Not too long ago I had the pleasure of working with an elderly woman. She lived in a community nursing home where I was working as a nurse, while her only daughter was somewhere else, on the other side of the country.
She was through and through old fashioned, well dressed and well kept. I’ll always remember her because she had an entire wardrobe of fancy clothes and even fancier nightgowns. Boy, did she love to correct my grammar. And did she ever love to talk! She’d tell stories about the distant past that I knew nothing of, to present day topics. Every time I was there it was oddly fun and I wouldn’t have even called it work.
When I first met Helen she was well enough for her age, caring for herself the best she could. Dealing with various health and mobility issues, she only required some assistance here and there; nothing a helping hand couldn’t accomplish.
As the months and years went by, sadly, her health continued to decline. I had taken some time off work for my own personal health reasons and when I returned to work, I found her lying in bed in her room. I learned that she had suffered a fractured hip. As the weeks went by, she got progressively worse and eventually became bed-ridden as well as requiring oxygen therapy. She became frail and weak. Because she wasn’t using her muscles for walking and moving, they simply atrophied.
Eventually she was no longer able to help herself even in the most basic ways as she once could. These were the days that a helping hand becomes the most needed, and each and every task became more and more difficult to complete as the voice that gave life to an abundance of stories no longer spoke.
One day while at work, I realized that work has once again become work and the type of mentality people often have began to settle in on me: I’m here for a paycheck and the clocks on the wall ticks away. That evening I checked up on her numerous times to make sure she was as comfortable as possible, but with her laboured breathing and the twinkle in her eye fading away – I knew there wasn’t much time left.
Her daughter was unable to come and be by her side. Once I had finished up with all my work, I pulled up a chair next to her bed. I leaned in and told her that her daughter was too far away. I thanked her for her many great stories and patted her frail soft hand. The stories would never come ever again so I told her a few of my own. Helen listened quietly and my only hope for that night was: no one who comes into this world would leave it alone and that she had someone to see her off.
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