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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The language of love

I turned my head away, and discreetly wiped the tears from my eyes.  It’s very rare for me to become tearful in front of my residents or their family members. As a professional, I feel that if I can’t control my emotions, I won’t be able to give what my clients need at their time of crisis, my support, and rational advice. Crying with the clients can put a social worker at risk of overstepping her boundaries into the grieving that the clients need guidance surviving through. 
That was a tough day at the nursing home. An urgent meeting with one of my residents, Mrs D, and her daughter was about to start. It was an important meeting with the professionals of the different disciplines -interdisciplinary team- to discuss Mrs D’s care plan. There were critical decisions to make. Mrs D was unable to speak due to prior stroke. She could only communicate using a board with pictures and symbols.
After assessing her current life situation, and addressing her medical issues, the meeting coordinator asked Mrs D: “Let us know your wishes”.  Mrs D looked sad. She was confined to a wheel chair, and a feeding tube provided her only sustenance. We all knew she hated the feeding tube. 

She had been a very active and independent woman, and had always made clear to her family that she wouldn’t want any artificial means to prolong her life. Mrs D had actually signed her living will long time ago. Her end-of-life wishes were written in her Advance Directives. 
Mrs D looked at us, then looked at her daughter. Slowly, she lifted her hand, and pointed her index finger at the ceiling. It was very obvious. 
She was ready to go to heaven.
We all looked at her anxious daughter. She had been upset when she heard that her mother was not making any progress with therapy.
“She may be ready, but I’m not”, the daughter exclaimed. She drew close to her mother. “Mom, I know this is not how you want to live, but I am not ready to let you go”.  Mrs D’s daughter broke in tears. 
Mrs D looked upon her daughter with compassionate and maternal expression. She caressed her daughter’s hand as best she could with her stroke-impaired hand. Then she pointed to her board. She looked at the pictures. I wasn’t sure if she was looking for the appropriate picture, or if she was just thinking. She slowly moved her daughter’s hand she held to one of the pictures, and placed her finger on it. Only one. 
It was a heart. 
She then pointed her daughter’s hand to her own heart. It was very clear. 

I love you, was the message.
“I love you too, Mom”, Mrs D and her daughter embraced in an infinite hug I’ve never witnessed before. The room already silent, swelled with calm. Not one word was said. Everyone stood motionless. I couldn’t see the others’ faces as my eyes welled with tears. 
The meeting gently adjourned. We left the room with the certainty that we have witnessed the love of a daughter and her dying mother, my job to help bridge. This was the mother and daughter journey that they were to go through together, not guided by an advance directive or a written document.  

Only by their love, their love for each other. 


Aubrie said...

What a beautiful and sad story. I'd be crying right along with them.

Terri Tiffany said...

I have been there before and I cried as I read this. I know well those meetings and the role of a social worker and sometimes yes, the tears do come but I think the family needs to know that you do care, understand and are human too:) You certainly are all of those.
I wish you could have been the social worker I worked with. Your comapassion is so evident! I'd still be one right now if that was the team I could have been surrounded by.

Julie Musil said...

Oh my goodness, I don't know how you do it. I'd be a mess. I'm thankful there are strong people like you in the world who help these people in times of need.

Anonymous said...

This was a beautiful post. Your writing is so vivid.. and brought me to a climax of tears.
It is okay.. just human emotion.
It is with great gratitude I wish to thank you for being all that you are to us in a world so hurtful/hurting and /pain.
You are a wondeful person to support and aid in treatment of these patients.
Thank you for being here and thank you for visiting my blog today.
Hugs, Darlene

Unknown said...

Very hard job! You must have the biggest heart.
Following... :)

Stina said...

I cry at everything, which is why I could never do what you do. It takes no only a big heart, but strength too to do your job. You obviously have both.

Carolyn said...

Hi there! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog!

This is an extremely emotional story!! We had put my mother in the nursing home 2 years ago due to Alzheimer's....she is so so so unhappy. My prayer is that the Lord will take her home to make her whole again. It is an extremely bittersweet prayer as I understand the daughter's heart in this story.

God bless you for your ministry & love for your patients!


Barbra The Bloggess said...

It truly does take a strong individual to bear the burdens of others while bearing your own. My Pastor has often said that when you know you are mature you are able to carry two bears on your shoulders...that is, to bear and to forbear.
I have worked closely in system within parent reunifuaction programs and my mother is a social worker mainly working with youth and sexual abuse. It takes His Grace and Mercy to sustain us doesn't it?

Unknown said...

A touching story and a lovely one. Crying does not mean we're 'softies' . It means we're just human. I admire your strength to help others.

Nikki (Sarah) said...

as a social worker...I've been there too and sometimes it's really hard not to cry. I always consider myself so fortunate though to be on the journey of so many awesome people. Stay strong ok. You have a great heart.

Ann Best said...

Doris, I just read the comment you left on my blog today, June 11th. And now I am here, having just read this beautiful story. I'm glad I met you. We have much in common. Taking care of my daughter, and my mother before she died, and trying to emotionally support my troubled brother (and I have been trying to write a book with a friend in Los Angeles who has a severely disabled son) I can relate to this mother and daughter and the decisions that have to be made. This was a touching, spiritual experience, for them and for me as I read it. And I don't see how even a social worker in such a situation can help but shed some tears.

Indrani said...

This was very touching. You are in a very noble job, it really is hard not to cry in such situations. One has to be tough.
Great write up. Thank you for sharing this story.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Cry and don't be ashamed. They know how much you care. You can be strong and show your tears at the same time.

Shingo T said...

This is so touching. It takes alot of guts to be an unselfish social worker like you.

Great story!

chocolatecovereddaydreams.blogspot.com said...

I would've been a crying mess. The role you play in family's lives gives you the opportunity to show your emotions and it's quite alright.

I believe that she was also saying, "I'll always be in your heart."

The connection between the two of them is beautiful.

Guinevere said...

Aw, what a beautiful post. This reminds me of losing my father when I was seventeen - it wasn't as simple as when he was ready to go. We weren't ready to have him go. Such a complicated thing, saying goodbye.

Thank you for sharing - this is a sad story, but it's also wonderful to have love like that, too. We can't have the good without some bad.

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Doris,

How gifted you are to open up the sluices of your heart to let the tears run and then taking all the emotions out with the tip of your fingers on the keyboard. This makes that love eternal as it becomes written down and useful to so many who need a nudge in this time and era. Sure this is heartwarming to know that there are still people with an over-sized heart!

Warm hugs from Georgia/USA


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