Friday, November 18, 2011

Quiet moments

This morning I gave her the steroids and anti-nausea meds via IV and her port. It takes about 5 minutes to push the anti-nausea meds through the IV line. This is after all the prep and sanitizing - harder this morning because I did it before coffee. I was kneeling by the bed in the sem-lit room, with Meagan sleeping, slowly pushing the syringe and looking at her. The house is dark and quiet. It's at these moments when I realize several things. One, how much she is dependent on me during her final days for her comfort and safety. She has had to give up her self-control and dignity, trusting in me to do what it right by her. Sure, I could hire a third party to sit in a separate room with her, and attend to her needs while I sleep. But when she wakes up, scared and disoriented, she wants to see her "honey" and be reassured and tended to by a loved one, not a stranger. I am rewarded each time I lift her out of her bed or wheelchair to move her by a kiss on the cheek and a murmured "thank you". (I choose not to dwell on the times she rolls her eyes at me or gives me a dismissive wave when I try to get her to take some medication).

I also realize that inside this sick body is an amazing woman - with plenty of internal fire and spirit still there. How she must hate having someone else to have to attend to her needs. This has always been a fiercely independent woman, who wanted to be able to handle everything herself.

But most importantly - it's at moments like this when I can really reflect on this woman and how much she means to me. Hospice is great, but in some ways it is like a machine which moves into your house. Because they are teaching you how to handle administration of medications and attend to her every need, it ends up feeling like you are a cog in the machine, and end up focused on the details of care. At least in the hospital the nurses and doctors handled everything - with my role in that arena limited to oversight and quality control. But it did free me up to just focus on her and our relationship.

It is only in the quiet moments now, without visitors or aides or visiting nurses and social workers that I can just look at her and recall what she is and was for me for 25 years. Yes, she looks a lot different. She's not there mentally and her physical condition is quite fragile. It is not a reciprocal relationship nor has it been one since her stroke. She won't be here much longer, and then all it will be are memories and images of her. But right now, in the quiet moment, she is in front of me, breathing softly, and I can see her and hold her and reflect on everything we have meant to each other. She is beautiful.

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