It’s almost funny, how what people assume are the worst parts about my job actually aren’t. In some cases, such as this, it’s close to my favorite. I finish getting Mrs. L settled. She’s in so much pain that it takes me a long time to find a position she can relax in. Her body is so stiff, it’s almost a minor miracle when her arm straightens enough for her hand to grip mine.
“Thank you. I love you…but…”
The world is full of “I love you”s, and they are recorded, celebrated, memorialized. “I love you”: three of the most powerful words in any language. It’s a complete, perfect sentence: subject, verb, object. It’s a sentence that we are taught to say and react to…what we aren’t taught as often is how to react when that complete, perfect sentence continues with a qualifier.
“I love you but”.
I love you but I wish we had never met. I love you but I would never have chosen to be your friend. I’m glad you’re here but I wish I wasn’t.
I squeeze her hand carefully: not so hard that it causes her pain, not so lightly that she can’t feel it.
“It’s okay. I wish you weren’t here either…but, since you are, I’m glad I’m here as well.”
I’ve become used to this role, being the friend that nobody wants to have. Or rather, being the friend that nobody wants to have to need. After all, in the perfect world, there would be need for me. No one would lose their minds to disease, bodies would remain hale and trustworthy until death came to them peacefully. That’s not the world I live and work in. Bodies break, minds shatter; people lose themselves to disease and injury. Death walks hand-in-hand with pain.
And I’m here, in this imperfect world, just trying to make their hard way a little easier, trying to gather up as much peace for them as I can. When death comes for them, I’m there too: there to hold their hand while they struggle, there to fold their hands after they’ve gone.
I wouldn’t wish me on my worst enemy. Or rather, I wouldn’t wish the need for me on my worst enemy. And yet, I’ve become comfortable with this role: the friend you never wanted and the friend you cling to the hardest. When the need is great, so is the love.
It’s funny, how people assume the hardest parts of my job are also my least favorite. They aren’t. They are the reason I do it.