Friday, 11 November 2016

"She went about an hour ago"

the young male nurse told me.
I had pedalled over to one of the local nursing homes to see a woman I have been visiting for several years. He had found me about to knock gently on her door and told me.
I was not surprised and I am not in the least  upset. It is just a huge sense of  relief. This woman should have been allowed to go a long time ago. 
She had been kept alive by the care given to her by her younger cousin - who spent all day and every day with her at the nursing home. And yes, I do mean all day and every day. She would be there about twelve hours most days. They had been living together for many years and when the younger one could no longer physically cope with everything that needed to be done she reluctantly agreed to the need for the nursing home care. Once there she demanded the highest level of attention and care for her older cousin. 
It began with a "stroke" several years ago. The older cousin was rushed to hospital. The younger one was at her side. She left only to sleep at night. It has been that way ever since - and it hasn't been good.  The younger one has relied on being able to phone me to release her emotions. Other visitors dropped away. I would call in about once every two weeks. I never stayed long. It was all too negative. I know other elderly people in a similar state. It may be depressing to visit them but it is not the way it was with her. 
I did it because they were good to Middle Cat when her two boys were small.  We both felt a sense of duty towards them now when the situation was reversed.
When I arrived yesterday the body was still in the room. There was chaos right around it. The younger cousin was already packing her cousin's possessions.
          "You don't need to do that now," I told her gently. The staff member had asked me to tell her again. They had already told her but she had begun. 
She seemed calm on the surface but, underneath, she was upset. Of course she was upset - and then she was angry. 
       "We went to the neurologist just three weeks ago. He said everything was all right!"
It wasn't of course. I very much doubt he even said that. 
       "And the doctor was coming in this afternoon. He's late and now he'll have to sign the certificate instead. Serves him right! If he'd come  when he said he would this wouldn't have happened!"
Of course it would have happened. I have seen enough elderly people in nursing homes to know it happens and the signs which lead to it for so many.
Her cousin's body was in the bed. The face was uncovered. I looked at it. There was nothing there, no sense of the person who had once been there. It was, I suppose, the look which people describe as being "at peace". 
Perhaps she is.


Philip C James said...

Hard to know what to say. The usual platitudes spring to mind, but the realistic tenor of you post precludes their use. It depends what you believe happens post-mortem of course but death can sometimes be welcomed by those it affects most closely. "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" are fine words to follow when any hope remains but at some point they become questionable. Of course the person who will need help most now is the younger carer. So close and so devoted and dutiful she will find her immediate future very empty, as her words and actions make the depth of her grief clear. But you must also think about your own feelings, Cat. Clearly you are coming to terms with it in a different manner but the deceased woman was a part of your life too. Be kind to yourself and the others over the next few weeks and months.

catdownunder said...

I can go on listening to her cousin Philip - and I will - but the sense of relief is still there. In one sense R... "died" a long time ago.