As I sat there beside her bed, the only sound I could hear was the hiss and hum of the oxygen machine. I glanced at the few photos she had of her grandkids and began to wonder what I could do to make this new patient feel comforted. As I sat there, I felt her hand slowly grab mine. And as she squeezed it, she opened her eyes, turned to look at me, and whispered “just hold my hand honey…that’s all I need.” I could feel that lump in my throat start to swell as I fought back tears. You see, this is my job. This is my INCREDIBLE job. I get paid for this.
Six months ago, Andrew and I had just moved to the area and I had been looking for a job. My previous job was as a CNA/Medication Passer. I had enjoyed that job, but was having doubts that I should continue on as a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant). Ever since I can remember, though, my dream was to be a nurse. As a little girl I was set on it. Then I started passing out when I would go to medical appointments. I’m not just talking about getting queasy while having blood drawn. I mean, I passed out when the eye doctor put eye drops in my eyes. Yeah, it was that bad. So my hopes and dreams to be a nurse were shattered. I majored in music my one year at college, but felt uncertain that music was my calling. I came home from college, got my CNA, and started working. I enjoyed it, but still didn’t feel like it was the right fit. My family, friends, and co-workers all encouraged me that I should continue in health care, but I just wasn’t sure. When moving here, I applied to secretarial jobs, nanny positions, as well as a few other odd jobs. When I didn’t get hired for any of those, I started looking for CNA jobs. Through a series of events, I ended up interviewing for a job with St. Croix Hospice. After my interview, I felt so much excitement. At the same time, however, I started really thinking about whether or not I could handle working for hospice. I mean, I didn’t know much about it. When I heard the word “hospice” all I thought of was death and dying. Was I really applying for a job where that was the main theme? As I continued to think about it, though, I started feeling like this really was what I wanted to do. I wish I could explain it, but it was just this overwhelming feeling that it was where I was supposed to be. When I got the job, I was so overjoyed.
That was six months ago. During these six months, I have continued to feel more and more that this is where I am supposed to be. I have had so many patients who have blessed my life. I’ve learned so many things from them. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned.
LESSON ONE | J O Y
Recently one of my very favorite patients passed away. She was possibly the most positive person I’ve ever known. She found joy in EVERYTHING. This woman would greet me every visit with the BIGGEST smile and say, “Ohhhhhh hello! Isn’t it just a beautiful day?” Or, “Don’t I have the BEST view?” (Which was honestly 3 ordinary houses and a few trees). If I was ever having a bad day, I would end up leaving our visits with an entirely different outlook on life. After a while I even started thinking her view was beautiful too! I miss her quite a bit, but am so grateful for the lesson of joy she taught me.
LESSON TWO | F R I E N D S H I P
One of my patients intimidated me so much when I started. He was very grouchy and refused my visits. Every week I would dread going to see him. Weeks went by and something changed. I discovered he just needed a friend. I also discovered he likes card games. I taught him “King In the Corner” and for six months now, once a week, I sit with this man and we play round after round of the game. It went from being this visit I absolutely dreaded to one I look forward to each week. I look forward to seeing his smile when I walk in the door. I always love the big hug he gives me as I say goodbye. My absolute favorite moments are those when he laughs and I can see a twinkle in his eye. I didn’t do anything special…he did. He taught me that sometimes people who come across grumpy just simply need a friend.
LESSON THREE | L O V E
I had one patient who passed away shortly after he started on hospice. During that short time, though, him and his wife made a huge impact on me. They were so loving. One day while I was in their home my patient looked at me and said, “You know, you’re part of the family now.” I looked at his wife and saw she had tears running down her cheeks. She stretched out her arms, gave me a hug, and whispered in my ear, “It’s true, honey. You are.” It’s moments like these that make me feel overwhelmed. I feel so incredibly blessed to have this job.
LESSON FOUR | COMPANIONSHIP
I have a patient that I have the privilege of seeing three times a week. I always look forward to our visits. This patient has memory loss and does not speak full sentences. But oh, she has the sweetest soul. After seeing her so frequently for these past months, I honestly believe she remembers who I am. When I walk up to her I give her a big smile and say, “Hello, sweet-pea!” She gives me a huge smile in return. Then she reaches out her hands, puts them on my head, and pulls me close to give me a kiss on the forehead. It makes my heart skip a beat each time she does this. I love just sitting with her for as long as I can…laughing and making silly faces at each other. Simply enjoying spending that one-on-one time that we both so very much love.
I could keep going. There have been so many more special moments I’ve experienced in this short time, but I just wanted to give you a glimpse. I want everyone to know what hospice truly is. It’s not about death and dying. It’s about so much more. At St. Croix, we say “finding joy in the journey.” It’s about making the last part of your life a truly wonderful part of your life. I love that my job is to spend one-on-one time with people. To bring them JOY. To be their FRIEND. To show them they are LOVED. To be their COMPANION. To be a COMFORT. Both to them and their loved ones. Hospice (*cough *cough especially St. Croix Hospice…and no I’m not getting paid to write this) is a blessing to so many people. I have heard many people say how glad they are that their loved one had hospice at the end of their life.
I am so thrilled that I found my place. That I know where I am supposed to be. Doing what I am supposed to be doing. I don’t claim to have any special talents or skills. I just love what I am doing. I’m so thankful I didn’t give up on being an Aide. I can’t imagine doing anything else right now. I love that I can be the one to hold her hand when that’s all she needs.