Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Angel of Death

One of the constant descriptions you hear about nurses is “they’re angels”, which would be rapidly followed by a comment about how “nursing is a noble profession”. When I was nursing, there were times when both statements would annoy me. I remember snapping at my dad once, saying “there’s nothing noble about watching a dying man trying to tell his wife he loves her when she won’t damn well listen!”.

Because I spent much of my nursing career working on cancer wards, together with a year working in Radiotherapy And Oncology Outpatients, I rapidly came to the conclusion that, if I was an angel then I was an angel of death, since I spent most of my time trying to make the dying comfortable.

I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. It can’t be helped - several of my friends have either lost a parent this year or are experiencing the pain of watching a parent undergo life-prolonging treatment for terminal cancer. Perhaps it’s our age. It’s the alternative mid-life crisis; not so much “life is passing me by -what do I do with myself?” but instead “I’m not old enough to lose my mum/dad! How can this happen to me?”.

As a friend, I have learned that the best thing to do is listen, hug your friend and ply them with tea/suitable beverage. Offers of help need to be specific: “do you need me to collect your brother from the airport?” is easier for a grieving mind to process than being asked “is there anything I can do to help?”.

On Saturday, I will be singing in a service to celebrate the life of a dear friend’s dad; a lovely man who recently lost an 18 month battle with pancreatic cancer. I consider it an honour and a privilege to have been asked. It is my gift to my friend and her family. I hope they gain a level of comfort from it.

- Pam

PS: The other life lesson I’ve learned is that marriage makes things far easier if your life-partner dies – from organising the funeral to dealing with the deceased’s estate, being married to your partner will make things much, much easier. There is no such thing as de facto marriage in this country, so if there isn’t a will the surviving partner will lose everything. Even if there is a will, they won’t be sheltered from inheritance tax on the estate. (And don’t get me started on hospitals/doctors who refuse to give spouse status to the non-married life-partner of a patient….Red rag to a bull, that….)


Mother of Chaos said...

I don't know what it is lately, either...death, divorce, illness, what on earth is happening to our world right now?!

Good tip on being specific with offers of aid; I'm frequently guilty of being both awkward and vague offers. "I hope it won't be the wrong thing to do, offering help...um...so...er...do you...help? something? ish?"

PipneyJane said...

I know what you mean. The Grim Reaper and his chums are having a field day... At least with the divorces, you can usually see the signposts along the way (never socialising together, nothing in common, etc). However, one of my girlfriends, who is currently contemplating leaving her husband (not sure even he knows), it's come totally out of left field. The signposts were not there.

Another friend lost his step-father last week. Totally unexpected - no known illness, he just collapsed suddenly on Tuesday evening and died on Wednesday night.

[ sigh ]

What is the world coming to?

- Pam