This post is going to be a little different than usual. I need to talk about something that’s been weighing on my heart for awhile. I think I’ve mentioned before that I work as a nursing assistant in a residential hospice, meaning that a great deal of my time is spent interacting with terminally ill cancer patients. I’m supposed to tell them that everything is going to be okay, I’m supposed to comfort them when they cry, give out hugs like candy and react to grieving families with the ease of a skilled counselor.
Here’s the deal: I’m 19. I DON’T believe that everything is going to be okay, every time I see them cry I want to lie down next to them and cry too, and most of the time I just don’t know what to say when a family member comes to me with tears in their eyes, looking for some kind of faith or reassurance.
I don’t have that. I don’t have the answers. And sometimes, at the end of my shift, I have NOTHING LEFT TO GIVE. I’m completely and utterly emotionally drained and I have nothing left for my family or friends. I feel like a robot.
Last week I took care of my classmate’s dad. His DAD. His dad was younger than mine. His brain tumor showed up suddenly 2 years ago and just like that… 24 months to fight. 24 months to live. And then it’s over. Even though my dad and I have our differences I love him more than life itself, and I would be completely lost if he were taken from me. I can’t even imagine losing him.
This work is hard but it lends a valuable lesson with a teaching style most don’t have the opportunity to encounter: Life is precious. Life is short. So eat your dessert first, count your blessings, love without fear, take risks, and roam if you must… but come home when you’ve seen enough. I’ve asked every one of my well traveled patients what their favorite place is and I always get the exact same answer: home.
But where is home? WHAT is it??
I love traveling, I love roadtripping. It’s not unusual for me to pack a bag, jump in the car and drive. I wrote this a couple weeks ago when I was doing just that:
Home is not a place.
It has no spot on the map, no address where birthday cards can be sent.
Home is a time.
A time when things were safe,
A time when if I scraped my knee, it only hurt until it was kissed.
A time when every rainbow was a miracle, and a time out was the worst of my fears.
Home is a feeling.
It’s the feeling I get when I drive on open roads,
The windows down and my cell phone turned off.
Home is in the vast green prairies,
The abandoned K-Marts and empty parking lots.
I’m obsessed with empty parking lots,
As if they are tangible proof that I’m not the only one afraid to stop.
Afraid to slow down, because maybe I’ll miss something or someone.
I’m not running away from anything.
I’m running towards something.
I’m running home.
I’m looking for home. Let me know if you find it. ;)