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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Two meetings, two deaths and a resolution

My pain body, that emanation of fear, anger and despair has been rearing its ugly head again this week, no doubt exacerbated by the fact that on Friday I saw my sister for the first time in over a year. Last Monday Coran and I had a meeting with her care worker at the local Police station to discuss my sister and her needs and whether it may be possible for us to forge a relationship with her again. Both of them warned us that she has not been in a good space, but still we were shocked at what we found when we finally saw her on Friday. Her appearance was dishevelled to say the least and her speech incoherent with her mind clearly darting all over the place, the conversation difficult to follow or understand.

We had hoped to be able to talk her properly and lay down some boundaries, setting out why we took the action that we did in blocking her phone numbers after she bombarded us with almost 120 nuisance and very abusive phone calls in little more than 2 months. However, at the end of the meeting when she finally did ask us that question and I began to give her an answer, explaining in the best way that I could, she just upped and left the room. The truth is just too difficult for her to bear, and running away is for her the easiest option. Anything but face up to the truth and admit that she is at least partly responsible.

We had such high hopes though for that meeting and really felt that it could be a turning point, where we could begin to be honest with each other, but sadly it seems that this is not about to happen any time soon. The upshot of it all is that we arranged to telephone her at 4pm the following day, after I was home from work, and work towards her visiting us some time after the Christmas holidays. The first phone call went reasonably well all things considered, but there is still an awfully long way to go. Whether she is ready or not to make that journey is as always open to her.

This was difficult enough by itself, but in the last week we have also had 2 deaths at work. The first one was our oldest resident, a lady aged 103 (she would have been 104 in January). She had been in the home for around 5 1/2 years but rarely left her room, so I didn't get to know her well, unlike the other lady, who was considerably younger at just one week short of 57.

This was a particularly sad case and one that affected each one of us deeply, but in different ways. She was bought into the home in June, suffering from a brain tumour and having been given at that point just three months to live. Perhaps she affected us so much because her illness was so visible, as you could not help but notice her bald head and the scars across her cranium.

She appeared to be dealing with her illness well, but every so often I would hear stories from the staff as to how they had found her crying, and sometimes she would sit in her room shouting "my tumour, my tumour". It was heartbreaking to hear as she was such a beautiful soul. It is often these people though that are taken from the earth first while those whose behaviour is less than exemplary go on forever (not that I am suggesting this with our 103 year old).

I remember how she used to sit in the dining room during those first 2 months chatting away to the other residents and philosophising on all manner of different things. Some of the conversations I was able to join in with, which I like to think she appreciated.

About 2 weeks before she died, I went up to her room just to see how she was and found her lying in bed, her eyes barely open. She was aware of my presence and opened her eyes and took my hand as she began to tell me that it was exactly one year to the day that she had been told the terrible news that there was nothing more the Doctors could do for her and she had at the most one year to live. How she asked, would you deal with such a thing? I looked at her, squeezed her hand and replied that the only thing you could do would be to live each day as it came and to regard each day that you lived as a blessing. That she replied was exactly what she had set out to do, and so she had.

We knew that the end was coming when she stopped eating and drinking. I went home that same day (the night that the clocks changed) and went to bed early as I was tired. I found myself thinking about her deeply as I drifted off to sleep and pictured her in my minds eye, happy and well and smiling, surrounded by light and free from pain. I found myself having a conversation with her in my mind and sensed that there was some resistance to her moving on and taking that next step into the light, and so began to reassure her that it was safe to let go. The following day I went to work and was told that she has passed over at the exact time that I experienced this. You can imagine how I felt, sad, but blessed at the same time - blessed and honoured that like the 99 year old resident who shared her last moments with me last Christmas in a similar way, she had felt able to do the same.

With all of this going on plus the added financial pressure of having several large bills for new glasses and so on to deal with, my pain body at the beginning of this week really did have a field day. When I learned that one of my colleagues was on holiday at the same time that I had requested and found that my own holiday request form had not been noticed or actioned, I decided to put my own holiday back by a week to take advantage of the overtime. All I was offered though was one split shift amounting to an extra 6 hours, while in the meantime one of the full timers was rostered to work 12 days in a row. I was really angry and fed up at this, especially as there was no acknowledgement of the fact that I had changed my plans to help them out, and so arranged to go into work and discuss it with my Manager in what started as a rather heated exchange.

We eventually reached an understanding and she acknowledged that part of the problem has been that the Director has not made it clear as to what the budget is and how many extra hours she has to play with. She was due to meet with him today and will send a memo out to all the staff with her findings. In the meantime, she has been able to offer me an extra long day on Tuesday 16th, which I have agreed to do. With exams coming up during the first 2 weeks of December and more in January/February the pressure will lighten somewhat and I will have to find a way to manage.

All of this though has left me utterly emotionally drained and feeling like I have been through a washing machine (on the high speed spin cycle). I don't know why or how I manage to work myself up into this state, but now after the event, I look back on it and wonder what it was all about. In the end you can analyse to your hearts content, but it doesn't change the situation, what was said and how you felt. What matters is to find a resolution, to talk about your feelings and to move on.

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