Another of the dreaded “firsts” happened today. One of our hospice patients died on Sunday. He was not my patient, I had never seen him, but I sat next to his wife for my five days of orientation at the Medical Center week before last. She’s a new nursing graduate, having passed her state boards in December at age 55. Her name is Susan Wade and she was married to Joe. I knew that her husband was sick, but I didn’t know he was under hospice care. She never mentioned it to me, and she didn’t talk as though he were imminently terminal. When the orientation was over, we exchanged phone numbers, and on Sunday night I thought to call her, knowing what she was going through, but I was distracted and waited too late to make the call. When his death was reported at our staff meeting on Monday morning, I did not make the connection.
My preceptor, Debra, wanted to go to Joe’s funeral today. She went to high school with Susan, and Debra tries to go to her patients’ funerals as a gesture of respect and to find closure for herself.
So, we raced to see our first patient, then headed for Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church for the funeral. We entered the church, sat down, and I melted down. I went outside, Debra close behind, and we sat on the steps of the church for a few minutes until I could compose myself. Then, (applause, applause) I pulled myself together and went back into the church for the remainder of the funeral.
We had a hectic day, not leaving me much time to feel sorry for myself, though I was on the verge of tears and actually wept a time or two. I am so glad I went back into the funeral. (I counted backward from 100 in French just like I did at John’s funeral, and that was what got me through it).
But, the thing is, I DID live through it. If I had not returned to the service, I would have just had to face another funeral later. I’m worn out but this grief and having it once again reactivated could have been debilitating. I faced it down, and admittedly my busy day helped, but I’m claiming a personal victory.
I'm still working through the synchronicity of the way my life as a new widow crossed into the path of Susan Wade as she was joining me on this hellish journey.