Love and devotion

I took care of a gentleman last night who was dying. No big shocker there. But this guy, actually it was his wife, was unlike any patient I've ever had and he has stirred things up in me big time. This was an almost 91 year old man who is today celebrating his 70TH wedding anniversary. He was declining rapidly and is supposed to go to hospice today or tomorrow. He is unresponsive & never said one word to me all night. (Which just goes to show that we don't always have to have the "right" things to say, do we?) The thing that got me was the depth of love and devotion that his partner felt for him. She was also 90 years old... a "good" 90.... but 90 none-the-less, and she was a source of worry for me all night long. This is because ANY 90 year old should be at home in bed sleeping at night! Right? I thought so too.

Slowly, one by one, his family filed out of the room and left. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren left. Then children. All the while she just sat in a chair in the corner and stared a very heartbroken stare towards her love...the constant trace of a tear always present in her eyes. Then I watched as one of their sons got on his knees in front of her and held her hands and prayed with her. Prayed for his father and his mother. For himself. For the reality and the heartache that was settling in on this family.

After the son left I went into the room to check on her and in the faintest and frailest voice (although I have a feeling it was the strongest voice that she could muster at this point) she looked at me in the eyes and said, "will I be in your way if I stay here?" I will never forget the piercing and penetrating, heartfelt plea that her eyes gave me. I just stood there and stared at her. On one hand, of course I wanted her to be able to stay. But on the other hand, she's 90 years old. I didn't want her to end up in another bed down the hall from pulling an emotional all-nighter. It was only a few seconds in real-time but it seemed like forever that I just stood there, and before I could say anything she looked at me with tears welling up in her eyes and said "please don't make me go. I've been next to him since I was 18 years old and I have so little time left with him....please." I continued to stand there silently for a moment...though now it wasn't because I was debating in my mind all of the pros and the cons, but because now I was speechless. I was looking at the emodiment of everything that I silently feel inside. The love between two people that usually only comes along once in their lives. A love that is way bigger than the two of them. The indescribable power of an all-consuming love that just is...whether you want it to be or not. It defies time, space or logic and it won't go away just because someone thinks it should. And also the longing and the pain of wanting someone that you know is slipping out of your hands.....and all you can do is watch it go.

As I stared into her face I suddenly, in my minds eye, got a glimpse of her through the years. As a teenager who was crazy about this boy, as a girl getting engaged, as a young bride glowing with love, a mother who cradled her baby in her arms, a woman who made dinner for her family and then love to her husband, a retiree who was excited for the freedom of finally getting her man all to herself and traveling or just spending lazy mornings. And now of a woman who has seen all of the seasons of her life come and go and was now helplessly staring at her one true love slipping away....and all of the pain that brings.

I suddenly felt fiercely protective of this woman. I told her that of course she could stay and that I would do anything I could do to make her comfortable. I had to fight her tooth and nail to even try and get her to take a blanket. She was so afraid of being in the way bless her heart.... I never did win either. She sat slumped over in that uncomfortable chair with her coat on to keep warm. She wouldn't let me get her a cot or even a more comfortable chair. At one point she woke up and was confused. She thought she was at home, and that he was in bed waiting for her and she couldn't find her way to their bedroom. I was so sad for her. Even through confusion she was still looking for him....her heart knew where it wanted to be. The heart knows what it wants....even when the mind and body are telling it differently.