Today a new patient came into the palliative care center. I can hear him breathing as I sit in the small lounge surrounded by big sunny windows and beautiful indoor plants. Outside a squirrel is playing in one of the dozens of gardens planted around the place for the enjoyment of people who are going through a very difficult time of their lives there. These gardens represent a beautiful and selfless act of love brought about purely by a very real empathy we share for one another in a time when the world is being pulled out from under our feet. The gardens are in full bloom, ponds and lotus, little green frogs and small garden path for meditation. There is an amazing amount of beauty and laughter in this place.
I go to the sun room to wait while the nurse gives my mother a sponge bath. I think about the Jacuzzi waiting for me when i get home and I am overcome with sadness at the thought that she would never have a real bath again. Little things…
I am listening as a little boy comes up about five minutes behind his grandfather, the new patient and I hear him say,
“Is he going to look the same?”, a little tinge of nerves in his small voice.
His mother replies, “Of course sweetheart. Grandpa is only sick on the outside, he is always the same on the inside.”
A touching response which seemed to satisfy the boy who was immediately undaunted by his grandfather’s unresponsive state. The boy quickly started chatting away about all the things he was seeing in the room. I suppose there was a baseball calendar because he remarked excitedly to his dad about the man’s uniform looking like his own.
“Detroit Tigers”, The dad replied.
I could hear the family busy dong what all the “newbies” do, just like when we were newbies – 6 days ago. You become “oldies” really fast in palliative care.
But when you are new, you just get busy. You make the best of an inevitable situation. So, you make order where you can and you put things away. You roll towels and put candles in the bathroom – even though the patient will probably never actually see the bathroom, somehow it matters. It’s the little things that count…you know. You try and make it like home. Little details, like books on bookshelves and plants and pictures on the walls makes it feel so much more bearable – almost beautiful. All of a sudden you really understand what they mean when they say that “it’s the little things that mean allot”.
The place is quiet. I am surprised that few people ever have their t.v.’s on. I asked my mother if she got bored, just sitting there. She was surprised herself but said that no, boredom definitely wasn’t an issue.
I asked her if she ever got scared of dying.
She said no to that too. Her response will stay with me a long time. She said that every time she got deeper down by a “level” (this is how she explained it) she felt a new kind of peace come. So, that the things she thought she would have been afraid of having happened, didn’t make her afraid at all.
This is good to know. I can’t stand the thought of anyone I love being afraid.
So, it was a good day. We visited. we laughed, I drew and she slept. It was my eldest daughter’s birthday. 21 years ago today my mom and I became mom and Nana. We have done ALLOT of stuff with this child over the years! She was able to come spend some time with her Nana today – just like she has done for the past 21 years on this very day. She has never not seen her on her actual birthday day. We were all so happy it could be like that one more time.
Yup- the small things don’t feel so small right now.