GONE AND MISSED
About twenty minutes ago, I was randomly in a conversation at work with someone who I found out is a regular Hospice volunteer. We had a long talk about the program. I used to be a regular Hospice volunteer and even completed an official training program at Cabrini Medical Center. I hadn’t thought about it in years.
Part of the reason it was pushed to the back of my brain was because it was a tough and intense experience. When you are a Hospice Volunteer you are dealing with people that know they are going to die. None of us can possibly comprehend what it feels like to have this kind of information much less how we ourselves would process it. Then…there are the grieving family members. The people that are visiting a loved one at all hours of the night. Processing their own grief all the while having a total stranger in the room there to console them. You.
It seems foolish to me now. A wide eyed twenty-something given the task to befriend and comfort a dying individual and their extended family members. But I did it. Who knows if it helped anyone.
I remember a few patients from my experience – a man dying of AIDS. His cheeks sunken into his face that I would visit once a week. I’d hold his hand and we would read the newspaper and he’d tell me about New York ‘back in the day’. I recall one woman dying of Cancer that always complained there was no natural light in her hospital room but got mad every time I opened her hospital blinds.
And then there is my favorite. A sweet Irish woman dying of Cancer. She heard I played the flute and wanted me to play her some Irish tunes. I did my best to explain I hadn’t played the flute since High School and that maybe I could find someone else to come in and play for her. But no. She wanted me. And she wanted a particular song. I went to three music stores until I found the sheet music for the flute for this particular song. I dusted off my flute and when I got to the hospital I put my flute together in the nurse’s coat closet. My cheeks were flushed with embarrassment and I tooted my way through the piece as best as I could until I burst out crying in the end. The Irish woman, dying of Cancer had to console me. I felt guilty that I had somehow failed her. This was a bad sign. The emotions too much. I never went back.
After my conversation with my work mate I headed back to my desk. I went about my business and then I got an email from my mother. It wasn’t good. One of my sister’s good friends from High School – his younger sister that was only 24 lost her battle to Cancer today. She was in Hospice.
When you are old and accomplished if you are lucky you get an obituary in the paper. When you are young and you die you instead get floods of comments on your My Space. I know because I looked at hers. I remember her face well from walking around our small town and being in various school plays. I remember her always in the shadow of her older brother (my sister's friend) whom she adored and looked up to.
I couldn’t stop reading the entries on her page and found myself tearing up at my desk. A lot of them I found endearing and they read like yearbook entries, “I’ll always remember when we…” or “BFF”, etc. But what it boils down to despite the generation gap is that no matter how young a life is - when you are gone you are gone. And if you are lucky you will be missed.