A Little Compassion

This was years ago. We were picking up a friend from the airport.

“My Mom was a nurse, so was my aunt. I never wanted to be anything else.”

It was late and we were both tired. We’d just met and told each other stories to stay awake and get to know each other.

“I’d been in the ER and didn’t like the pressure. I want to connect with a patient and a stranger lying on a bed knocked out is no different than a cadaver. I started working as a caretaker soon after college. Hospice care. It was emotional at first. The older patients remind me of my Grandparents who are still living and how one day they’ll die, too. But that didn’t last. I don’t think about it any longer. I’ve worked with some younger people, too. A young guy, twenty-eight years old, diagnosed with lung cancer and never smoked a cigarette in his life. That was hard. He had a wife. They had no kids so that’s good.

“Am I bothering you?”

“No, I’m listening.”

“Sometimes I talk too much.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Well…few weeks back I was with a woman in her nineties. She was bad. Her family wasn’t around much, they were sick of her I think and the woman barely opened her eyes let alone talk…the family was just waiting for her to die. They didn’t say much to me when I came over other than asking when I thought she may go.

“That night, the family was gone. Didn’t even say where they were going. She was breathing okay at first…then it became very heavy and slow and when she exhaled she let out a low quiet moan.

“I tried talking to her. She didn’t respond. I called the family and they didn’t answer…probably better that way.

“My Mom told me about the first time she was with someone who died. She had been told there was nothing you could do for someone terminal so make the person feel as comfortable as possible, that’s all you can do.

“So she rubbed the woman’s feet.”

“She rubbed her feet?”

“Yes, apparently it helped.”

“Death by foot rub.”

“Hmm…so, I was with this woman and her breathing became weaker by the minute. It was obvious she was going. You don’t need someone to tell you, you know. And so I had some lotion and took off her socks and rubbed her feet…”

“And?”

“…and, I felt her die. It was…hmm, serene. It was peaceful.”

She had said, “you know,” but I didn’t.

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