You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.
She stepped back to admire her handiwork. It was remarkable. Months before, during the first office visits, he had been resistant to her sympathy and she had clearly been uncomfortable with her new role as caregiver. There was no way she was going to take care of him and no way he was going to let her. “Can’t someone come into the home and hook up the feeding tube three times each day?” “It is something you can both learn very quickly,”
I reassured them.
She was completely unconvinced. “Absolutely not! No way! What if some of the juices get on me? I can’t stand secretions! Just the thought of having to deal with mucus makes me sick!”
He had made no attempt to change her mind.
They were adamant. Arrangements were made and schedules prepared. The jobs were accomplished.
As the cancer progressed, his resolve and his strength both weakened. She gradually began providing some of the care he needed. She learned to handle the tubing. She became more comfortable cleaning up after his accidents. She peeked under the dressings to assess how quickly his recurrent cancer was growing. She absorbed more and more of the daily duties — tasks she would have never dreamed of performing a few months before.
On this day, I carefully removed the dressing to examine the growing ulcer. The opening between the mouth and the cheek skin which had started as a pinhole was now large and weeping. Covering the defect had become a frequent necessity. The gauze needed changing after he tried to eat anything and whenever the dressings became soiled.
After I had finished examining and measuring the ulcer, I opened the drawer holding the supplies. I pulled out some gauze and a roll of tape and began by aligning the dressing with the edge of the wound. The first piece of tape gave way as soon as I placed the second piece. “Here,”
she offered. “Let me take care of that.”
And so this woman, who just a few months before could barely bring herself to look at his wound, carefully arranged the necessary supplies from the drawer on the countertop. Her husband relaxed and raised his chin, presenting to her the gaping defect in his cheek. As I watched, they performed a ritual of preparation, cleansing, and concealment. The outcome was perfect. Not a piece of gauze had been wasted. Not a strip of tape was out of place.
She stepped back and wiped her hands. “There!”
He reached up and felt the edges of the dressing. “She’s become quite a nurse, don’t you think?”
Indeed, I thought. I admired the dressing. By comparison, my attempt to tape gauze to his face had been clumsy. I realized that I had been dressing a wound. She, on the other hand, had been dressing a person. The ceremony of his wound care reflected their transformation.
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I found this by way of GR's... A beautiful story and it reminds me of some folks I love very much. Thank you for sharing it. It's nice to know you see the beauty in all the other "stuff" you see daily.