Reflections on Death

As an almost registered nurse, death doesn’t terrify me or freak me out. It’s a normal part of life for me. It’s the population of patients I want to work with eventually – those who are in the active dying stage, as we call it. I worked with cancer patients and I had several that semester who were nearing the end of their life and that was what confirmed it for me. 

It’s almost easy to have a patient who’s nearing death when compared to a family member.

Today my alarm went off at 6:25 like any other class day morning. I moaned as I reached to turn off my alarm. Looked down at my phone to see if I had any text messages and I had two. That was weird. I wasn’t talking to anybody when I went to bed. And immediately opened messages to see who texted me. One was a friend from school. The other was my mom. She sent it at 2-something in the morning. It read “Aunt Pam died in her sleep last night”  my heart started pounding as my brain processes what it meant. I responded to my mom via text in my half groggy state to let her know I was awake and saw her text and quietly laid my head back down on my pillow, not ready to get up anymore. Then mom saw my text and called. So I got out of bed and quietly listen as I feed the dog and make my coffee. She goes through and tells me what happened piece by piece and I listen. Then she starts crying (as would be expected) and that’s when it gets hard. That’s when my emotions wake up. And I start choking back tears. 

There’s an emotional attachment not only to the person who died but to the people grieving her, or rather the person in this case – my mom. I don’t know about you, but I think the hardest thing in the world is to watch your own parents cry. 

It’s easy to want to be black and white, to remove the emotion from the situational, the relational connections, to rationalize. But it was essentially unexpected. She wasn’t the healthiest woman I knew and there had been recent declines, but she also wasn’t battling cancer or hadn’t been given a diagnosis of 6 mos to live. 

Medics were called and it was determined she died of natural causes. An autopsy won’t be done. We won’t get the details of what was likely or probable cause of death. The nurse in me wants to know. I also think knowing the cause helps offer closure for family and friends. 

Today has been a weird day with a weird mix of emotions. I went through the day as planned until about 330 rolled around and I just kinda shut down. All day I’d been trying to come up with what to say- to kinda let people know so they can pray… 

My aunt Pam was a great woman, with this sudden loss, I’m seeing where I get my big ol’ heart from (both sides of the family it turns out)  She had her flaws, sure, but we all do and in family they aren’t hidden but usually come out full force. But she loved her children, her grandchildren, husband, nieces and nephews a whole lot. She’s always hug and kiss us and support us. I always knew she loved reading the things I’d post on Facebook. She encouraged me through school too. I remember the moment I told her I wanted to work with hospice cancer patients and her eyes filled with tears. Something so close to the hearts of my family… But now she’s no longer suffering. And I can only hope and pray she’s in heaven reunited with her dad. I’m really glad I got to see her a month ago. I’m really sad she won’t be here to see my brother get married or to see me graduate from college, but I know she lived a good life. 

And so on that note, I’ll leave you with the somewhat cliche truth that always comes out with a death in life – don’t take your loved ones for granted, do your best not to hold grudges, forgive and never forget to tell the people you love that you love them. 

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