My First Experience with Death


Given that I am a nurse and that I work with the elderly, I get this kind of question often. People always seem curious about how and when I first experienced death. Ironically, I think my first real understanding of death came long before I ever took care of other people. I’m not sure how old I was, about 8ish (maybe?). I was watching a TV show, I think it was unsolved mysteries, and it was about a girl who was missing. Before she went missing she had spoken to her mother and had asked her what she thought it was like to be dead. She asked what it would be like to feel nothing. That was the first time I can remember really thinking about death. I was aware of death a long time before that, but in that moment something changed in the way that I thought about it. It frightened me. When I got older I began to consider life as a thing to cherish because of this new way of thinking about death. When I was a kid, we had numerous cats that died and there were the farm animals that were butchered. It’s never the same as when a person dies. And having a patient die is so completely different than having a family member pass away. Its strange, but there is an intimacy to both that the other doesn’t carry. I care about all my patients, but that’s not the same as when I lost my cousin. She was my age and we had grown up together. It struck me deep when she died. There are times that I still cry when I think of her. When a patient dies, I’m more distanced and its doesn’t hurt my heart as much. Yet, there is also a more profound realness to it then when a family member dies. Providing post-mortem care, touching the dead body, brings a realness to a person’s death that the mind cannot otherwise perceive. So, I think that I deal with each death I encounter differently. We have to say good-bye to people in a fashion uniquely theirs as the relationship we had with them. The first death that I can remember is that of my pet cat, Tiger. I was crushed. At 10, he had seemed like the whole world. I was 16 the first time I was with someone when they died. I was a CNA and I was sitting with her in her last moments of life while we were waiting for the family to get there. That moment is still very sharp in my mind. It changed me. I think I grew up a lot that day. I can remember holding her hand long after she had passed and just sitting there; looking at her. I was so sad that her family had not gotten there before she died. I was angry at them for leaving her side and for the nurse not having a better idea when the last moment would come. Looking back, I realize how much more I’ve learned since then, but there was a lesson there that I learned that struck home. That woman was a complete stranger to me. I’d never met her before. Yet while I was sitting there with her, I couldn’t help but compare her to my mother, grand mother, sisters… etc. All the women I’d ever loved had been reflected in her eyes. I learned that something fundamental about people. I think that was the moment that I knew I would make a career out of health care. There is so much that I think and feel about death and dying that I could never hope to explain. The best I can do is to say that seeing people die changes you forever. In the past 14 years, I have seen more people die then I can recall. I lost count years ago. Every death effected me, some more deeply then others, but every time I see someone draw their final breath it changes me forever…

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About piggie4299

I am Myself I am a Wife Blessed with love I am a Mother Endowed with divinity Through the power of creation I am a Daughter Brought into this world With unending hope And the promise of the future I am a Sister Made fierce and strong While forged with kindness Protector and protected Spiraling together forever I am a Nurse Holding out the hands of healing And offering the sick comfort And the dying love Knowing that through this All things are healed and made whole I am a Writer Creating myself and world Sharing the inner depths of humanity Bringing together the divine And the humble mortal I tell the story of the Goddess And am remembered forever

Posted on July 25, 2011, in Prompts, The Pig's Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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