with my children. Sometimes I resent ever having to work outside the home. I briefly become bitter. But it is so rewarding. I feel I’ve grown a lot as a person. I have found out a lot about who I really am, and what I am capable of handling. And it pays the bills.

So I keep going back, feeling the dreaded adrenaline rush each time I punch in the code to unlock the door to the Memory Care Ward. What would the evening have in store? Victories and heartaches. Laughs and tears. Lives forever interwoven.



click here to go to Waveofjoy's Homepage

click here to go to the updates page

click here to go to the photo galleries

click here see our latest happenings

click here to go to our blog

click here to go to our links page