Another story from my hospice adventures
(All names changed to protect privacy of patients)
A couple of weeks back I had written about the gentleman who would call up his daughter after painstakingly making it to the phone and fishing out the chit of paper from his hat – remember? Remember, how I had talked about the unbridled love a dad has for his daughter?
Well, this is the flip side of the coin. Today, after visiting the same gentleman mentioned above, I went to visit Mrs. Ashley upstairs. I was looking forward to the conversation. To be honest, Mrs. Ashley is a nonagenarian who has been suffering from Parkinson’s from some time. She can’t hear much, she can’t talk much. So, you wonder what conversation am I talking about, right?
Do not get me wrong. I love seeing Mrs. Ashley. Those big eyes – that smile that never leaves her – those nods to anything I say (mostly because she can’t hear a thing) – sometimes, those quiet moments when we watch TV together (I have no idea what I am watching and I suspect that makes two of us) – I absolutely look forward to them. But what I really look forward to is seeing her daughter – Rachel.
If I visit Mrs. Ashley in the afternoon, I am guaranteed to meet Rachel. First, I want you to understand that Rachel is about twenty years older to me. Then I want you to understand that Rachel was hit with cancer. She valiantly fought back that cancer and after five long years, she came up on top of that dratted disease, very recently.
I sit face to face with the lady – a patient, in her own right.
“I am sorry if I am coming into a mother-daughter moment. I will come back tomorrow”, I had said the first day I ran into her.
“Who are you?”
“Oh! I am a volunteer with the hospice service. I came to give your mom company.”
“Well, then you are my friend. Come, sit down.”
From there I started building up the family history…
“Your mom said she is 78. That is how old my dad is!”, I had told her.
“Ha ha, she is 91. She has no idea what she is talking about. Parkinson’s can do that to you”
“Oh!”, I had exclaimed.
As I got to know the history more, I became more and more humbled. Rachel – who is actually my mom’s age – comes and stays with her mom every single afternoon of her life. She helps her with physiotherapy, bathroom stuff and just being there with her.
EVERY. SINGLE. AFTERNOON.
In fact, she and her husband moved to a house next to the hospice so that she can walk up every afternoon!
“How did you learn all these things?”
“How to take care of a terminal patient”.
“Oh! I talk to the doctors, nurses and therapists and then I learn from them! And I copy what they do”
There is a lot of things I learnt about Rachel – that she used to fly kites!! Internationally!!! Met her husband in a kite competition!! (Rick, if you are reading this, I want you to know that I proudly mentioned you to her!!)
But what I learnt most is what a daughter’s unconditional love for her mother is. Now, I am neither a daughter nor a mother. It is difficult for me to put myself in any of those positions. But I can understand from the prospective a human being selflessly giving up every day for another human being.
Mind you, she just fought her own battle with cancer back!!!
Driving back, my mind drifted back to my parents in India. My dad is battling a new tough battle (I will write about it tomorrow). But my first question to myself was – when will I be like Rachel?
When will I learn how to selflessly love those who need our love and caring the most?