Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Drop a penny on a map and you'll find cosmic answers to the universe.

I have a huge affinity towards older folks.  I always have. I'm drawn to them like a bear to honey.  Even the grouchy, don't talk to me, bah humbug ones.  These are my favorites.  I consider them my personal challenges.  Actually, the more ornery, the better.  It makes me want to fight harder for them.  It tells me they have spunk or heck - they might even be just plain mean.  Either way, it's ok.  I love them all. 

By the time people are 80 or 90 years old, I don't care that they're mean.  It doesn't matter what they've done in their lives - not to me anyway.  I figure they're already in purgatory so why be offended if they're hot under the collar.  Their bones are brittle, they hurt, they've lost most of the people they love to death or sadness.  Basically, they're angry for a reason so let them be grouchy.  They've earned it.  And personally, I don't believe they truly want to be mad anymore.  I've learned this from working with them over the years.  They've been bitter for so long, they just figure it's too late to be nice at this stage of the game.  That's when I love to jump in and make a difference.

When I was married to my ex-husband and lived in Colorado Springs, I was looking for a job, any job, that would take me away from office work for awhile.  My life was in a fractured state.  I had just walked out of several jobs (literally), no college education, no career opportunities, my marriage was on the rocks, and I needed something to hold me steady.  I wanted a job to ground me and an opportunity to find a reason - some mystical reason - why fate had brought me to this place hundreds of miles away from my friends and family.  Ok, this sounds "hokey", I know.  I'm totally in agreement with you on this one; however, you, my friends and blog readers, must understand that my moving out of state with Jeff was based truly on the drop of a penny.  On the first day of our two week vacation, we dropped an Abe Lincoln on a US map and decided we would drive to and most likely take up residence wherever it landed...Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Yes, I'm a rather spontaneous individual.  Reckless?  I'm grinning.

The reason for this mystical fated journey is clear now that I look back.  Everything happens for a greater purpose.  Even during my great sadness, I was taught enormous lessons in patience, understanding, and humility which I would never have learned had I not chosen that road in life.  I was given an opportunity to train as a nursing assistant (CNA) in a senior living facility.  I came home every evening smelling of urine, waste, and vomit and yet I didn't mind at all.  I helped these people with their most intimate moments.  I'd stay late, listen to their life stories, and laugh or cry with them.  When they yelled at me to leave them alone, I'd go out of my way to growl right back and make them laugh.  When they grew frustrated about their arthritic bodies, I learned where and how to comfortably move them.  I stopped worrying about me.  It was all about their pain and what I could do for them.  For the first time in my life, fate - God - had finally made me see beyond my own problems.  I finally understood that the penny didn't simply drop on the map, God had placed it there.

During the last few months of my marriage and my stay in that city, I had the great honour of being at the bedside of two of my patients during their passing.  The first, was a complete surprise to everyone but not so much to myself.  She was in the final, horrific stages of Parkinson's Disease.  Her face was frozen and her body was locked in a painful, contracted state.  The only way she could communicate was through her eyes and her eyes said it all.  She was miserable, frightened, and heartbroken.  At the end of my shift one evening, I sat next to her and told her she was amazing.  She had lived an incredible life.  I pulled out pictures of her family.  I spoke to her about her son from out of state - about how much he showed his concern by calling every Sunday (we put the phone to her ear so she could hear him talk. Sadly, she couldn't respond back).  I said that I didn't think there was anything to be afraid of and that if she were ready to say, "good-bye", she should.  Perhaps some people would disagree with my talking so openly to someone like this.  I don't believe so.  When I recall this conversation, she was clearly nodding her head with a slight smile as if to say she understood and seemed at peace.  When I came back after my 2-day break, I learned she had passed away the night I spoke with her. 

My second and final gift was a lady named, Mary.  For as long as I'd worked at the facility, no one really knew anything about her.  No visitors.  No pictures on her wall, or at least none that I can remember.  She was in a waking comatose state.  I don't know if that's a medical term but that's what I call it.  Her eyes were open, she would accept mashed up food to swallow but she never spoke or moved other than to eat.  She had become ill during the flu season and had faded quickly.  The nurses on staff asked that I stay with her and had the other CNA's take over the rest of my hall duties.  I would have done so had they not asked.  No one should ever die alone.  It didn't take her long.  Three breaths, maybe two, a deeper one...

"Mary, I'm here.  It's Bri.  Thank you for letting me share this with you.  I'll stay here until you leave...I love you."  I stood up and gently smoothed her gray, thinning hair off her face.  It seemed to comfort her.  Another breath..longer this time.  Gone.  I kissed her on the forehead.

"Good-bye, Mary.  Have a lovely journey."

It's been a very long time since I've worked as a nursing assistant.  People have asked why I didn't continue in this particular field.  At that point in my life, I was heading towards divorce, somersaulting back to California, my parent's house, and financial ruin.  CNA work, and wrongfully so, pays minimum wage.  At 28 years old, I owed $1000s of dollars and couldn't begin crawling out of the hole I had dug myself into.  Then, of course, life starts anew.  Eric re-entered my life, we were married, I started working in an office again, we adopted the kids, bought a house...but I still look back.  I haven't let go.  My affinity towards honey is still as strong as ever.

Every so often, as I type my daily ramblings, keep an eye out for topics on Hospice work or this sentimental girl adopting another grandparent into her life.  These lovely seniors keep me in check and above all things, continue to dose out large spoonfuls of reality that life is not always about what I want or need.  Well, perhaps it is... maybe this is God's mystical, cosmic way of giving me intermittent doses of patience, understanding, and humility.


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