Monday, May 12, 2008

In Which I Learn a Lesson

I've talked about hate here before; growing up, we weren't allowed to say it, feel it, or act upon it. But here's a little lesson I learned today about hate:

Ten years ago, in January, we were all called in to the hospital, because the nurses believed mom was in her last hours. She was having trouble breathing and in a semi-conscious state. We stayed with her through the night, but when she woke in the morning, said she felt fine, and even asked for breakfast. I went home, cleaned up, slept a little and went back in to see her around lunch time. I sent dad home, and mom and I were talking when the hospital social worker came in and introduced herself to us. Let's call her HSW. The first question out of her mouth was, "So, have you made your final arrangements?"

I watched mom's face fall.

Our family didn't talk about death. Dad had a graduate degree from the School of Positive Attitude; we just always talked about mom getting better.

Mom started to cry, and I told the social worker that maybe she should go.

That, I think, is the moment when mom gave up. She got to go back home, but declined rapidly. With hospice, dad was able to care for her at home until early March, when she was admitted to the hospital for the last time.

She died on March 13, and I have hated that social worker ever since.

Of course, I never acted on it. I never wrote her a scathing letter or spoke to her superior. I just hated her, and blamed her for mom dying before I was ready to let her go.

Fast forward 10 years to this morning. My aunt and I were discussing grandma's care with Mary, the extremely nice hospice nurse. So many things to discuss, so many forms to sign, so many people involved in making grandma's last days comfortable, including nurses, aides, a chaplain and a social worker.

You-know-who. HSW.

When Mary said her name, I almost jumped out of my skin. HSW was supposed to be in on this meeting, but she was running late; we all went down to grandma's room so that Mary could do her assessment. When HSW arrived, Mary asked me to go back to the conference room so that HSW and I could discuss some things. Yikes.

As we walked down the hall, I was planning my questions. Remember me? Remember my mom? Ripped anyone else's heart out lately?

Can we have another social worker, please?

But as we neared the conference room, I knew I wouldn't say anything. Really, do we need more drama in this situation? I don't think so. For some reason, I reached up to touch the peace pendant and little cross I always wear.

We sat down, and she took my name, then looked at me quizzically. "How do I know you?" I lied and said I didn't know, but that I did a lot of volunteer work.

She took a quick history of gram, and asked about her children. When I told her that my mother had died 10 years ago, HSW asked for her name. I thought I had been made, and that HSW would remember mom. But she didn't, and the conversation turned to how grandma had handled grief in the past, and how my family had dealt with mom's death.

Then, HSW told me that her own dad was battling lung cancer. I could see the pain and concern in her face. She talked about how she and her sisters helped their mom care for their dad. She talked about how he had always been healthy, and rarely missed a day of work. She talked about how she had to battle the hospital to get her dad out of the ER and into a room so that in his compromised state he could avoid the other germy people in the ER. She talked about his attitude change and his anger over his illness. She talked about her mom's reaction and denial.

And somewhere, in the middle of all that talk, I stopped hating her.

She made a mistake that day she came into my mom's room, but it wasn't malicious or deceitful.

She's a sister going through the same painful journey we went through. And she can come out on the other side rejoicing in the blessing that was her dad's life, or she can come out filled with anger and hate.

Being a legacy of the Positive Attitude School, I chose rejoicing, but I've always had that little nagging side order of hate. Until today.

While I don't think for one minute that God is allowing grandma to go through all this misery just so I could learn this lesson, it would be a damn shame if I didn't.

Peace. I mean it.


  1. I know you already know this, but He works in mysterious ways.

    I'll be thinking of you.

  2. That's very moving; thank you for sharing it!