The infirmary has been very busy for the past 12 years or so -- lots of hustle and bustle, with a full staff to help with the work. That has changed quite rapidly over the last couple of years. We have had a lot of deaths, which is to be expected because of the ages of those who live here. For years most of the rooms have been full and some of the residents lived up here needing full time care for years.
Philip was taken care of for about 16 years, 8 of them he needed full time help. Tom, the last one to die was also in for 10 years, bed ridden and in the early days needed a lot of wound care. Clarence was with us full time for 8 years and had multiple health problems but was also strong enough to get around on his own until he stopped dialysis and died within the week. Emilio, who told us that he would be gone before Christmas of 2008, died in November of that year, at peace, without fear or anxiety, he was ready. I was able to talk to him on the phone a few days before he died -- I was out of town for three weeks at the time -- and let him know how much I cared for him and also how easy he was to take care of.
The list is long, going way back, but all of them seem to have been part of our little community just yesterday. So many, it would take pages to go through all of them, yet none of them are forgotten now or ever. I was closer to some than others, but all were loved and respected. Some I fought a lot with, others not, I think the ones I fought with or the ones most missed.
The shortest stay here was only for one day. Bill Reams put off coming into the infirmary as long as he could, but the day he asked to be admitted, I knew his time was short, but the fact that he would die within 24 hours never entered my mind. He was a gentle soul, but he had his burdens and I can truthfully say that he was ready and wanted to go. I did accompany him on some of his doctor visits and while he was open and friendly, he exasperated at least one of them, because he would not allow him to do everything that could be done. He was only in his sixties, but because of his heavy burdens, he was much older. When he was nearing the end he seemed like a child, helpless and alone, so I did something I have never done before that time, or since, I held him in my arms as he died. His was one of the most peaceful deaths I have attended.
I now do the night shifts six days a week. I have a room here now, and it is still strange to me how quiet it is. In the past when I made my rounds most of the rooms would have someone in them, some needed cleaning and some just needed to be watched. Now it is just William and Luke and Jerome, who need some watching and help during the night shift. I like it actually. I get up earlier and do my rounds and then do my reading etc.
As I was sitting in the meeting room of our infirmary, I keep thinking about those who have passed, could almost see them and hear them as they talked, laughed and yes also yelled. I miss it actually, but I also like the respite that we are having now, knowing that it could end at any time. Things seem to happen in clusters, so just waiting for the next one to happen. So I do get a little sad when I remember all those who have passed through here, but also happy that those who work here helped them to have a softer experience as they neared their end. The last few miles can be the hardest and most wearing; hopefully we were able to take off some the hard edges.
When you reflect on those who have passed on in your life, who comes to mind? What can we learn from the moving of time that we can apply to our lives today?