Wednesday, January 23, 2008

true love

In the time I've not been posting, I went to a training for this crazy thing I'm going to start doing.
I know, I know, I'm just a super swell, enlightened person. Thank you. I'll take the medal later.
No, but seriously, I'm really excited to get started. I'm going to work with a hospice organization in North County. For those of you who don't know, hospice is a philosophy/method of caring for people who are dying. Rather than emphasizing curative means or highly intrusive procedures, it emphasizes pain management and comfort. So if you know you have a terminal illness, you can work on dying with dignity, rather than enduring our medical system's sometimes dehumanizing regimens.
Anyway, part of hospice is volunteers who come hang out with patients. I'm going to be one of those. Well, me and Lucy
The training was cool, though much of it involved somewhat dry facts. But the discussion of real cases was super interesting.
And then there was the heartwrenching excerpt of PBS's Frontline we watched. It was called The Undertaking and was a look at the deaths of three people. One of whom was a two-year-old.
I had a really hard time watching it. I'm not going to be working with pediatric patients--the organization I signed up with doesn't have any--but still.
The mom was holding on to her little boy, talking about how much she was going to miss him (he had some genetic abnormalities that had hindered his development and health from birth, so she knew what was coming).
He was Lucy's size.
What struck me was how I knew I couldn't understand what the woman had gone through, caring for a little boy with such difficulties--but I could imagine how, if I were his mom, I would love him just as much as Lucy. That I would miss him, too.
Once I managed to get myself under control, I thought about that mother's love--the love we all get when we give birth and grow into the maturity that requires. It's a pretty crazy thing. It's easy to sentimentalize it, to talk about it all misty-eyed, but it's a scary and transformative thing, to really love someone else, just because they are a person, and have value, and need you. Not because they can give you kisses, or grow up, or have talents, or even talk normally. Just because they are human.
Watching that video, I realized how Dyami's death, or my death is kind of an intellectually wrenching thing to think about. Lucy's death--now that's completely impossible.
When she was younger, I remember hearing about someone else's child dying, and I thought--I might have even said it out loud--how hard that would be, seeing all that work come to an end, without seeing the fruit of it. IE--all that comforting, the middle-of-the-night wakeups, the diapers, the tiredness, with none of the payoff of kisses, walking, and sassy backtalk.
Looking back, though, I'm astonished at my selfishness. Yes, I know what I was thinking, and I still think that, somewhat, although now that the rewards have started coming, they're much richer than I could have imagined. But I know Lucy so much better now, and it's not just about getting back what I've put into her. It's more about her, about her specialness, and innocence, and possibility.
So bravo to that Michigan mom, who let go of her child, and who loved him dearly while she could.
And think of me, and pray for me, as I prepare to get my first assignment (it will probably be another month yet, before that happens). Pray I can turn some of that selfless love around and give to some other people.


writermeeg said...

oh heather, this made me cry. as i told you, i've always thought about volunteering for hospice, too! i've seen them in action in our family and there is something really special about being there for a family during that transition. (i. too, have only seen it with older people.) i really want to talk to you more about this. GOOD FOR YOU for really doing it. what a life-altering experience and a gift to give.

Heather said...

thanks, Megan, It feels so good to be trying to do something like this.