Sunday, October 24, 2004

Healthy, Morbid Bedroom Talk

Even before I became a palliative care nurse, I was a little preoccupied with death and dying. I'd say approximately every 8 months, I would start a bedtime conversation with my partner about what will happen when one of us dies.

Mia (rolling off back, toward S in bed): So, how long do you think you'll wait after I die before finding a new lover?

S: I don't know. I can't imagine ever finding a new lover. I would be so devastated if I lost you.

These conversations never failed to end with both of us in tears, yet we continued to have them on roughly the same schedule. Another eight months would go by and something would spark the next conversation, like a plane trip:

Mia: I hope we die at the same time, like in a plane crash or something. Let's never fly alone. We should always fly together, just in case.

S: But what will happen to our cats if we both die at the same time? We should make sure they'll be taken care of.

And yes, again, the tears.

Today, as part of my health assessment class, I had to conduct a *very* thorough health history and physical exam of a patient and write up a paper about her/him. The woman I chose was in her 80's. I've done a few of these exams by now, so I only felt a slight hesitation before slipping into questions about her sex life.

Mia: So, when was the last time you had sex?

Ms. P: Oh, not since my husband died when I was 40.

Mia (gasping silently to myself)

So, of course, this sparked a whole new set of morbid bedroom talk once I got home.

Mia: You'll have sex again after I die, won't you?

S: I don't know. I don't even want to think about not being with you.

Mia: But, please, just tell me you'll have sex. The patient I met today hasn't had sex in 40 years - since her husband died! Sex is good; it makes you happy. Please tell me you'll have sex.

S: Okay.

Mia (nervously backpaddeling just a little): Well, you can wait a little while after I'm gone if you want, but do get back to it.

And guess what? No tears! I hope this is not a sign of becoming jaded, but instead a sign that my feelings and thoughts about death are getting healthier.

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