People often ask often how I cope with seeing so much death… After all, the purpose of my job is to prepare people so that they have a peaceful and pain free passage. For the vast majority of the patients, death is almost a welcomed event. While leaving loved ones behind is not always the easiest, by the time death arrives, if I have done my job as best as I can, my patient and family are ready for this transition.
Even in the cases that death is viewed as almost like that anticipated friend that comes to help you escape, it still always has a bit of a sting. It’s almost unfair for me to say that it is painful for me because I always think about the loss that the loved ones feel. But, even if I’ve known the patient for one day, one month, one year – that patient always leaves their own impression into my canvas. Perhaps it is because as I told someone very dear to me today, that in our patients, we see ourselves. Even if it is just a tiny flicker, somewhere in that patient, we see a familiar fire…. we see ourselves.
So, with each passing, I mourn… the loss of the person.. the loss of that spirit… the loss of that mirror reflecting back at me. I mourn the loss of the woman who held on until her daughter told her it was ok to go… that she had provided her with the one thing she needed to survive without her mom… strength. I worry if they pass calmly. Some people say that death is like birth, but backwards. Birth seems pretty traumatic for those little babies and I would hate to have that happen to these dear souls.
So, dear patients, I fight your fights with you… I do feel your struggles and triumphs. I can sense so many things about you because your essences has blossomed a beautiful vine in my heart. As I have held your hands and felt them go from warm to cool, know that this is a journey that wasn’t taken alone.
And when the journey ends and my heart alternates between being happy you are at peace and sad that you are no longer here, know that I, too have my own little way of celebrating your life. This may sound silly to some, but, I light a fire. The papers and notes that were taken during our journey together become the starter kindling for that fire. As the fire grows and fills the room with light and warmth, my thoughts dance back to the wonderful memories I have made with that sweet patient. And as the tongues of flame die down, a prayers of celebration and gratitude fill my heart. Happy journeys my friend..
Sometimes, when the flames have passed and it’s time to close the glass doors of the fireplace.. for just that split second, it’s almost as if I see that reflection there… that reflection of me… of that patient… of that mirror…