Tonight the nurse and I escorted a patient to the morgue. It was dark. Cold. Intriguing. I never had to escort a decease to a morgue before. As I was escorting the patient, I thought, "is this what my grandfather went through" when he passed away on Friday, May 10th?
Last Friday, I received a phone call from my little sister that my grandfather passed away. There was a long silence as I received the news. I felt numb. I was surprised but deep down, I knew. Grandpa was hospitalized earlier this month because he had trouble breathing. This time he had hypotension and fluids in his lungs. He passed away about 10:00pm at Regions Hospital in the ICU. I called Dad after I got off the phone with my sister and asked if I can come visit but Dad told me to stay home. I could not find the tears to cry but there is a void in my heart. Cherished memories of my grandfather and I flooded in. I prayed, "rest in peace, Grandpa. You are in a better place. Thank you for being my grandfather." I slipped into depression as I stayed in bed until 3 o'clock in the afternoon; ignored text messages and phone calls.
I feel numb. It is the same feeling I had when I worked at the nursing home in long-term care unit after five of my residents passed away. It is strange walking into or by the deceased’s room. The individual look like they are sleeping but their appearance tells you that they are not. Their skin is pale. From my observation, they appear more yellow than bluish after a few hours of passing but this may be due to their hemoglobin levels, I think. Their eyes sunken in. Their body is cool to the touch. Their body still despite knowing that the gas inside the body can cause the body to move or make noise.
Death is strange. I am fearful but I accept it. Twelve years ago, I barely clung onto my own life when my hemoglobin was dangerously low. I remember laying on the table in the Emergency Department. My vision blurred. All I could see is a bright light. I could barely make out the words the Doctors and Nurses were saying as they rush to save my life. I did not have the energy to talk. I felt no pain. Death is like going to sleep. Six blood transfusions later, God has given me a second chance at life.
Tonight I feel numb. First it was my college friend, Audrey Hull, age 25, who was in a bicyclist vs. semi-truck accident on her way to work at the TV-Studio, same where I worked. I will not forget crying day and night in my dormitory. I will not forget breaking down in front of my supervisor. I will not forget feeling angry and wanting to yell at the news reporter who came to our workplace to interview us for tomorrow’s headline.
Three-weeks after my orientation at the nursing home, my resident, Orville passed away. I was speechless; too shocked for words. It was unexpected. Four other residents that I cared for deeply preceded in death that following winter. I thought I could escape death by working in the hospital. In 2017, a patient who I have cared for six-months passed away. That following fall when I was cross-training in the Pediatric ICU (PICU), 3 children passed away within my three-weeks there. It was heartbreaking. It is not fair. Their future taken away too soon. Then last year, May 2018, my high school friend, Melea Belle Hart, age 29, passed away unexpectedly after years of battling gastroparesis. I was so angry and sad when I found out that she passed away. Yet I still visit her today and "we talked and catch up." Five days ago, my grandfather who I had the pleasure to know for 27-years passed away at the age of 89. Tonight, a patient I have cared for passed away.
I’m not sure if I am grieving in my own way. Death is inevitable and it is within my line of work. Just like my Dad when he first started in the Vietnam Air Force. His responsibility was to pickup the bodies of his fallen comrades. With these passing, I want to cry. I feel like I need to; to mourn and grieve but no matter how many love ones or those within my care passed away, it is a disorienting experience of emotional numbness and internal sorrow.