He was all alone and dying.
He had no family, only an appointed guardian.
I saw him everyday along with most of the team.
We kept him comfortable, using the various techniques we had at our disposal. Holistic care.
He loved Sinatra, so I turned the channel from the blaring news, to one with old music that I thought would give him something enjoyable to focus on, even if only in the background.
His body was deteriorating quickly right before our eyes, as he laid in bed.
A Kennedy ulcer, and various other skin breakdowns that we kept clean and dry, the best we could.
His body was bathed, lotioned and covered with his clean blanket. As his hands and feet felt like ice, due to his failing circulation.
We swabbed his mouth with sponges, as he was no longer strong enough to eat or drink.
Like every nurse, I had a million tasks to complete that day, but I knew it was his last day, so I sat with him.
He was most important. A human that had a story.
He was restless, and I told him it was ok, that he was on the biggest and best journey he would ever take. The one that would eliminate all of his suffering and pain. And that he need not be afraid and didn’t need to travel it alone.
I called our chaplain on the phone, with my shaky voice, trying my best to keep myself together as I made my urgent request.
I held the phone up to his ear, as our chaplain graciously answered my call to give him words of peace, love and comfort.
I continued to sit with him.
I got up from sitting, as I was going to check on his medications.
I didn’t think he was aware that I was there, but he grabbed ahold of my arm with more strength than I had witnessed from him in days, weeks even…and he opened his eyes wide. Like he was afraid.
I told him it was ok, that I was not leaving, and I sat back down. He continued to hold my hand tight at first, and then lessened his grip, once he knew I was not going anywhere.
The administrative nurse at the facility came in to check on…me. I had been there for hours.
“Are you ok?” she said.
I told her I was ok, and that I was staying, so that this beautiful human that I cared for did not die alone.
I wanted to hold his hand until the end. It was the right thing to do.
Shortly after, every worker in the facility started coming in to see him. Talk to him. Hold his hand. Brush his hair out of his face.
He died peacefully that day, with dignity, and in comfort. With people surrounding him, talking to him, and telling him that they loved him and that everything was ok.
Everyone deserves that kind of care as they transition to the end of life. And no one should die alone, if possible.
Being able to provide that care, and be there, is such an honor and a blessing for everyone involved. It was for me.