"I think I know you!"
Moving back into home hospice nursing has been a smooth transition for me. Seeing patients in their homes has been the majority of my practice over the past 27 years, despite the work I have done for the past 7-1/2 years at the bedside full time. The one difference this time is the number of connections that arise simply because of my past work in this community and, of course, JJ. She was the one staff member no one forgot. "Um, I don't remember meeting you. But I met the dog and she was amazing!" was a typical conversation. My response has always been along the lines of "Well, I was her driver."
When I arrived at the Adult Foster Care Home for my new patient, I met the owner, who proceeded to ask that leading question. As it turns out, she has connections to not only myself, but to my husband as well through his dog training. This really is a small community. After visiting with my patient, I spent some time sharing and laughing at all of the connections we really did have. Many of the memories did involve JJ and her work at the inpatient hospice. JJ was always the one who could elicit smiles and laughter, even through tears. Her magical ways blended her own style of hugs with a mooching finesse and plopping demand for belly rubs that could not be ignored.
As a young hospice nurse in the Seattle area, I remember feeling awkward and uncomfortable when running into a loved one of someone I had cared for in the past. It takes time to build life experiences that allow us to navigate the often turbulent waters of emotional response. While I was comfortable with supporting my patients and families through the dying process, I was not expecting to face the range of emotions people would have when remembering how they knew me. Often, it didn't bring good memories for the person, even for those who were so thankful for the support of our hospice team. Some just have a hard time thinking back to the time their loved one was dying.
So many years later, these encounters are all understandable and much more comfortable to deal with. It may be easier because so many of people's memories include a certain Golden Retriever who always made my job easier. Even after her death, JJ has made it easier to for people to consider end of life matters and remember their own stories, in person or online.
Even with such a short time back into the community doing hospice work, it is clear there have been many connections made. I am reminded of the circle of life in so many ways. I look forward to continuing my hospice work and unearthing more memories along the way.
"Beauty exists not in what is seen and remembered, but in what is felt and never forgotten." Johnathan Jena