It was the middle of the night as I drove to hold hands with my patient. I was an 11th-Hour Volunteer and although it was pitch-black, I knew exactly where the house was. This sweet lady had been my patient over a year ago when I served in the role of Case Manager. As I walked up, I could see her through the screened porch. She was outside surrounded by her daughters and her sweet husband. She was bundled in blankets, her face was scrunched up, hands drawn in, shoulders hunched up to her ears. Every muscle and bone in her body looked tense. I poked my head in, told the family of my role and asked if they would like my presence for support. “Yes” was the resounding answer. I slipped in as quietly as I could and attempted to stay out of the way. “Mom, someone’s here to see you,” announced her daughters. They cleared a path so I could get through and greet their mom. I knelt down and put my hands on her hands. “Excellente, mejorando, y en Jesucristo esperando” – I spoke softly to her. “Hello, my friend.” (She had taught me these words as this was how she greeted me at every visit.) In an instant I could see her body relax; from her brow, down her cheeks, the tension in her shoulders eased, hands fell to her lap and she let out a huge sigh. We all looked at her and waited for her to breathe again. It seemed like an eternity. “CYNDEE!” her eyes popped open and she was squeezing my hand now. “Yes, yes I’m here,” I told her. She had lost her eyesight but her gaze was directed towards me. “Why is it so hard Cyndee?” With all the strength this lil heart could muster I told her what I knew, “Because life is hard. Because we’re here for our purpose and sometimes we have to stay longer to accomplish it. Remember when you told me? All you wanted was to see your daughters getting along? LOOK- they are all here, all together, all celebrating you and celebrating life! You did this! Remember when you told me, the doctor said 6 months on the paper, but your Jesus told you longer? See? You were right!” She agreed, nodding her head, we cried together, and laughed a few times; we never let go of each other’s hands.
It was about this time that I noticed there were in excess of 15 people crammed into this sweet ladies’ home. All quiet, all focused on her, keeping vigil. I don’t know about you- but I don’t believe in such thing as a coincidence. As tired as I was, I am grateful I was present with this family now. Some of this dear lady’s words (when I had been her RNCM) had stuck with me, “this is between Me and My Jesus” – the words played over and over in my head until I was able to pull her daughter aside. I gently explained to her about how some people want to finish their journey alone and shared the words her mother had told me. The daughter went to her mother’s side and quietly whispered in her ear. The next thing I knew the daughter was announcing that everyone needed to go home and get some rest; her mother didn’t want a crowd. I said my “See you later” and gave hugs to my beautiful friend, her daughters and her sweet hubby. I headed out with the remainder of the family – into the pitch dark but with a spark in my heart. I learned the next morning upon arriving to work that my friend had passed in the night, with her Jesus- just like she had wanted.
As for the phrase she taught me? I learned at a very young age that even an attempt to speak to someone in their native language offers them a measure of dignity. It shows an outward mindset, and lets people know you care enough about them to speak their language. Our Family Core Value this month is Inspire People- and I was going through my days thinking of how I could inspire others WHEN IN FACT it was this patient who inspired me. She had a terminal diagnosis, yet her greeting to me at every encounter was the same. Those words will stay with me. Excellente, mejorando, y en Jesucristo esperando! I’m Excellent, getting better, and I’m waiting on Jesus!
Cyndee O., RN, Compliance Officer