Rough Day

So the days have gone on. I’ve finally gotten into a kind of regular schedule after missing a couple weeks because of bad weather.

Today was a very emotional day for me. For the first time since I started with Compassionate Care, I started the drive home with tears in my eyes. One patient I’d been playing for for a while was having a rough time. I still don’t know enough to know if it was what they call “actively dying,” but her breathing was labored and erratic, and there were a few times during the session when I thought she may have gone. Her eyes were looking pretty filmy, like the man I played for a few months ago who was already gone, and she kept alternating between trying to sit up with labored breathing and resting back with seemingly no breath and rolling her eyes back. I lost track how long I played for her, but it was at least half an hour. I think closer to 45 minutes. A good amount of the time I played just simple, quiet, two- or three-note noodling, though I also played a few hymns very softly and slowly.

Sometimes she would lift her hands and point as if she were seeing things moving around. Once she seemed distressed and reached out to touch the harp. A couple times she reached out, and I had no choice but to take her hand. Once she squeezed my hand hard. Her eyes cleared for a moment when she looked right at me and said “Thank you.” She had never spoken to me before in the year or so I’ve played for her. She could acknowledge my presence sometimes and even smile when I played, but never said anything. It was an intense moment. I don’t think I will ever forget that.

Afterwards she continued to  act as she had before, not really focusing on anything, and breathing laboriously. It was hard to leave, but I felt I’d been playing an incredibly long time. She was still alive when I left the room. It was hard to go on after that, though. Immediately after an aide asked me to go into the activity room to play for that jolly bunch, but I had to take a breather. I did play for them, and for another half hour after that, but I found it difficult to maintain my normally bright demeanor. I wanted to go in and check on the lady again before I left, but the door was closed.


UPDATE 3/9: Yup I was right. She passed last night or this morning. I believe, given her reaction, she found some comfort in what we shared, so for that I am grateful. May she rest in peace.

One Response to “Rough Day”

  1. Helen Jauregui says:

    What a service you gave her, and the fact that you are thinking of her, and perhaps offering a prayer for her, is a blessing to you both. You didn’t say, but she was all alone? How sad indeed!
    It also points out how profound an effect even a simple thank you can have on others. A great lesson!

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