death.

I didn’t realise that it has been over a month since i last wrote on here … when i was taken into hospital a few weeks ago, and then ended up having quite a few weeks off work, i thought i’d have so much time to be able to catch up on blogging, however i dont think i realised fully the extent of how unwell i had been … (much better now!) so, its been a bit quiet here, but i’m back …

i hope this post finds everyone well, as ever … and that February is proving to be a fab month for you …

for me, its proving a challenging time, but then what would my life be if it was not a challenge. I’m not sure i’m ever destined to have one of those ‘easy lives’ (do they even exist? – i think they must, but just not that i’ve seen yet).

when i wrote my reviews of last year, and mentioned the fact i’d had some breathing problems which has inspired me to stop smoking, i dont think i reckoned on the beginning of this year being full of the fact that it has stepped up a gear.

to that end, walking home one day from work, a few weeks ago, as i do most days, i found that i simply could not breathe. i could not get my breath, and by the time i got to my GP surgery was turning a funny colour. i’ve never been ‘blue lighted’ into hospital before … and if i could remember it i’m sure it would have been very exciting, alas i dont. i wish i could say it was ‘interesting’ to experience the immediate emergency care i received that day, and a couple of days later when the same thing happened again (while at work this time – a bit embarrassing being stretchered out of the place you spend most of your waking hours) but i also don’t really remember that, all that well. Of what I do remember however and can comment on, is how amazing all the healthcare professionals who have looked after me were. From my GP, to the paramedics, to the emergency care teams at the local A + E and the criticare staff, and then the normal ward nurses and doctors, everyone was brilliant.

so here I am now, having to take daily medication and inhalers, and attend endless appointments with Respiratory Nurses and Consultants, and my regular GP. How grateful am I for the NHS? VERY! You often hear the crappy stories, and trust me, working in the healthcare profession myself, I am not blind to them and the realties of when poor care is provided, HOWEVER i think it is so important to also highlight the GOOD care, the good experiences, the people who work in hospitals who are professional, committed, kind, caring, compassionate. One moment I do remember, is the second time, a few days after the first incident, is coming round in the a big scary room in A n E with lots of equipment around me, and needles in my arms, and tubes up my nose (oxygen) and bursting into tears … it hit me where i was, what was happening, and how crap I felt … I wont ever forget a nurse, whose name was Lisa … standing by bedside and holding my hand, comforting me. She stayed with me for about ten minutes, until i calmed down. She provided tissues, and kind words. THOSE PEOPLE ARE AMAZING.

Anyway … the reason why i’m rambling on about all of that is that the following days that followed were days that kept me inside this hospital, on a ward, in a bay with three very elderly people (hell yeah could i tell you some funny stories about them, especially about the one who tried to get into my bed nearly giving me a heart attack!) … and that meant, being confined to a hospital  bed/chair I had not alot to do, other than rest, watch crap tv, listen to music and look out of window and think.

It was the latter I did plenty of … thank goodness for good music/ipods/phones and the lovely view from the 8th floor is what i say!

So i thought aplenty i did … and despite my often tweeted tweets about being thick and rambling on alot about nothing (which I do do alot of, sure) I do actually sometimes think … and the topic i could not stop thinking about was life and death.

as some of you know or may have picked up from previous blogs or twitter if you follow my feed, i work in a home with mostly elderly people, but a home that specialises in care for people who are dying … so they may be elderly and gradually declining and pass away through age related issues, or they may be people of all ages who come to us to be cared for in the last hours/days and weeks of their lives if they have terminal illness. We see and care for a huge range of people, with a huge range of needs, and over the years I’ve worked various roles in the same place, most recently as a senior member of the care team, and presently as the activities co ordinator/overseeing the pastoral and emotional care of our residents/patients. Its an incredibly challenging role, thats see’s us/myself on a very regular basis being with people as they are dying, as they do die, and afterwards. In all of this we also care for and provide support for the relatives of the person we are providing the care for We try our very hardest to practice something called holistic care which takes into account the person as a whole being and their situation, and their families come into that too. For some people, they have no family, and we the staff are the only people they have.

As part of my job, I find myself very closely involved with these patients in all sorts of different ways. Sometimes its spending time with the distraught families, comforting them, chatting, providing endless tea and coffees as they vigil their relative, sometimes holding their hands … sometimes sitting with them after their loved one has gone. Sometimes it advising them on what to do, whats next, where to go from there, sometimes is about just being a listening ear. I spend many hours with the patient/resident themselves, doing whatever they want me to be doing, sometimes its playing music, sometimes its reading to them, sometimes is just chatting. Sometimes its just sitting there, and listening to them. I also stay with residents who are gravely ill, and who may be close to going, so they are not alone, if thats what they wish. So i find myself sitting with people, and holding their hands (usually when they don’t have relatives or their relatives are not present) as they take their last breaths, and float into whatever comes next for them after death.

I cant lie and say my job does not impact me … it does, hugely. For example, yesterday I spent many hours with someone and with their relatives, a family we have had contact with for a few months. And i did sit at my desk just before going home, and shed a little tear. Because in everything my life has involved, one of the hardest things i find i have to do is face people dying so regularly, and have to support/console and try my best to look after a family who is grieving, in their very many different ways. Seeing pain on peoples faces makes even the hardest heart (i used to think my heart had been hardened by life) soften. Maybe my heart is not as hard as it once was (thats probably a whole different blog) …

anyway, so, back to being on a hospital bed on the 8th floor, with an amazing view over fields and roads, and at night houses all lit up, all I could do, as i often do when walking home from particularly challenging days at work, all i could was think about death and dying. Especially because, although I dont think I was going to die in the emergency room, when you feel like you cant breathe, it does make you pretty scared, and think you might possibly die …

and all i could think of then, and in this bed, and whilst thinking about all these people i look after and support was, I’m not ready to die yet. I dont want to die. And what will happen when i do??

