Friday, January 27, 2012

My Joy

I had a lovely Friday recap post planned and ready for publishing: a report of how
my experience with meal planning is going so far, our progress and new goals for
healthy, clean living, links to a few favorite blogs and internet wanderings.  But,
on Wednesday, my week fell apart and none of those things seemed to
matter anymore.
Several months ago, I began caring for a patient who, for the sake of confidentiality, we
will call Joy.  Joy was a very sad woman, she had lived a hard life: the single mother to
3 children, no education, no family to help her, struggling to make ends meet as an
African-American woman stuck in an impoverished cycle.  She struggled with drug abuse
and depression, did things she was not proud of to survive.  Joy was open, honest,
and genuinely kind.  She greeted me at her door each week, "Come in, Miss Olivia, my
special nurse!".  We had long talks about her family, her health, her situation.  Joy's
children had very little involvement in her life now that they are grown.  Her
relationship with her daughter was volatile, strained to say the least.  I only met her
daughter once and it involved her verbally abusing her mother, screaming at me because 
I wanted to send Joy to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning.  Her daughter was
angry because if her mother went to the hospital, she would have to take off work.  She
said her mother wasn't worth that.
None of this is unusual.  Working in home health, going into patients' homes and dealing
with their daily lives, I see these kinds of situations daily.  But there was just
something special about Joy, we connected on a different level.  I hugged her every time
I saw her and she always told me, "You just don't know how good it feels to be hugged.
Every person deserves that, to be hugged.  It just makes me feel loved for a change".
Such a simple act, yet monumental for my lonely Joy.
On Wednesday night, as Shawn and I sat together in our living room, our babies asleep
in their beds, I received a phone call from Joy's daughter.  "My mama's dead.  They told
me to call you".  
"What?" I cried into the phone.  I tried to remain as professional as possible, refrained
from asking too many questions, tried not to seem intrusive.  I offered my
sincere condolences, offered to help in any way I could.  "I loved your mother so much", I
told Joy's daughter.  "It was an honor to care for her".  "Yeah, well, whatever", she
replied.  And then she hung up.
I dropped the phone, staring at Shawn in disbelief.  Joy is dead.  Tears streamed down
my face as I imagined her last day.  Was she alone?  Was she scared?  Did anyone give her
a hug that day, those hugs she appreciated so much?  The other nurses in my office had
the same reaction when I informed them of the news the next morning.  We mourned
our sweet Joy, remembering the kindness she shared with us all.  I wonder what Joy
would think if she knew what a positive impact she had on our group of nurses?
Joy was a person who touched my heart in an unforgettable way.  She wore a smile
despite having pain in her heart, she admitted her faults while keeping a positive
attitude.  She welcomed me into her home and offered me her trust despite being
hurt repeatedly through her life.  Joy reminded me that every person bears beauty and
light, even under the thickest layers of pain.  Life can be harsh and unfair, it can tarnish
even the strongest of characters.  But we should never stop believing in the goodness of
each other, never give up on the possibility to love and be loved.  Never underestimate
the power of human touch and soulful connections.  And so I will move forward from this
loss knowing a little more about myself, about life, about the mark I want to make on my
own personal journey.  I will move forward a blessed person for having crossed paths
with Joy.

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deanna@delirious-rhapsody said...

i'm so sorry, liv. i can only imagine how it would feel to form a bond with your patients, and then lose them. and i can't imagine just being so monotonous about my own mother passing. :-/

Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful story Olivia and Thought you are in pain now it seems Joy will live in your mind and heart forever. May her wisdom be with you always. Take care

Caitlin said...

So sorry to hear about Joy's passing, and the difficult life she lead beforehand. So awesome that she had you to care for her since her own children were clearly too selfish to.

Hilary@BabyMooHoo said...

that is so heartbreaking. i can't imagine how that must feel as someone's caretaker... it seems like it must like a member of your own family passing. definitely a reminder to hold loved ones a little closer today. xo!

Sarbear said...

I am so thankful for you and the work that you do. I'm sure having you and her other nurses there to provide her with loving touch and loving care menat the world to her. Even though it is hard work, I am so thankful for people like you who touch the lives of those who need you most. Sending lots of love your way.


Anonymous said...

Oh miss Olivia this made my heart drop for you my friend. How awful her children were like that. She was so blessed to have someone like you in her life I know she is looking down on you and smiling. I am so sorry for your loss (((hug)))

Nessa Bixler said...

I am so sorry Olivia... thinking of you.

Lucy The Valiant said...

Oh, I am so sorry, dear. You really and truly made a difference in her life, you know.

Little Gray Pixel said...

How incredibly sad. This truly breaks my heart. Losing your mother is the worst thing in the world, and to hear that her adult children had nothing but contempt for the woman who made it possible for them to be alive is depressing.

Regardless of the pain and tribulations of whatever happened in their childhood, there is a time to put away childish things and make peace with the past. I hope they don't regret their callousness someday.