(107) Good Watch

This time a contribution from the district nursing services. No matter how professional the employees are towards their clients, it is and remains human work. This is most evident when the daily work extends to palliative care. Besides profession, emotions also come into play. After all, it is and remains work for people carried out by people and everything that comes with it. For all these employees it is nothing but praise from me!

And now follows Nella’s contribution… a contribution from a district nursing service, somewhere in The Netherlands.

“Good watch,” these were the words I have heard for years. During the night shift, after I gave you the care you needed.

The bond I had with you was special, our age difference of 40 years did nothing to that. You called me your friend. Not so much that I visited you outside my working hours … though. The many conversations about life itself, such as the struggle you wanted to continue to work as a highly educated woman at the time when you were married and had children. That was very unusual at the time and took a lot of struggle. But you persisted and never gave up on what you believed. Those were the powerful stories. Keep developing yourself, don’t stand still, because that was decline by definition. Being and staying independent as a woman, leading your own … That was one of the many stories and lessons and learning moments about life itself. Also, the love for your deceased husband, who supported you in those years of struggle to follow your own path as a woman. The many grateful moments with your husband, children and grandchildren together. The visits of your children, who came frequently and the grandchildren you called gifts.

It is May 4, 2019, commemoration day of the dead. Your health deteriorates very quickly when I arrive around midnight as usual. As always, the TV is on, but not now with the news sections, but the Second World War is proceeding. The bombs and all that goes with it, illuminates and engulfs your living room with sound, from a TV screen that is currently far too large. I can see that the WWII is not only on TV but also in you. With a somewhat tearful face, which I have rarely seen in all those 7 years with you, you tell me that I may go and that if it suits me, I may return later in the night or even in the morning. Your voice trembles. My doubt about leaving is great, but because you say it so emphatically and you don’t like fuss, I am starting off in the first place. But before I go out through the door, I walk back and ask, “Can I watch with you so that we are together …” “If you want it so much” and “Do you have time for that?” you asked in a snappy voice to me. For some situations I like to make time free. I know you and understand that you quickly perceive it as pity or too much involvement. I need to phrase it gently. The thought alone. That you would need someone, or that you would feel sorry. That did not suit you at all and straightened your hair. I knew that. “I always come and sit next to you” was my answer, usually going through the day. “That was true,” you confirmed. The tone became much milder again. Once next to you, I felt the quivering in your hands, and as so often I grabbed them for a moment, just like now. Because your hands were shaking so, I enclosed them with my second hand. We watched the movie together without saying anything. Despite our very close relationship, I know that you absolutely do not want to talk about the war. That era is a closed book for you. Once the movie is over, I give you the care that we give you every night.

“Didn’t it bother you that you stayed?” was your question to me. “No, being together with you right now is so much more of significance to me.” “For me too,” you say. “You don’t know how much you mean to me, because I don’t actually say it so often. Rarely actually.” “You don’t have to. Some situations you can just feel the empathy,” was my answer. This is the essence of providing care. I have known that for a long time, but now I felt it so emphatically.

In the last week of your life, you become increasingly narrow, restless and anxious. I happen to have the night shift myself that week. I was with you during the many hours of fear and unrest. I asked the questions that always must be asked in situations like this. And what we talked about much earlier, when nothing was wrong. You wanted to die peacefully, preferably asleep. The conversations become more intense, your sensitivity and your soft side are showing much more, just like the satisfaction about a completed life. It was such a beautiful valuable time together in the last week. The cocktail of medication that someone receives when the person is severely oppressed or restless (at a certain stage) and wants to do so, as would have been the case with you that evening, is started. And, as promised, I will still take care of you.

