Ghosts in the Room



So this is different. I’m become used to being a picture of a sunflower on the Internet, the unseen hands typing away on a computer…or more often than not, my iPhone between shifts and errands. Being here, at Pioneer Networks Conference is…way, way different. It’s awesome, and pretty scary. My hands are shaking so badly I’m beginning to rock the music stand holding my script. It’s part nerves…and part something else. I take my hands off the music stand and clasp them behind my back.

Smile was hard. In rehearsal, I burst into tears because that resident…that woman who sat on the commode and broke through her own aphasia to remind me to smile…she’s gone now. She died a few months ago, and that moment, that memory is so precious to me. It’s been the moment and the memory that I relive each time I think about quitting this job or this field. (Yes, even I have those moments.) And now she’s gone. She won’t ever speak again to me, won’t ever tell me to smile. And experience has taught me that in a year or so, I’m not going to remember her face. It will blur and while I will hopefully never forget her, her face will fade until one day it won’t be her face I see. I hate it, but that’s the truth.

I’m so sorry, I tell her in my mind. I’m sorry that I made you feel bad that day and I’m sorry I won’t be able to perfectly preserve your memory. I sorry HIPAA didn’t let me capture your image so I could always remember your smile, your eyes. But while the details will blur, you will always be part of me…and you’re here in this room now. I carry your ghost with me everywhere. All of us caregivers have ghosts.

I look up from my script and look out over this crowded room and I wonder…how many ghosts are here today? How many silent residents stand behind the people sitting at these table, how many lost loved ones are watching them, watching me? I’ve got well over one hundred myself. How many do they have, these people watching me?

Ok, ya’ll, I think, turning my script to how do you say goodbye? This one’s for you guys, all you ghosts filling the spaces and the hearts in this room.

Oh, boy. And I only thought the room was crowded before I remembered you were here!

6 thoughts on “Ghosts in the Room

  1. Anonymous

    Thank you for your courage and the willingness to push past the hurt so that you could share that raw emotion with all of us here at the conference. You touched each of us profoundly. Your words and your experience will live with me for a long, long time… With love and gratitude, Ruta

  2. Michelle Olson

    Your stories were profound, honest and incredibly moving. I am very grateful to have been in this crowded room to hear y’all speak out with such passion and compassion! I found myself crying and nodding the whole time. Everything you spoke of is exactly why I’m here…with all of you…we are ALL connected…(both here and gone as you so beautifully acknowledged!) Thank you, three brave amazing & beautiful souls.

    1. May Post author

      Thank you so much for being there, Michelle! It meant so much to me that you all were there, listening and responding.

  3. Linda

    The faces do fade, but what is left is something precious, a composite image of all those you have touched and made a difference and brought joy to. My mother, my father, my friend. Those are the memories that remind us all why we do this, for them, to make things better for them. And then in a big way for us, and feeding our own souls. Thank you for your courage to stand in front of us all and bare your soul(s).

    1. May Post author

      Thank you, Linda! You made me cry in a good way. I love that phrase “a composite image of all those you have touched”. What a beautiful way to describe the feeling!


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