August 29, 2016

Is 2016 taking all our heroes?

It has been a tough year. It started early, and it seems every time we turn around another beloved public figure has passed away.
Baby boomers are at an age where a lot more of our idols are passing, and the modern world has produced a whole lot more beloved public figures as well.

All that said, every time I see another post of "screw you 2016" lamenting the accumulation of deaths I am reminded of a time when I was the beneficiary of some real perspective.

I started my first job as a hospice nurse on Sept 14, 2001. The management staff of the agency I had been hired at was stranded in another state due to the lockdown of all civilian air traffic. The remaining staff were in shock, trying to deal with everything that was going on while ensuring that patients were being seen and getting the support they needed.

My initial orientation involved going along on visits with various members of the team, and the chaplain was my first week. All anybody was talking about was the national trauma we were experiencing, including our chaplain. As we went on home visits, he was preparing himself to help families traumatized by the attacks on our country, in addition to their own loved one who was dying.

What we found was something that affected me profoundly, and informed how I approached my job ever after. When we entered a home, all that was happening and the only thing that was real in that home was the tragedy unfolding there. The immediate and real loss of a loved one. The events that were completely changing the world as we knew it outside those houses were background noise. People knew they should be concerned, but time and space work differently when you are in the liminal space created by the dying. 

In that space, the process of losing a loved one, the personal tragedy that is unfolding is all there is. Going through that door is entering an airlock, and on the inside there is a single focus. Other stuff exists, and has to be dealt with, but doesn't feel real. And as those who enter that space, we have to recognize and accept that THIS death, THIS loss overshadows anything else going on outside. And even if we have a connection to that person, it is not OUR loss.

So when I see yet another person who I admired has died, rather than adding them to some list of grievances I prefer to contemplate and grieve for those who are right now in that liminal space between the life that included that person and the life ahead
without them. And wish them peace and comfort going forward.