Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Goodbye

The rain fell, lightly at first, just barely perceptible through the window of our sunroom. But I could tell, by the way the leaves of the birch swayed with each plop of rain. Then thunder came, bringing along the whole aural landscape of pelting rain and moaning winds.

The deep greens of the pine needles became darker in the ebbing afternoon light as I sat in the dim room.

My nursing home patient died last week. Through the vagaries of a disjointed healthcare system, I did not take care of her during what was to be her last hospital stay.

I last saw her a month ago on a regular visit to the nursing home. She was her usual self, lucid, despite a speech marred by old strokes. Her flash of humor was present. She remarked that the matzo ball soup was decent during this Seder -the nursing home's forte was not its food, as I've learned throughout the years I've known her.

That day was likewise overcast, threatening rain as I walked from my home to see her. Thunder pealed and fat raindrops landed on my head as I walked through the automatic doors of the nursing home. The elevator stopped on the fourth floor and let me out into the familiar corridor. The floor carpeted with bright linear patterns, the walls lined with modern works - a Kandinsky in the main nursing station, a Chagall in a hallway. I walked the well-worn path to her room where I found her sleeping.

She woke up and with her familiar half-smile said that she was expecting me to come today, a remark she habitually made when I visited her.

Her husband was a walker too, she reminded me when she saw my face flushed from the recent walk. He walked everywhere, for groceries, for exercise, and to see her here when he was still alive. They never had a car. It was a choice they made so that they could send all three of their children to college.

She missed her husband although she did not talk about him much nowadays. Her eyes misted over a little, but she no longer cried like she did when conversations inadvertently touched on their lives together. Then, she'd turn to me and apologize for her grief.

We never shared tea together, she and I. We had talked about it, she wanted to give green tea another chance despite a bad experience with her first cup brewed from a Lipton tea bag. The next time, she told me, she would like me to make it for us.

The water in the kettle finally cooled down for my cup of sencha. As I sipped the tea I watched the last of the afternoon rain shower form eddies of water in a little pool outside my sunroom window.


artandtea said...

I'm so very sorry to hear of the loss of your patient/friend. Your heartfelt post was very moving. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry you were not able to be with your friend in her last days."We flow into life and ebb into death." LaoTze-TaoDeJing

Cha sen said...

Thank you. That's an apt quote from Lao Tze, a gentle sentiment.

ana dane said...

i'm so sorry to hear about your loss.

from your description, however, it sounds like you took the best possible care of your patient, and that she knew that, deeply.