She came in already dying, a timebomb in her belly just waiting to explode. She went very suddenly - one minute she'd finished her icecream and was talking to her husband and the next minute she was pale and cold on her bed.
Her husband asked to speak to me and I cringed inwardly - would this be another blame session filled with anger and denial? I put on my armour and held my spears up, prepared for a tough defence.
Instead of the usual demands ('Why didn't you do anything/do more?'), he thanked me for looking after her in her last few days. He quietly remembered the last day she had spent out of hospital. It was Sunday. They had gone to their favourite park in the afternoon. It was sunny and the bluebells grew in the shaded areas. The ducks were paddling in the lake and herons flew in circles overhead - a special display just for them. They went home and held hands and listened to music. It was a perfect, beautiful day, and he was glad that they spent it together, just the two of them. They had been married for sixty years.
He looked at his hands and then looked at me. I could not meet his eye. I told him I would convey his gratitude to the staff. He shook my hand.
Then I went into the stock cupboard and stood in front of the sink, bracing myself against it.
People come into hospital all the time and they get better and leave, or they die. I never connect with them on a personal level and I don't try to. I don't know why this one managed to touch my heart. Perhaps because this old man had loved so much - it made me realise what a special person she was, and how grey the world had become without her.
Perhaps, I saw her through this old man's tired red eyes and she became a woman to me, a woman who had loved much and been loved much - not just a frail old lady waiting quietly for death to take her, like so many frail old ladies who die quietly in a hospital bed.
I cried at work for the very first time.
Labels: Clinical observations