4-13 September 2017
The process of dying affects everyone near it.
The visceral emotions of patients and their families are often apparent for all to see.
As health care professionals we too respond emotionally, how could we not, but the conversations, the shared grieving is not so frequent.
‘til death forms part of my response to working in palliative care. I hope it encourages other to be brave, and to open conversations with their loved ones.
Hospice - last visit
Sometimes it is too late for some conversations, and all that is left is the offering of roses.
There must be a place
A room and a sanctuary
Set apart for silence
For shadows and roses
Carl Sandburg | Alone and Not Alone | Honey and Salt
When a person departs a hospice or palliative care bed what remains is an impression of what was; sometimes shed hair and sometimes just a depression in the pillow or the mattress, which also disappears in time.
When describing this to a friend she shared with me the last impressions of her mother; watching the pillow start to lose her mother’s shape after her body had been removed. My friend described with simple tenderness her need to lie down on the pillow to hold on to that last impression of what remained.
Bed of roses
And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies
Christopher Marlowe | The Passionate Shepherd to His Love | 1599
For the nursing staff the endless cycle continues.
One bed emptied, linen changed, a new bed made.
Have we overly industrialised death? Like much that is measured solely in economic terms, it seems to makes sense, until our time comes.
I continue to struggle with seeing young children at the end of their parents’ beds.
It has not become easier or less confronting over time.
The arbitrary and abrupt termination not only of a life, but all the hopes attached to it can be overwhelming.
What the doll saw
The turmoil of suspicion can be laden with guilt, fragments of conversations overheard, looks, glances, body language, intangible shards you can’t quite collect.
She died, leaving him as guardian.
Mitte sectari, rosa quo locorum sera moretur
‘Cease your efforts to find where the last rose lingers’
Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 BC) | Odes, xxxviii
Touch is the first sense we acquire. Its immediacy
travels with us through life, and for some, becomes increasingly important at the end of life.
Palliative care nurses reinforce this understanding with what they see each day…
“Some people want to continue lying with their partner of 50 years, and not just hold hands through a bedrail.”
“Children want to sleep next to their parents.”
When a public health institution buys a double bed it steps a little closer to the community it serves.
“Some just need to hold their partner after they have died.”