Monday, April 23, 2012

Please go Away

I can't imagine that I haven't posted since February.  So much has been going on, including amazing weather and a beautiful and early Spring!

I was visiting a patient that I have been seeing every week since last summer.  She loves the male deacon/hospice chaplain that I travel with, and lights up whenever he comes into the room.  It's a thing of beauty to watch.  Several weeks ago, we saw a major change in her.  She began sleeping more and more, and was often very sleepy or confused during our visits.  About two weeks ago, when we arrived, we sat quietly in her room.  She woke after a bit and asked us to leave.  She said that she didn't want visitors.  

I tell you this because this may be part of the process for someone you love.  It can be shocking or hurtful to hear.  When my partner and I reflected on the experience, we thought of a few things.  Once we removed our ego from the interaction, the request wasn't at all shocking.  She was tired and not feeling well.  We started to think about how pleased we were that she felt comfortable to speak her mind with us.  Being on the outside of the goings-on in some patient rooms, we often see someone in the last days of their life feeling like they have to entertain a litany of guests, when they are exhausted or uncomfortable.

Our patient was being honest with us, and we could support her by leaving.  Knowing that she loved to pray, we realized that we could offer support in many additional ways, like prayer, letting the nurses know that she may not want visitors, and letting the family know that the patient was changing.   Honoring her wishes was giving her the support that she asked for.

It can be difficult to forgo asserting your agenda into such a situation.  We were there to visit.  We were going to brighten her day.  She loves the chaplain.  Maybe she didn't understand that he was her visitor.  Like I said, ego can make a mess of things.  The best thing we can sometimes do for a patient is to give them what they long for.  It may be difficult to turn visitors away, but it may be the right thing to do. 

Luckily for us, we have been to see the patient again, and although she is often living in the past, it is delightful to visit and learn about her life. Both the chaplain and I  feel so blessed to have each visit.  If a time comes again when she doesn't want to see us, we will have to accept that as part of her individual journey.