1- What is the greatest fear, worry or concern that arose for you as you listened and learned today? Write about that fear. Try to describe how it feels, what prompts it and what tools you have to work with it.
2- If you have been present in an end-of-life (dying; need not be moment of death) situation, write about it. Describe it vividly. What did you feel? What do you feel writing about it now?
It is interesting to think about this so formally as part of my job is working with older adults, and I am confronted with aging, death and dying all the time. I am asked constantly about if my job makes me sad, and the reality is that it does not. I really do like my job, and I don’t really think about the dying part all that often. Maybe sometimes I think about it in a way that I hope people would stop being in pain. Or I wonder about what their purpose of life is when they are basically a vegetable, hooked up to a machine, but still with no one to visit them.
Some fears that were brought up today are more about not having my parents or grandparents around for my (hopefully) potential children to meet. I am very luck that at 30, I still have 3 grandparents that are relatively healthy. I worry that I won’t be able to give my parents the joy of being grandparents nor will my children get the opportunity to know grandparents or hear our family stories.
I have also thought a lot about my family history. Where we came from, what we did, how it was when they first got to the US. This is partially because of thinking about what will happen when the story holders pass away, and from reading “Her Works Praise Her”. What happens when the family stories get lost.
Listening to all of the speaking about being there for the family during the time of death, I worry that I won’t know what to do. Although I work with people all the time, I am never there when they die. I am never with the family- that is not my role. They might see me before or after the person passes, but I am not someone they would talk to.
When Hilda died a few weeks ago, and I saw her entire family outside her room, I said nothing to anyone. I did not know how to enter into their family space. Now, maybe it is because my job now is to run activities not to be a rabbi- but it really did make me wonder, should I have gone over to them? What would I have said if I did?
When I saw Yehoshua’s son, what was the proper thing to say to him?
My job is an interesting one, as I work a lot with the people, but not with their families. For most of them, I don’t ever speak to them. Most don’t even know that my job exists, let alone I exist. And so when someone passes away, it is just a fact of the job. Going to the social worker and hearing that A passed away, and then just having to say, “oh, ok”. My day will continue, A not in their place, no one taking any notice to them being away, and me never interacting with them or their family again.
Although there are times where I do see the families again. Yosef’s wife, who I see regularly in the mall- remembering fondly our relationship. Talking to me both with a sense of being a child/grandchild of hers, but also someone who knew and loved Yosef even at the end.
The chaplin the other week mentioned to me that I do my job in a special way. I don’t see the person as sick or ill- I see them as a person, that where they are right now is just a part of life. I guess that is true. I don’t really think so much about who they were or what their diagnosis is- I think more about what they can and want to do. I think about ways to have them continue to use their brains. To continue to have autonomy- at least over something, even if it is small. To continue to smile, and maybe even laugh.
I fear that I won’t always be able to do this, that at some point in time I will burn out. I fear that I won’t know what to say. I fear that I will do the wrong thing and really hurt someone. I fear that I will be in a world of death and dying, and because of that I will forget or move away from the living.
I fear thinking about my grandparent’s and parent’s inevitable deaths. Who am I going to be without them? Even though I don’t speak to them often- what is that going to be like when I know that they are not around. Who is going to take care of my parent’s if they need the help? Is it on me? Am I strong enough to give the care to my parent’s like I give to others? What about if something happens to my siblings? Or friends? Or even myself? Do I feel like I have accomplished enough if I died tomorrow? What do I want to happen to myself if I am unable to do things? Can I actually say these things out loud, to other people? Can I ask my parents what they want if they (God forbid) get ill? How do I find that out?