I worked at the GreatRep today, where I was unsurprised to find out that one of my residents is in the process of dying. This is a woman who's lived at the GreatRep for about half of my life. When I was in high school, she moved in. She's been there longer than any other resident, longer than the current Director of Nursing, longer than anyone else who's worked there. Pretty amazing.
The entire time I've known her, she's been almost like a living doll. She doesn't speak, rarely makes noises, and doesn't initiate movement barely ever. We move her from chair, to wheelchair, to bed. We feed her with a spoon and hold a cup up to her lips to drink. We use a mechanical lift to put her on the toilet and change her briefs.
I've heard she used to be quite a spitfire back in the day, and would scream at people. There was one caregiver whose voice she just hated and this woman would have a cataclysmic reaction if that caregiver attempted to do anything for her.
Now this woman is ready to go, and she let us know that the way most of them do; by stopping to eat or drink. She'd simply hold it in her mouth or let it roll back out, whatever you put in there.
Her sister stopped by to say goodbye to her today, brought by a younger and more oriented family member. I never would have thought I'd laugh about what someone said to a loved one on their death bed, but this is the cutest and silliest little thing; you would have had to excuse yourself from the room too!
Little Miss Clara marched right up to her dying sister, telling us "I have to go see Sister! We had a violent disagreement a few days ago, and I've just got to make things right!"
Rememeber, Sister hasn't said so much as a word in years.
Miss Clara whipped out a sheet of paper where she had painstakingly written out her speech to Sister. She stepped right up, and gave Sister's arm a good shake, saying "Sister, wake up! It's me, Clara! Nurse, don't you think she oughta wake up?"
The nurse gently replied that no, sister would probably not be waking up and that Miss Clara might want to say her goodbyes.
"Oh, then. All right."
Miss Clara began to read from her paper.
"Sister, first of all, you were always prettier than me."
I wish mightily I could have known what all was on that paper, but it's hard to beat an opening like that!