Rose died yesterday. She was 89 years old and lived in a nursing home. Rose was a very proper Irish lady, who always had her make up perfect and her hair (wig) just right. She really didn’t want any visitors until her face was on in the morning. She loved to talk and the nursing home staff loved her dearly. Even the maintenance people made special trips to her room and kept everything working properly.
Throughout my career, I have dealt with death and dying. I worked HIV/AIDS in 80′s and 90′s when there wasn’t a lot of treatment options. My clients died, sometimes two or three a week. I learned to acknowledge death and to process the ongoing loss with the help of my meditation and spiritual practice.
But sometimes a person’s dying effects me in ways I least expect it. That was the case with Rose. She had a very difficult time accepting she was dying. She kept asking me, when she was going to get better. At first, I would take the time to explain to her what was happening but then over time, I stopped. I would let her ramble about how no one told her she was sick and what a shock it was. There wasn’t anything I could do except let her talk and be there. I would smile and say, I understand. She would relax and tell me she felt better just talking.
She had decided with her daughters that she didn’t want any further treatment. No more hospitals or surgeries. About a month before she died, she started to decline. A few days without her makeup and she began to sleep. The staff at the nursing home became very concerned. I had to remind them, Rose had a terminal illness and she didn’t want any treatment. I had never witnessed a staff so unnerved and sad at the decline of patient. I was very touched by the love.
Rose used to tell me she had a second family in the nursing home. One of my favorite memories is sitting with her two daughters in her room and laughing. Rose loved her children dearly and worried about what would happen to them after her death. But on this day, they told me stories, joked and we laughed together. Every time I was leaving, she would say thank you and “Love You.” I wasn’t used to hearing that from clients.
When I got the news of her passing, I was glad I had seen her the day before. I had been able to say goodbye. I am grateful I knew this Irish Rose.