Do we ever think we’ve done enough? Will any of us never have regrets? I wonder. I still have to live with myself, though, so I’ll have to come to terms with what I did/didn’t do. I’m writing this as a friend and not an employee of the hospital OR the nursing home.
Yesterday, the person working on the new Foundation web site and a photographer came to our little rural hospital to take pictures of yours truly. Some months ago, I was asked to write an article about why I support the children’s hospital. It was never published in the employee newsletter (I have a way of making a short story long), and a few weeks ago I was contacted by the aforementioned lady about using it on the web site. I checked with DIL2 (the story is about my younger granddaughter) and she was thrilled it was finally going to be published. After I gave the go-ahead, the lady asked me about a picture. I told her I could get her one but she preferred having a professional photographer come and take some.
They got there at the appointed time and took an assortment in the hospital and then we headed to the nursing home. My being familiar with it and the residents took them by surprise. On our way to the lobby, we stopped by my friend’s room. I introduced them and they briefly told her what we were doing. The photographer showed her a couple of the shots he’d taken and she picked out the one she liked best. I told her we had to go and for her to behave. The last view I got was her waving to me as we went out the door.
Arriving at work this morning, I was told she was in the emergency room. Someone had called for me earlier from the nursing home and they could tell by the tone of voice it was serious. I put my things down and headed back.
Once inside, I could hear her labored breathing. She had expert care but I could tell she was in trouble. Two techs came and took her for another test. I asked what had happened and was told they wouldn’t know until all the results were in. It was either an MI or a stroke.
There was no use for me to hang around the ER and I couldn’t follow her into the scanner so I went back to the office. I’d told the nurse I would get in touch with the pastor. He said he’d be over as soon as he showered and dressed.
Back in the corridor, I met her doctor and we walked together to the ER. She was back from the scanner but there was no change. He went in to study the scans which were up on the computer monitors in the trauma room. Coming out, he took a small flashlight out of his pocket and directed the strong sharp beam into each eye. There was no reaction. Then he tickled the bottoms of her feet with his pen. Nothing. Now and then, she’d move her legs or stretch. I was told that was “posturing” and it was a neurological response. The doctor told me she’d had a massive stroke and had 24 hours at best. Then he assured me they’d do everything to make her comfortable.
She had specified in her living will that she wanted no heroic measures to prolong her life and her power of attorney had told the nurse she was enrolled in the Genesis program. Not having any idea of what that is, she asked me to explain. I told her it is, essentially, donating her body to science. I had a card I was using as a bookmark so I went to the car and got it. I copied it front and back and gave it to her. Not wanting to seem pushy, she explained to me that she needed to know what arrangements had to be made. I indicated that she should do what she had to do. I left her to make the call.
I went back to the office to make some calls of my own. Her daughters are both out of the country but her brother is stateside. I was able to contact him and let him know what had happened. The power of attorney was trying to reach the daughters.
One of the nurses came in and said they’d put my friend in a room and they needed me to come right away. Walking in the door, I noticed it was very quiet. There were several nurses and aides around her bed checking for signs of life. She was gone. I pushed her hair back from her face and went out to make more phone calls.
The next time I went into the room, the sheet had been pulled all the way up covering her face. I had seen her for the last time. When I went back to the office, one of the registrars put her arms around me and held me close for a minute.
I knew I had to go talk to her roommate. First, I checked with the nurse to see if she knew. She said she hadn’t told her. A couple of the staff stopped me and hugged me in sympathy. I went to the room where the bed was cranked all the way up—a sure sign that the occupant wouldn’t be back. The doctor had been in and told her roommate. She looked so little and lost. They had become good friends over the few months they’d shared a room. I hugged her and told her I’d pray she’d get another good person to share her room. She thanked me.
One of the male employees said it made him stop and think when my friend passed. I told him it made me want to take care of myself. She’d had less and less appetite for good, nourishing food and would often end up eating her dessert and leaving the rest of the meal. As for exercise, she rarely went out of her room. Just this past Monday, I’d tried to get her to join me for some sun but she made excuse not to.
Her older daughter got in touch with me this afternoon. She won’t be able to come for the memorial service the pastor is planning to have in the church. She’ll FedEx some pictures for us to display. The other daughter is in the wilds of a Third World country and can’t even check her email without going into town—a long trip. When we hear from her, we’ll know how to proceed.
I keep thinking “what if” “what if” but there’s no use now. All I can do is pick up from here and not make the same mistakes she did.
One of her close friends asked me what I thought of her spiritual condition. I said I couldn’t judge that. I believe she loved Jesus as her Savior. Of that I’m sure. She is sleeping the deepest sleep known to humankind and will be raised in the resurrection when Jesus comes. Her pain is no more and her heartaches are history. I’ll miss her.
Goodbye, my friend.