A few years ago, all i wanted to do was die. I could not cope with life. It wasn’t what I had dreamt it ever to be. It was what I thought it should be, and i could never see a way of getting out of the big black hole I was in … I could not cope with having to deal with being a survivor of childhood abuse, dealing with the my biological father being who he is and behaving the way he did, and still tries to now, not that i’ve heard from him in a long time. I could not cope with being assaulted in a city I was living in, that I had wanted to try and build a life in. And then moving back to be nearer my Mum and lovely stepdad did I ever imagine finding myself feeling so isolated, turning to alcohol and self destructive behaviour that I still have the scars from now … and trying to end my life. I never thought life would be the way it has been (and i could write so much more about things i have experienced but i dont want to depress you) … and that i could be a normal person who wanted to live. because I wanted to die (i wrote a blog about wanting to die if you want to read that).

however, now I find myself in a place, where I dont want to die. I want to live. I want to have life.

But I am faced with death on such a regular basis that I cant switch off from it. And that leaves me with big questions.

what is life about? what is it for? what are we doing here? what is the ultimate purpose of being alive, and what does happen when we die?

where have all the people i’ve sat with and held the hand of as they have passed from this earthly life into something gone?

and where will i go when i die?

and so, that is ultimately what I spent my time thinking about while I was in hospital (cheerful i know – and please dont think I am in the depths of despair right now, because i am not, these are things i often think about, cant avoid)

so, anyone got any thoughts?

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8 thoughts on “death.

  1. Wow. My immediate thought is relief that you’re still alive, that you survived that breathing crisis. As for death – well it sucks, y’know? Literally sucks the joy out of life … we’ve just had one of our churchwardens die: she’d been battling breast cancer for years, all the years I’d known her. Then last week, the consultants told her the chemo wasn’t working anymore — and, wham! That was it: it was if a switch inside her flicked as she suddenly gave up the fight, and now she’s gone, after a brief stay at a place that sounds very like where you work. Not quite out like a light, but within a week.

    So her husband’s in a pretty dark place right now and people at church are shaken. As for her? In a better place, that’s for sure: the pain is over; and she’s with the Lord she loved, of that I’m also sure — but no doubt asking him some very hard questions about the meaning of it all. Not a job I’d fancy, being God at the other end of death’s conveyor belt…

    • hey lovely Phil …
      thanks hon … the breathing was scary, but seem to be stable now and being looked after well by my GP/Respiratory Teams.
      I’m really sorry to read the news about your church warden. How sad. Cancer can be such a painful illness, emotionally, and then obviously physically too. May she be resting in peace x

      I can imagine her husband being pretty shaken by it all, and being in that dark place. And I can imagine her asking those very hard questions, as well her husband!
      Sending warm thoughts and love to them, and to you and your wife and community as all you grieve x

  2. You have a very big heart to be able to do the work that you do. Glad you are feeling better. Any time that I get a major illness like yours apparently was, it is usually my body telling me to pay attention and to slow down. I just turned 60 two months ago. I still sometimes miss my body’s signals that something is wrong. Take care and get strong again. A lot of people still need you.

    • Hi Patricia,
      sorry its taken me a few days to reply to your blog comment. Thanks for coming by, reading and taking the time out to respond too. I always appreciate hearing from people and engaging with them 🙂
      Thanks for the compliment about having a big heart, sometimes I wonder if it is big enough, especially on those stressful days when all I want to do is walk out of my work building and keep walking. Sometimes I wonder if it is big enough to when the emotions get on top of me, as they sometimes do, and I sit and weep for the people who have died, are dying and their families. Sometimes I get such joy being with and caring for these people who need it, but sometimes deep sadness too, to see their pain. Their physical pain and their emotional pain.

      As for my own illness, it has all been a big shock really, to have been sick, but your right about missing signals, and I perhaps need to get better at noticing them (I should have gotten help a bit sooner really) , hey ho, I’m working on getting better 🙂
      thanks again for stopping by the blog
      Fragz x

  3. Only yesterday I was thinking about all this (death etc) and about my very deepset fear that actually God doesn’t exist and that nothingness awaits us when we die. I then came across Jenny’s (@Stroopwaffle) piece on illness, death, dying etc, which summed up my thoughts pretty succintly. Don’t know if it might be of help to you: http://www.jkrowbory.co.uk/2011/06/muddling-through/

    We’re never going to know what happens when we die…until we die!

  4. hey there Tanya,
    thanks for reading my blog, and commenting.
    sorry it has taken me a few days to reply1

    Thank you for the link to Stroopwaffles blog. I follow/engage with her on twitter sometimes, but often miss things that get posted, so I will go and have a read.

    And as you say, which is a very good thing to try and remember … who really actually knows?

    fragz x

  5. death is one pf those things that you don’t think about till it calls too close to home. When I lost my dad three years ago, nothing, absolutely nothing anyone said (even the bible) made sense to me.

    Then I read 2 books (one’s a novel) that made me come to terms with his passing.

    The Shack by William Young and Angels in my hair by Lorna Byrne.

    and like Tanya pointed, we will never know till we experience death..until then, we live each day trying to make sense of why we are here and if those who have passed on have a better deal than those of us who still remain.

    Glad you’re still here, and thanks for making people’s lives that much better even when all you can offer is a listening ear

  6. Hey Lanre,
    thank you for stopping by, taking the time to read and reply.
    Thank you for honesty.
    I’m sorry for the loss of your dad. You never forget the people that have been so important in your life huh?
    I read ‘The Shack’ when it first came out, but with you mentioning it now, I think it might be time to reread it. Will also have a look out for the other book too.
    love
    Fragz x

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