Friday, June 16, 2006

Better to Have Loved and -Poof!- Lost, Than to Have Never Loved

I want to tell y'all a story about someone in my life and why it's better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved.

It's been about a year and a half since this story took place, and I have been trying to journal it for a long time. It was too difficult for me to put into written words and I gave up. Earlier this week I was writing a letter to a friend who's on a mission and I was able to finally write about my experience.

Now, I share it with you (with names changed, as usual).

In Utah I took care of a woman named [Connie]. We used to sing in the shower. When she got cold she made sounds like a motor boat. We liked to laugh a lot. She was fairly lucid, only slight mental problems. She also suffered from congenital heart failure. I got to work one day and she wasn't there. She had been taken to the hospital. Her pulse was racing. The doctors at the hospital gave her an injection to slow it down. It threw her into cardiac arrest and was put on life support. I didn't have to ask to leave work, my boss told me to go see her. I left and found my dear friend in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) buried under a pile of tubes and monitors. I sat by her, and grieved until I felt ok letting her die. It was her time and this was no way to live her final days. I even said, "[Connie], go ahead and leave. It's ok to go now."

Nothing happened so I kept talking to her. The nurses continued telling me she couldn't hear me because she was without oxygen so long that everything upstairs was dead. I had to sit in the waiting room during the shift change that night. When I went back to [Connie]'s room it was near the time that visitors have to leave. Cardiac ICU doesnt even allow family to stay the night, let alone care attendants. I sat with her a little longer and while preparing to leave for the night, one of the nurses came in and invited me ot stay with [Connie] overnight. He explained that during the shift change, while I had to be in the waiting room, [Connie]'s vitals dropped to more dangerous levels and when I came back in her room, they got better.

I stayed by her side for three days and three nights. I slept in her wheelchair and only left during shift changes to eat and potty. While I slept that first night, the staff removed [Connie] from the life support. She spoke to me when I woke up. She told me stories and jokes. We laughed like we always did. We sang, we cried, and she was improving amazingly. The staff admitted that they didn't know how all this was happening. I knew [Connie] had a strong spirit.

The third night came and went and the next day she had more visitors from the assisted living home. They insisted that I take a break and go do something to take my mind off things. [Connie] had people there, and she was doing so well that the doctor was getting ready to transfer her to a different floor. I said ok and a friend took me to a movie. We saw The Polar Express. Before leaving [Connie]'s room I gave her a hug and a kiss on the forehead and told her I'd be back soon to tell her about the movie. I walked out her door, stopped, turned around, and said, [Connie], I love you. She looked at me and said, I love you too.

Driving back to the hospital after the movie, my cell phone rang. [Connie] passed away. The 10-minute drive turned into a 5-minute one. The security guard knew me and didn't stop me as I ran in hysterically crying. I got to [Connie]'s room and there she was. She looked like she was sleeping, like any second she'd wake up and ask for her diet coke that was still sitting on the counter with a straw in it. I crawled into the hospital bed with her. She was still warm.

It was beyond my belief. She was there and doing better, and then -poof!- she was gone. Those in the room said she was staring at something and just went. I thought it was my fault. If I hadn't left, maybe she wouldn't have slipped away. The nurse that had me stay with [Connie] came to me and told me she had been waiting for me to feel comfortable enough to leave her side for a while.

[Connie] could have easily passed away when she was on life support and everyone treated her like she was dead anyway. But she didn't. She proved all the doctors wrong and gave me three of the most enriching days of my life. Her spirit knew I needed her influences those last few days, even when I didn't realize it myself. The first night when she was on life support, I told her to go but my spirit must have called her to stay.

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