Normally, on Sundays/Mondays I like to post my weekly update on the baby's growth, but I'll do that tomorrow instead.
Today I'd like to share a story about my Dad.
I recently reconnected (via facebook, GO FIGURE??) with a woman who made a very important impact in my family's lives, in a very brief amount of time. A is the hospice social worker who started coming over to my parents house and sitting down with my Dad and then at different times with my Mom, as well as my brother and I (and sometimes all together) to talk about the elephant in the room--my father's illness and impending death. She was there first and foremost for Dad, but at the same time, hospice is about family as well, and helping all of us deal with such a painful time in our lives. She had suggested readings for me and printed out articles, and told me to call her anytime I needed her, day or night.
And what really got to me, was that I could tell she really CARED for my father as a person and not just as a patient/client.
She is such a genuinely compassionate and caring woman, and it was so obvious from the start that this was more than just a "job" to her. It was a calling. She was meant to be that extra support hand/shoulder/ear to families and patients in need, and she was GOOD at it.
I think we stayed in touch via email approximately a year (on and off) after my Dad passed, especially when my Pop-Pop (my Dad's father) became ill and bed-ridden at home and was slowly dying. Like a beacon of light, A made another debut in our lives and helped smooth out a very rough, very emotional, experience. And after my Pop-Pop passed away, we still emailed here and there, but like all things, Life happened and we eventually lost touch. I have definitely thought about her as the years have passed.
So here we are today, when about 2 weeks ago, I helped my Mom sign up to Facebook. She was interested to see what the hub was all about. Almost immediately, since Mom still had A's email in her email address book, a link popped up as a friend suggestion.
It was A!!
Then once A saw my profile picture through Mom's facebook page, she instantly sent ME a friend request. We emailed back and forth briefly with how things were going in our lives and A mentioned how thankful she was to see that my Mom and I were so happy in our lives! She then said she had a story she wanted to share with me about Dad, but since it would take her a while to type it, she would share it later in the week.
A few days passed and here it was Saturday morning when I decided out of the blue to try to pull out some old photo albums and see if I could scan some pictures of my father onto the computer. The first photos I stumbled across were some that were taken of my Dad while he was working. He was a lineman for almost his entire life. He started at 18 years old as an apprentice and a meter reader and went up the ladder from there.
My father had a very dangerous job but he knew his stuff, and he did it WELL. So I eagerly posted a couple of these pictures on my facebook, totally forgetting that A still hadn't emailed me her "story" that she wanted to share. The next day I opened up facebook again, and here was the email from her, which brought me back to a sad, painful place seven years ago, but at the same time made me smile and appreciate all the more the fact that A was sharing this story with me....
When I saw the pictures of your dad in his work as a lineman I knew I had to write. You may not realize this, but before I became a social worker I sold utility equipment, including the transformers and circuit breakers your dad worked on. I was working down south, so no direct connection. Anyway, as your dad was in his last days he had bad pain at times, as I know you remember. That is why he had on the pump for his pan meds. That pump was a love-hate relationship for him. It was a pain in the butt to have to carry it around all the time, to be tethered to it, yet it was such a help for the pain. One day I went to visit and your dad was pretty much out of it, resting comfortably because he had enough pain meds going. Your mom said to me, "I'm worried--Richie keeps saying he wants to disconnect and the pump is the only thing that has kept him comfortable. What are we going to do?" That's when the lightbulb went on for me. Disconnect. Like a circuit breaker. You throw the disconnect to stop the power so you can service the breaker. I told your mom that I thought he was not talking about the pain pump but was instead using language that was very comfortable to him to tell her (and the family) that he was ready to die. To disconnect from this life. He died within a week.
I do talks on symbolic language for nursing home staff, training new volunteers, etc. I always tell the story of my beloved Richie and how he told us something important which he couldn't say in plain English. People who are dying often talk in symbolic language and it often is in the context of traveling (I need to pack my bags, do I have my ticket?, etc) and in the language of their work, which is very comfortable to them. Your dad was the ultimate example of that. Fortunately with my odd-ball background in selling high voltage utility equipment many years ago I recognized the words he used and was able to reassure your mom that he was OK with the pain pump, and that he was trying to prepare her for what was very rapidly approaching.
So....... your dad lives on for me in a very clear and present way. I talk about him at least 4 times a year as I do my talks. I'll never him, your family. I hope it brings you joy and pride to know that he is a part of my everyday practice as a hospice social worker! :)
That's my story, girl. Sorry it took so long to sit down and write it out to you. :)
I still get kinda choked up as I re-read through A's email to me. But at the same time, I feel so honored and privileged to have known this man who not only touched my life as my FATHER, but touched the life of a hospice worker who was "just doing her job". Here it is seven years later, and she still talks about him.
That makes me feel so good. And so thankful.