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Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying



Recently, I visited a long-time friend, Kathy, who was having a party for her husband, John, who recently retired from the U.S. Air Force. We have known each other since the early 1980's when we both worked in the Respiratory ICU in Philadelphia.  We have kept in touch over the years, and I was able to visit her in many of the places she and her husband traveled as part of his career in the Air Force.  Currently, they are in Tampa FL, so when I got the invite for the retirement party, I was anxious to go. My friend's mother (Mrs. Z) also moved to Tampa from Philadelphia a few years ago, and I was looking forward to seeing her. 

The party was fun, and my husband and I had a good time visiting with those who came for the celebration. Unfortunately, Mrs. Z did not attend as she does not like to go out after dinner. I was disappointed but understood. I asked Kathy to give her mother a hug for me and wish her well.

A few days later, I got a text from Kathy, telling me that her mother had a major brain hemorrhage, and was in ICU. The bleed was so massive there was nothing to do so she was put on Hospice and was receiving comfort care per her advance directives. Her children were on their way to Tampa from various parts of the United States to be with her as transitioned to the next stage of her life.

Mrs. Z is a very religious woman and has lived a long and joyful life. Her husband passed a few years ago, and she looked forward to being with him when her time came. When Kathy found her mother; she said, "don't worry, God is getting me ready to go to heaven". I am praying for Mrs Z, my friend Kathy and her brothers and sisters as I know they are all going through an agonizing time as they lose their mother. 

As I was processing this news, I was introduced to Sam Simon. Sam produced a one-man play called the Actual Dance. The play explores illness and end of life through the eyes of the caregiver. In the email introducing Sam, there was a link to view a portion of the one-man play. I found it very moving and relevant to what I was experiencing. In my mind, Sam’s storytelling helps to share the experiences many go through when they or someone they love is told they have a complex medical condition or faced with an end of life experience. 

I wanted to share the video as it is a good follow-up from last week’s post; Caring for the Caregiver; The Unsung Heroes of the Healthcare System. Take a few minutes to watch this short clip of the play. I am sure it will move you and give you pause to think about your mortality as well as those you love.

In closing, I want to tell each person who reads this post; please do not be afraid to think about your own death, but do take the time to make sure you have your advance directives in order. Also, make sure your family is aware of your wishes so they can be followed. Doing so will be a tremendous help for those who have to handle things when you can no longer express your wishes. I know Mrs. Z helped her children by having her wishes know. For now, please say a prayer for my friend, her mother and the family as they have their last dance. 

Thank you for reading Nurse Advocate. If you have a comment on the video or an experience you went through when you lost a loved one, please feel free to share in the comment section.

Have a good weekend.