It’s a beautiful day.
If I’m completely honest, this statement has less to do with what’s outside the car and more to do with what’s inside. Me–not in scrubs.
I feel at times as though I live in my scrubs; occupational hazard for a workaholic CNA, I suppose. But not today: today I’m in clothes that don’t immediately point to my profession, dark wash skinny jeans and a T-shirt. The radio is on, the window is down and I am off work for the next two days. As much as I love my job (and I do love my job, insane though this maybe), I love my weekends off and other mini-vacations.
I’ve got the radio on an 80s through today mix–I feel like a bit of variety right now. A P!nk song ends and an older one begins, Cutting Crew’s “I just died in your arms tonight”.
And I have to turn it off.
I’m not here anymore; there’s a phantom weight in my arms pulling me to a different time. Memory becomes more visceral than the present. I know this song is about sex, not death, but I can’t shake my own interpretation. I guess you do change after someone literally dies in your arms.
At the time, years ago, I was weirdly calm when the resident I was getting up for breakfast went limp in my arms as I swung him to sit up on the side of the bed. His whole body just kind of flopped and I knew, I just knew that I was holding dead weight in my arms. I was calm. I told the girl I was training to go get the nurse and I swung him back in bed. Everything else from that morning is blurry…everything except that flop as life left the body in my arms.
Front row seats to someone’s final curtain call. Weird feeling. Nothing quite like it.
I glance down at my arms and then shake my head to dislodge the memories. The phantom weight recedes with a muted echo of the flop. I sigh. This is the cost of being a caregiver: you might not always wear the scrubs, but you can’t change the clothes of your soul. The memories, the experiences, the feelings, the training: they follow you everywhere—your own entourage of ghosts.
Suddenly I’m laughing, just hee-hawing. Here I am, remembering the death of one of my residents, just in absolute stitches…because it was his death. My wild, mischievous resident, who liked nothing more than to be memorable and hilarious. Quite the performer, he fancied himself. I’ve never known a man so dedicated to making other people smile. Of course he’d go like that, in some flashy fashion–no quiet goodnight for him. No, he went out with a bang and a cuss word: “Turn that damn radio off” and then flop in my arms.
Because this part I can’t forget: it wasn’t just a death in my arms. He died in my arms. Can’t forget the life that left me, holding his body. Whether in scrubs or skinny jeans, I’m still his caregiver, the guardian of his memories.
Gifts and curses have a funny way of being the exact same thing, if you ask me.