June 30, 2010

Lessons from the Bedside

I suppose there should be many lessons to be learned by sitting beside someone so close to passing. To be honest, it is an intensity that is duplicated in few other circumstances. Perhaps the only way to internalize the lessons, as it were, is to let them sink in for a while.

For over two years my best friend and I have invested our time and hearts into caring for a dear woman in our congregation who is afflicted with colon cancer. We have had the honor of taking her to appointments, chemo and radiation treatments, pharmacies, grocery stores and anywhere else she wanted or needed to go. The only thing we weren't able to do was to take her to the beach...something I wanted to do, but time slipped away and she became too ill. As I sit here beside her bed and listen to her raspy breathing, I am mindful again that the time to do the things you want to do is now, not later or when things are more convenient.

I greatly admire all the devoted and trained staff that we met along this journey. There are many, many talented and gifted nurses, aids, doctors and surgeons without which we would all be a lot worse off. I praise the LORD for putting them in our path.

With that being said, there is one major weakness I have struggled with this whole time and it is that of family 'status'. I completely understand that the family has the ultimate authority over the decisions of ailing family members. It sounds great in theory, and to be honest, it is the best in situations where the family is normal and healthy. The problem comes when the family is broken, dysfunctional as such, or even have motives that are less than stellar. Unfortunately, in situations where friends step in to fill in the gaps left by absent family members, medical staff cannot or will not make adjustments. We have been questioned, even harassed, due to our not being family. (We started out saying we were her 'fan club' but as things progressed we changed to saying 'caregivers', which worked better.) I understand the dilemma, really I do, but the end result can be lack of proper care for the patient; or at the very least needed information not being shared in a timely manner. This breaks my heart more than I can say.

I know there is no solution for this. There are some 'rogue' medical professionals that will acknowledge the care and position of the friends in the patient's life, but for the most part, family is thought of as 'royalty' regardless of the situation. And staff changes so fast that your chance of keeping the understanding 'rogue' nearby are slim.

And please, don't talk to me about privacy...I'm well aware and understand. Really, this is just a rant of my own for which there is no logical or practical fix. Each situation is different and fluid, but the standards and rules are imposed on all.

All I know is that I hate to see the tears of a dying friend. In fact, I can think of nothing worse.

The LORD attends the beginning and end of life in a special way that is indescribable. It is an honor to be witness to such.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters,

He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for His Name's sake.

Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

2 comments:

Stacy Christian said...

Oh, Liz, my prayers are full of requests for grace for you and Lisa, and also for Rose as she finishes her race.
"From His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."

Snail Mail said...

I know exactly where you are. Sadly, I was there 3 1/2 years ago with my best friend who lost her short battle to bladder cancer. My prayers are with you, Rose, her family and friends.