The peak of our relationship and contact was reached for me, when your son called me and asked if I wanted to stop by so that you could say goodbye to me when you were conversant. Of course, I would come over. With heavy shoes, I went to you. To be honest, I found it difficult, but once with you, I was surprised of the peace you showed. There was no sign of fear and unrest. You were ready for the last journey. Almost cheerfully you asked me if you could give me something. You have often asked me that question. Like now, I don’t need anything from you. “Everything you would like to give me fades in the contact and the bond we have had”. You smiled at me. “You are right, what we had together was unique in every way”. With a final farewell and a kiss on your cheek I leave your home. On my way home, tears roll down my cheeks. Not because you die quickly, but because of the beautiful and many memories we had together. I realized: this is and was LOVE. I feel love and gratitude for the time together with you. And a huge loss for the time to come when I must miss you.

Farewell dear friend!

(65) Understanding (2)

Maybe you’re not ready yet and you kind of like your life as it is today. That is OK too.. as long as you understand this… and… as long as your partner understands that too.

begrip - shutterstock_178311602“Time heals all wounds” is often said to people who shortly lost a dear one. “It’s not good when you keep greaving” you hear say when the loss was longer ago. “It’s not healthy when you couldn’t process your loss after so many years” is less often heard.

They say it will wear off, but is that really the case? It could be that the sharp edges of your grief disappear and you are able to live with that. It even could be that you are not aware, even after years, that you are still somehow processing your grief. That doesn’t have to be bad or unhealthy. My point of view is that others should be able to understand this. However, when those others are not empathic then you as a mourner should be able to understand that too. But… there you ask quite a bit from a grieving person. One condition is that you as a grieving person should be aware that you are still processing your grief… but… you might not even realize it!

An example for clarification.

From the first moment they saw each other there was magic between them. It wasn’t so much love at first sight, it went much deeper. It was as if two old souls met and also recognised each other at that level. They joined forces, were deeply in love and got married. Their lives went over high mountains and through deep valleys. People who knew them were jalous of them. A few, however, recognised the depth of their love and the price they both had to pay for that. A price they paid with love.

She died at a young age. He was devastated. He missed his buddy… his soulmate. He burried himself in his job. The work was challenging. Work he could put his heart and soul into. Work that gave him energy, lots of energy, and also was the means in order to be able to cope with his grief. He dreamed a lot about her, they had long talks together and recollected memories. Yes… still… after all those years and relations further. He was married several times now… and divorced again. He had reached a point where he didn’t need a partner at all… he was alone… and kind of happy.

One of his exes requested his help in order to find her current partner who was missing abroad. In his job he had the means and the opportunity to start a search and decided to help her. All end’s well, the partner of his ex was found and everyone continued with their own lives. When saying goodby the ex told him that she regretted their relation was ended at the time because she was unable to “reach” him. He was just as important to his ex as his deceased great love was for him.

It took a while before he understood. In retrospect, this ex was also important to him although in a different manner than his deceased partner. Both regretted the way things had worked out between them, but at the time it was not possible… and even today it is not possible… because they have different lives now as well as other relationships.

Again he dreamed about his great love and this time she told him to let her go. He shouldn’t keep looking back… but he should continue with his life.

There you are… you with the loss of the great love in your life while at the same time you yourself are the great love of your present partner… the thing is though… you are not aware of this. But how can you assure a steady relationship with your new partner without this awareness. What is clear, is that both sides should perceive this.

People are unique and the solutions that might be needed are also depending on place, time and culture. It could take even years before you are able to deal with your grief… and that doesn’t have to be bad. Processing emotions like grief and mourning takes time. Personally I have no value judgement about that; one person can do this faster than the other.

There is no ready recipy for all of us available, but understanding is about yourself and it starts by being aware that something is going on with you. As long as you can’t follow your intuition without even thinking… you can’t help yourself… nobody can help you. Only when you are aware that something is going on, only then you can start taking steps in assessing and solving the situation you’re in. However… is that realy what you want to do? Maybe you’re not ready yet and you kind of like it  as it is today. That is OK too.. as long as you understand this… and… as long as your partner understands that too.