A care manager reflects on a client’s passing
Connie was unlike anyone I have ever known. She lived with post-polio syndrome for most of her life, which left her with limited movement in her upper body and none in her lower body. Nonetheless she lived a full, beautiful life. She was a loving mother to two daughters who adored her, and a faithful wife to her husband, who had his own physical limitations.
Connie did not like asking for anything, and she would often devise creative ways to maintain not only her independence, but also the tasks she considered necessary as a wife and mother. She never had a mean word to say about anyone, and was grateful for everything she had.
About a year into my professional relationship with Connie as her care manager, I received a phone call from her husband. Connie, a breast cancer survivor, had been diagnosed with aggressive brain and liver cancer and was beginning home hospice care. Shortly after that call, I went to visit for our quarterly meeting. Her daughters warned me that Connie now spent most of her time sleeping with only brief moments of clarity. I am forever grateful that I caught her at one of these moments and was able to talk with her.
Sharing life’s lessons
I sat in her living room with her family, and we chatted pleasantly about our excitement for spring. Connie always took pride in her garden. As I was wrapping up the visit, Connie called me to the edge of her bed, took my hands in hers, and said, “Before you, all of this was so scary. All the paperwork, everything. I never felt respected and always felt small. Then you came along, and all of that changed. I knew I could trust you.” I was at a loss for words. I told her I was happy to help, and I was blessed to have her as a client.
Still at her bedside, her hands wrapped around mine, she said, “I’ll see you again someday.” I laughed and said, “Yes, I’ll be out in a few months for a home visit.” She smiled, closed her eyes and replied, “In Heaven.” I had to hold back tears as I told her, “Hopefully, both.” She opened her eyes and drew me in for a hug, telling me she loved me.
A tear fell down my face. I quickly said goodbye to the family and hurried to my car, where I began to sob. A few weeks later, I received an email from Connie’s daughter, telling me she had died peacefully in her sleep, and that there would be a memorial service – but only happy thoughts, bright colors, and beautiful flowers – “because that’s who mom was.”
I think about Connie often and silently thank her for the beautiful lessons she has left with me. Clients aren’t just clients; they become family. And as painful as losing them is, the joy of the relationship is worth it.