The way of courage


It’s hard being the new person on the job. Take today, for instance. I’m the green aide on a rough day; we’ve just lost a resident and everybody was already stressed out. Being low man on the totem pole, nobody is really looking to me to hold things together. All I have to do is hold myself together.
Perhaps that might be “all” I have to, but it’s certainly enough. I’m not handling this loss very well. I’m just standing here in the hall, staring blankly at nothing. I don’t know what to do. I’m not crying, but I am shaking.
Two older and more experienced aides stop by me. X and Y, to be honest, I’ve never really liked either of them. They just look so…hard.
And now, I think I’m going to get lectured by them on how to handle myself.
“First loss?” Y asks.
I nod.
“Won’t be your last,” she comments.
“You get used to it,” X says. “And by that I mean, you learn not to get attached. No point, since they go so quick. Well, I gotta go.”
And as she walks away, Y just shakes her head. “Or,” she tells me quietly, “you learn how to fall in love faster. You have to, since they go so quick.” Then she turns and follows X, still shaking her head.

Left on my own again, I can’t help but think over what they’ve both said. I’ve only been an aide for a few weeks at this point, and I’ve only lost one resident so far. My own experience is not large enough to answer the question of which way is smarter.
But even so, I know which one is harder; I know which one requires more courage. To feel at all is to risk feeling pain.
To care about your residents means accepting their imminent mortality…because if they were in the peak of health, they wouldn’t be your residents.
I know which aide has more courage.

As I go back to work, I revise my opinion: the two older aides aren’t the same kind of hard. X is hardened by circumstance, but Y, she’s tough. She’s stronger than her circumstances.
I know which aide I want to emulate.

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