Guest Post - Dying, Death, Deceased8:49 AM
Here is my first guest post and my second guest post, if you'd like to read those as well.
Angie and I's friendship dates back to high school. She was part of the cool girls group that I befriend and she's been stuck with me ever since. She's always been the girl with the gorgeous curly hair, curses like a sailor, keeps it 100 all the time, and is one of the most generous people I know and hang out with. I forced her to go on a date a long time ago, which lead to some of the biggest moments in her life. [I'm not sure I should mention that part, but it's our history and we can't hide from it.] She has the coolest and sassiest little 7 year old girl, whom we all adore. Angie is extremely sarcastic, almost to the point of awkwardness, but we love her for it. She keeps me grounded, in the most loving and non-judgmental way possible. I'm glad our lives our woven together, despite being so different. You will see exactly what I'm talking about with her post. Enjoy!
|Angie & her Dad|
I sat with a woman that was dying today (head’s up, this guest post might be a little intense and kinda all over the place).
She was actually the 4th person in my life that I sat with while they were “actively dying”; a term given to me by the Chaplain. Active death sounds like an oxymoron almost; or I guess you could say that we are all actively dying, right? In some existential, emo way. All just inching towards it, though some faster than others admittedly and even if no one really likes to talk about it.
It’s a lie, she’s not the 4th person I’ve watched die: there was the boy with a gunshot wound to his femoral, the young man who wrapped his car around a tree on a rainy night, the baby born to a homeless woman in a rainy alley, and countless others who flat-lined while surrounded by medical professionals- all courtesy of my stint as admin in an ER. So, I’ve seen a lot of people “actively dying” in my life; today’s patient was a part of my employer’s No One Dies Alone Program. Essentially it is what the title indicates; if we have a patient in “active death” who is alone, we sit with them through their transition.
I watched my Grandpa die years ago. It was Thanksgiving week and he was on hospice care at his home. The whole family celebrated what we knew to be our last holiday with him. I wasn’t there for his very last breaths, but I was there. I saw him Monday, staring thoughtfully at a pad of paper fiddling with a pen, I saw my Dad leave that day and drive away with tears in his eyes that he tried to hide from me, and I saw my aunts tending to him in his bed in the living room that Thursday, I sat with him on Saturday, and he passed surrounded by his kids on Sunday morning. I had no idea that all of this would be preparation for the next person I had to sit with while he died…
If you know me, you know that in August I watched my dad actively die. I sat with him for over a week while he was actively dying and then made the decision, along with my siblings, to end his suffering. Not because that’s what I wanted (because I miss the fuck out of him every single day) but because we knew it was what he wanted. He died during a small window in which none of us were staring at him but we were all in the room. He heard Adriana (my now 7-year-old daughter) talking to me about something I can’t quite remember anymore; he just went peacefully and not alone.
It’s funny because I can hear his voice when I sit with patients now, “Why in the FUCK would you want to do that, Angela?!”, he wasn’t the most compassionate human being when it came to strangers! And regardless of my reasoning or explanation of why I do it, I know he wouldn’t approve.
And, if you are reading this and agreeing with him or thinking “how depressing, I couldn’t do it”, that’s exactly why I do it.
I think every person has a job on Earth; good or bad. Not like a purpose necessarily, because that’s just way too deep and sounds like a ton of effort, but a job. You do what you can in the event someone else can’t. I’m a shitty singer (or so my kid tells me) so I will leave that to Adele; I can’t run fast or math or walk down the street without tripping, so I leave that to athletes, mathletes, and the cool kids. I can, however, offer my time while someone is dying. I can sit with you during one of the most intimate moments of your life and the very last minutes of it and just be there.
I also do it selfishly.
I am “undecided” when it comes to God or religion. I’m sure it’s the easy route when compared to full-on belief or disbelief, but I’m actively searching for some evidence of God and thought that maybe in the twilight of one’s life, I could see him.
But, I haven’t. I’ve never encountered him in the ER, not with my patients now, or while my Dad was dying. It’s not discouraging necessarily because I don’t know what kind of magical fairy shit I was expecting, so I remain hopeful that I will eventually “feel” something but for now I just remain as is, undecided.
I go to people I know for guidance. I asked my Grandma (also deceased) and yelled at my Grandpa to greet my Dad on the other side when his kidneys finally stopped working; I brought my Grandma’s grave gifts begging her to just please help me with him. If hear a noise at night in my house and have to investigate, I ask my Dad to watch my six while I blindly walk to what I assume is my own untimely death (spoiler alert- it’s usually my cat just being an asshole).
Death is an incredibly crazy thing. It’s the most unnatural natural thing on Earth. Because you understand it happens, that every living thing dies- actively or passively, and you might think you have a grasp on what it’s like but it’s so much harder than you realize when it’s your person that’s dying and dead. It’s empty and lonely and just feels wrong. And you MISS the person with every fucking cell in your body. You would give anything to just hear them say something like “Why in the FUCK would you want to do that, Angela?!” or “Goddamn it, daughter, you got ANOTHER parking ticket?!”. And regardless of the circumstances, saying “they are in a better place” is just not comforting at all; though the sentiment is appreciated. So, now I just say, “that really fucking sucks” because it does- Really. Fucking. Suck.
But, I digress.
Thank you, Smange. I'm sure that was cathartic in some way, but it was so honest and raw, it was beautiful. I'm glad I had the pleasure to meet him and spend some fun times with him, even if I don't think he ever remembered who I am. His pure, unadulterated love for you and Adri was evident every time I spent any time with you all! I know those who you sit with are grateful, as are I and the people alike, who can't fathom taking on such a responsibility. You are admirable my friend, thank you!