"Compassion is not a religious business; it is human business. It's not a luxury; it is essential for our own peace and mental stability. It is essential for human survival." - Dalai Lama
I was very happy to see how talkative my hospice patient was at our last visit. I woke him up from a nap, wondering if he would be too tired for a visit. He woke up smiling and was ready to discuss things that I can only assume were from his past. Like the fact that they've had to buy five different washers because they moved into five different houses, and that he and his wife decided a lonnnng time ago that they were sick and tired of doing laundry. This was a topic I could totally relate to. He would talk about his five houses and five washers, until he noticed, lounging back in his recliner with his feet up, that he was wearing bright red socks. Then his focus shifted to the first time he had to wear such warm socks was when he lived in New York. Watching him lean down slowly, trying to touch them to show me what he was talking about was just too cute. Or maybe he wanted to pull them up since they were half-way off his feet.... a gesture I was only too happy to help with. Then it was back to washers. And now dryers.
After leaving my patient, I sat in the parking lot reflecting on the blessing he is to me and to everyone around him. I decided to call his wife to tell her how blessed I am to be able to visit with her husband and listen to his stories. Even though I couldn't see her, I could tell right through the phone that she was beaming, very proud of her husband and kept mentioning how she was looking forward to the warmer weather so she could take him for a stroll outside since he loved the outdoors. I, on the other hand, was just looking forward to the following week's visit to see what kind of stories he was going to share with me. The following week came. With work, busy schedules, errands, etc., I didn't find the time to go visit my patient. But that was ok but I have tomorrow marked on my calendar and looking very forward to his visit.
I was informed today that my patient passed away. Peacefully. I don't know why it is but your mind instantly flashes back to the week you didn't make it there. All the errands I ran. The things in life that kept me busy, unable to visit. Immediate remorse ensues. Tears flow. Guilt sets in and for a few minutes you totally lose sight of what is important. This wonderful kind-hearted man is at peace. Every little piece of his life that escaped his memory, has found its way back. He remembers everything. He no longer has to suffer and I know he forgives me for not getting there last week. He may not have realized it before, but now I'm sure he knows just how much I love him.