A sweet memory recently popped up on my social media. It’s this amazing photo of a dearly departed client of mine from a few years ago. In it, she’s holding a kitten that my neighbor Tom had recently found in a car engine. Her name was Carolyn and the kitten was later named Rob (b/c he was found on Robertson Blvd). I still see Rob wandering around our neighborhood, but I only see Carolyn in photos, memories and sometimes in the plants that her family gave to me after she passed away.
When I saw the photos I was reminded of how we first bonded over Rob the kitten. I had heard she was a cat person and so I thought she would love a visit from this sweet and oh so tiny kitten.
Boy was I so right! Her face absolutely lit up when she held that kitten in her arms.
It’s like bringing a kitten to her just told her all she needed to know about me.
Later I would bring her favorite mexican food (Los Burritos on Sunset Blvd), cookies, chocolates, ice cream… whatever she would eat. For the record, she was underweight and a pretty finicky eater. So really you just pick a battle you can win…
That’s often how I win over tough clients. I try to find out what they really love, who they really are and what is really important to them. Because I get it… even if someone is sick, cognitively impaired or physically disabled, they probably don’t want to admit they need some help and they certainly don’t want to have a total stranger start meddling in their health care, medical appointments and in their lives in general. I know I wouldn’t want that either. The golden rule often applies in my work…
Like so many of my current and former clients, I grew to love Carolyn in just a small window of time. Fortunately she had a long life and I am so grateful that I was able to meet her and to show up for and help her at the end of it. And I dare say she grew to love me a little bit too.
Over time, it broke my heart to see her grow weaker with cancer. But she was not alone and she maintained her humor and sassiness up until the bitter-end. When she was bed-ridden and unable to speak, I brought Rob the kitten back to visit her. Although she couldn’t say anything, I knew it brought her great joy as he purred and snuggled up under her arm. Just to see her able to finally close her eyes and smile made my day. It’s the least I could do for her. And sometimes (especially at the end of life) it is the small things that really count.
I know in my work as a nurse care manager I have learned so much more than I would have ever imagined possible. Mostly to live a life of kindness, integrity and to try to be grateful whenever I can. And that the small moments in our lives are often the most meaningful. Because I have never heard a dying person say they wish they had been more rich, more famous, more successful, more accomplished…
In my experience, they usually just wish they had more time to do simple or seemingly silly things with the people they loved.