Saturday, April 02, 2005

Beautiful Day 3/28/05

I had a beautiful day with my aunt today. As my regular readers know, my aunt is currently dying. I wouldn't have thought it was possible to say I had a good day under those circumstances, but I did.

My walk to her house was pleasant. The air was warm, flowers were in bloom in nearly every yard I passed.

When I arrived, my aunt was sleeping. I decided to let her sleep as I got settled. I freshened up in the restroom after my long train ride, set my backpack down beside her bed and pulled up a chair. Intuitively - though I've never done this before - I decided to just read my book and sit at her bedside.

About thirty minutes later, she woke up.

Auntie: Oh, hi!

Mia: Hi. How are you doing?

Auntie: I'm okay. What time is it?

(Not having realized that I'd been sitting there awhile, she sensed I was very late.)

Mia: It's three.

I had told my Aunt that I'd be there at 2pm and had been a little late, arriving at 2:30pm. But didn't tell her I'd been sitting there for a half-hour already.

We had a nice talk in bits and pieces. She tired easily. As I saw her eyes close, I went back to my book until she woke up again. Then we'd pick up the conversation where we left off, or start talking about something new.

I have always loved my talks with my aunt. She was a social worker in her working years and I'll bet she was good at it. She's always been so easy to talk to and eager to hear about my life.

The silences in between our talks today were just as pleasant - watching her rest peacefully. I'd sometimes catch myself staring off into space. I think I needed that time of introspection myself, as much as she needed it.

I've always loved train rides. Trains and boats and planes. My mind calmly heads off into unchartered territories along with the vessels that carry me to new places. The train ride to my aunt's house is no exception. There is something magical about the metal tracks and the wooden slats lined up in an endless row, taking me to where I need to go.

There were some less than ideal aspects to this visit, unfortunately, mostly involving the inept home hospice nurse that came by while I was there, but I won't go into details. However, I got aggitated enough with her poor performance that I finally made a point of telling her that I was a palliative care nurse myself. She was only slightly better after that.

But I want to remember the positive parts of the visit.

The small intimacies: helping my aunt sip some water, applying chapstick to her dry lips, moistening her eyes with eye drops, resting my warm hand on her arm as we conversed.

And the bigger intimacies: We talked about how hard goodbyes are. She is worried she wasn't a good enough mother. I assured her that her kids turned out well, so she must have done something right. She told me that she didn't want to go. She told me she was scared, but that she suspects she will finally just fall asleep and not wake up in the end. I agreed.

At home now, I'm thinking she wanted more information than that. It's hard wearing two hats - niece and nurse. I'm trying not to expect too much of myself though. I'm doing my best, so let there be no regrets.

Addendum: I have since talked to the supervisor of the home hospice nurse working with my aunt and asked that she go into more of the details about dying with her and help my aunt and her daughter (my cousin) make peace. In my heart, I realized as wonderful as it is to help someone, I'd rather stick to the role of being my aunt's niece. I think it will work out well. At least, I hope.

P.S. Have you written your advanced directive yet?

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