A soul was called home last night.
I thought it was going to be a normal night. As it happened, I made an early break from work and decided to make a couple short stops on my way home, including a pit stop at the grocery. On the drive home, I was daydreaming about what all I was going to do with this magical thing– spare time– that had suddenly fallen into my lap.
The sun was shining. It was a beautiful day. I thought about going for a run at the park before David came home. He had agreed to taco night, so that would be a fast, easy meal to prep. I could work on my manuscript. I’ve been planning on making more banana nut muffins. I could pop open a bottle of wine and continue watching Season One of Game of Thrones. The night was full of possibilities!
As I’m in line at the grocery, my phone rings.
Hospice was calling me. Unexpectedly.
I paused before I answered, to prepare my heart. This is never a good thing, I thought.
I have been volunteering with hospice for four years now. This was the first time I had been called for a new segment of our program, the 11th Hour Vigil. When one of our patients is near their time, one of us will be called to go sit with them, ensuring that no one dies alone. One of our patients was actively dying, and the need was quite emergent.
In cases like these, you don’t ask questions, you just go.
I rushed home, threw dinner in the crock pot, shoved groceries in the fridge, grabbed my hospice badge, and raced to the facility.
Admittedly, I can be a little awkward the first time I meet someone in hospice… not really knowing what to say. Walking into this new situation, I never know what I am going to find. To just walk into someone’s life so suddenly can be a strange thing.
By the time I arrived and found the correct room, family had gathered. I introduced myself and stated why I had came to visit. They were wanting to read aloud the patient’s favorite Bible verses but didn’t have one to read, so I went to find one at the nurses’ station. I think my willingness to help the family is what made them begin to trust me.
It’s nice to be on this side of things; I spent time with the family and the patient. I got to hear the stories. There was much laughter, many tears, but an overall sense of peace. I learned so much about this patient in a very short amount of time. This patient was very well loved. I was in no rush to leave. These people that I never met before in my life, took me in. They let me be a part of their story, and a part of their last memories of their loved one. I can’t seem to wrap my head around the fact that I will never see them again, after all of that. Over a duration of three hours, I listened. I prayed. We prayed aloud together. I know nothing about the pathophysiology of death. I know nothing about disease processes. But I do know what it is to grieve and to need someone to listen. These small things that we can do for each other make a huge impact, even if we don’t realize how at the time.
And during the middle of this, I got a text saying that a friend of mine who I’ve briefly blogged about before, was being sent to the ED down home. I added her to my prayers. Medicine is involved in so many life events, most of which we do not have control over.
Death can be such a sad, horrible thing. Suffering is so unpleasant and heart-wrenching to watch, let alone experience; I really hope that God calls our spirits home before the final stages of death, when we are no longer really “there” anymore.
There came a point in time where the mood in the room changed. Breaths were coming more shallow and slower. The laughter stopped. More tears followed. The staff members at this facility were wonderful and very supportive. I stayed with the family until they departed for the night. They thanked me for coming on such short notice and for staying with the patient for so long.
When I got home, the kitchen was torn asunder; my own fault for how I left things as I rushed out the door. But, I have so many things to be thankful for. God has richly blessed us. I came home to my wonderful husband, food in the fridge, a roof over our heads. So many things we can take for granted in the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life. Tonight I am thankful that God used me to bless someone; and as always, I always get much more out of it than I feel that I am able to give. I may have given up my weeknight, but I gained so much more. Last night was just one more reminder of how I know without a doubt that I am supposed to be a physician.
This morning, I had a wonderful note from my supervisor in my inbox. It is nice to have a bit of acknowledgment for a job well done, but really, it was not necessary.
Hospice is a wonderful, beautiful gift. I encourage everyone to think about giving their time to support their local hospice organization. The kindness and love that I see poured out into my community is astounding.
So tonight–if all goes as “planned” this time–I’ll make a little dinner, cuddle a little longer with my husband, pray for this family, and hope that God is able to use me in an obvious way again soon.
“We cannot always do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” ~Mother Teresa