It starts out so innocent. I didn’t mean to make her cry…all I said was “So, are you ready for Christmas?”
And just like someone flipped a switch, Mrs. X begins to cry. In my years as a CNA, I have developed a sort of sixth sense for the different flavors of grief. This one…this one isn’t raw so much as festering. Whatever she’s crying about is eating her alive, and I can’t stand it.
“What’s wrong?” I cry, kneeling down beside her. It’s…the wrong thing to say, somehow.
“Wrong?” she gasps. “That’s what I would like to know. How did it all go so wrong? Why don’t my kids want to come see me? I tried to be a good parent…” Her words trail off, leaving only the weeping. “Did I forget something…something I did to make them not love me any more?”
I don’t know what to say. I want to comfort her, tell her it’s not true.
I can’t. I can recite from memory her diet order, her beverage preference, when she likes her shower and how many blankets she likes over her at night…but I can’t answer the questions she’s asking. I don’t know what kind of mother she was; I only know what kind of people her children are–but I still can’t answer the question. What went wrong? Why are her children all such entitled snobs who can’t seem to be bothered to visit their mother on Christmas? Hell, even the card they sent is bland and generic: no personal messages, only hastily scrawled names.
How did this happen? I can’t answer her. Those aren’t the kind of details mentioned on my care guide.
“Hey,” I say, as gently as I can. “I don’t know they don’t come, sweetheart. But…the mostly-blind guy down the hall can see you love your kids…so…”
“It’s this disease,” she interrupts, tapping her head. Sometimes, it’s scary how aware she can be. Honestly, I think it just makes it harder for her. “They don’t love me anymore because of this disease.”
Once again, I’m at a loss. I don’t know how to make this better and I hate it. It’s my job, damn it–I’m supposed to take care of her. Words fail me, but she keeps speaking.
“Do you love me?” she asks timidly. “Even though I’m not me anymore? Are you…are you going to be here with me for Christmas?”
“All day,” I promise, gripping her hand as tightly as I dare with her brittle bones and fragile skin. “Yes, I love you. And you are the only you I’ve ever known.”
I’m crying now, and so is she. It’s a bit better, now that we’re crying together. Sometimes, in my rush to make things better, I forget how healing it is just to share your grief with someone. Her pain hurts me and somehow, that makes it just a bit more bearable for us both.
Christmas isn’t quite the same anymore, ever since I’ve been a CNA. It’s more bittersweet now, a painful reminder of how much I have compared to others. It makes me grateful and also sad.
I wish there was more Christmas spirit and less commercialism and selfishness in the world.