So the challenge is to share a personal journey....
I thought for a long time about what I could possibly write about that anyone would even want to read. I guess I'm a "blogger"...at least I have a blog. My friends and family read it but they're kind of obligated to aren't they?
I love to write and as I was thinking about this opportunity I couldn't come up with anything to write about. I'm 24...I have a 9-5 job working for Lancome cosmetics, I love television, I have a dog, and I have a very unhealthy addiction to Diet Coke, but what do I really have to say?
I started jotting down ideas that looked something like this:
- the day I stopped wearing stirrup pants
- my life working in the cosmetic industry
- jon hamm
So yeah....it was looking bleak. And then I was telling a story to a co-worker about my times working at a hospital and the way it changed my life and all of a sudden I knew that's what I could write about. Death. Now before you roll your eyes and think "oh here we go"...death, while a morbid subject, is also one that is the most difficult to talk about but one that we will ALL have to talk about at one point or another. It is the one common thread that laces us all together. We will all lose someone we love. How do we cope with it? How do we weave through the complicated emotions and find peace?
My first experience with death was when my Grandfather died when I was 6. I think this is most people's first experience with death. A grandparent. I was close to him but I was young and didn't understand the permeance of the situtaion. I didn't feel the pain and shock and devastation at that age. It wasn't until I was a teen, going through old photos, when I really realized what I was missing.
In 2004 my mom gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I was 18 at the time, a college student. I was in Idaho going to school and my sister was born with down syndrome (which we knew would be the case). I was so excited to be flying home for Christmas and to be able to meet her for the first time. She was still in the hospital due to the complications that come with having down syndrome.
A year later my grandmother and best friend in the entire world died of renal cancer. I was devastated once again. I felt the pain that took my breath away but instead of dealing with it I became angry and bitter.
In 2008 I started working at a hospital as a nursing technician. I worked on an Ortho/Neuro/Spine unit. I went to work on a Sunday night. Things were busy but they were going ok. I had this patient who I had been taking care of for quite some time. She had come in for an ankle fracture and when they went to do her surgery she had coded while on the operating table. They figured she had had a stroke. She ended up being in the ICU for about a week to 2 weeks and then she was transferred back down to our floor. I had gotten to know her sister and her family that frequently came up to stay with her. Because of her stroke she wasn't doing very well...she was unresponsive and didn't move around on her own. Sunday night as I got report from the nurses I heard she had been doing a lot better. She had been responding to questions, moving around on her own, following commands. At around 5 AM I went in to take her morning vitals and everything was fine. I left her room and went into another. 9 minutes later her sister came out and said..."I don't think she's breathing". So we ran in there and she was totally unresponsive. We started chest compressions, got the crash cart, and called a code blue. I was in there helping for awhile but ended up going back out with her family. Her sister was sitting at the nurses station crying and I was doing my best to comfort her. 30 minutes later- the doctor came out and told us she was dead. I was floored. I had JUST been in there. What didn't I see? What could I have done? We are taught that when a patient dies you have to "check out" emotionally and be there for the family as a support. It is not your time to mourn. I found myself in a supply closet sobbing. After it happened I went in and cleaned her and it was a strange but spiritual experience....preparing a body for a soul who has already passed. Her sister came into the room with me and watched. I asked her how she was doing. She said "Sometimes baby, things just happen, I know my sister is much happier now than she was here." I was stunned at her peace with the situation. I sat next to her and told her I admired her strength. I told her how difficult it was for me to lose people that I loved and never had the amount of grace she had. She replied "God has the grace, we just have to be willing to trust Him."
That conversation with that woman, although brief, and that experience changed my life. I had lost loved ones. But we all will. It happens. It hurts. The pain builds inside us until we don't know what to do. But I have learned that God has grace. You can not plan every aspect of life. You just have to trust. I found a quote once by Gilda Radner that says
"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity"
That is how we should live our lives. Not being angry about things we have no control over. But making the best of every moment - even the ones you had while wearing stirrup pants (oh come on...you know you did too). That's what I'm trying to do now. Make the best of every moment.
So that's my personal journey. I'm not sure what kind...spiritual maybe or just a journey. Either way it's mine and it's probably a journey you'll have too. The path might look a little different but I hope the destination is the same.