Last Days

Last Days


Someone that I work with made me remember a patient I once had. She wasn’t very old, she had breast cancer, and was a nurse. This patient apparently took care of everyone but herself. The cancer was so bad that it was growing on the outside of her body. Then she fell a few days after we admitted her with a broken hip. She was in severe pain, on Hospice care. All she wanted in her last days was to see her daughter.

I called her daughter and she gave me an excuse of why she couldn’t come today. “I’ll be there tomorrow something has come up and I can’t make it today,” she would say. I called the next day and same story. “Oh, I’m working today it would have to be tomorrow.” I explained the importance of her coming, I didn’t think she had much time with us. For three days, this poor women who probably worked her whole life taking care of patient after patient, all she wanted was to see this daughter, who could take five minutes out of her day to say goodbye to her mother.

I sat with her even after my shift had ended for three days, held her hand, made sure she didn’t die alone in a strange place. On the third day she passed away, hospice came, called the funeral home. When the funeral home arrived, guess who decided to show up, yep the daughter. I’m assuming that hospice called her as it was her job to do.

I heard down the hall the hospice nurse say, “oh I wasn’t here when she expired the nursing home nurse was here, maybe you can ask her.” I had just finished my shift and was getting ready to clock out and go home. She walked up to me and said, “I understand that you were with her when she died,” I said, “yes I was” she said, “Did she say anything before she, you know?” I said, “yes she did.” Then I walked over to the time clock, clocked out, and left.

It was probably wrong of me, but this patient cried for her daughter during her last days and she made every excuse not to be there. She wasn’t on another continent she was down the street and didn’t come. I was Not going to comfort her. She was not my patient her mother was. I did comfort her mother the best I could and kept telling her that her daughter is coming, but she didn’t show. So, I felt no emotions for her comfort. I walked out the front door, got into my car, and drive home.

26 thoughts on “Last Days

  1. Having been a funeral director (and FF-EMT) for over 40 years, I have seen and heard the story countless times. I’m surprised that she didn’t ask about a will.
    I have a daughter who is a NICU RN and another that is a PA-C Trauma Surgeon. I look forward to sharing your blog with them.

  2. I wasn’t with my mother when she died, at 3am in her nursing home. I did see her the day before, at which stage she was already ‘out of it’ but hopefully aware I was there.

    1. The problem I think that upset me was I called the daughter several times a day and asked if she could come she kept giving me excuse after excuse. I think that’s what upset me

      1. I understand why you were upset by the daughter’s no show; in your shoes, I would have been too. To say you’re coming, then not turn up, is inexplicable.

      2. Your post touched a nerve for me. Aya, here.

        My mother, technically Flounder’s mother as well. had breast cancer. She had +++ by the time they managed to move forward with her first surgery.

        When I was permitted to see my mother when she came out of her first surgery … she was the most pale I had ever seen her. I leaked tears that had not lasted long until I realized my brother was absent from the pictures. I was livid.

        I called him and asked why he wasn’t there. He said he was tired.

        I live with my brother. So, for 3 whole days I ignored him, did not say hello to him and refused to make him feel better.

        So. Sadly. I get you. In my own way.

        We worked through it and after hearing him, I realized he felt so sad seeing mom sick and he couldn’t cope. Still … felt like an excuse, even to this day.

        I appreciate you sharing these candid moments.

        And for RAW. I needed to hear it.


  3. Perhaps your approach was less than ideal, but it was perfectly understandable. I’m sure it would have been extremely difficult to be nicer to the daughter than that.

  4. Wow. I’m glad you found me so I could find you. I used to be a Navy Corpsman and worked Emergency Departments… so this sort of long term care is something I only got to see when I had the time to follow up on someone in the blur of patients we saw. Nursing and medicine is so much more than that, like this.

    You did remind me, however, of something I should write about which is almost a time lapse of this. Almost.

  5. This is a heartbreaking story and a situation that is probably fairly common, I am guessing. In your shoes I would have felt the same sympathy and loyalty for the patient– indignant, frustrated and even angry toward the daughter. Thank you for following my new blog, Patty. I am following yours as well. Enjoy your week off!

  6. I dated a nurse. The job can be cruelly hard, and the indifference some people show their family is abysmal. I can’t say if you did right ir wrong, but I at least partially understand how you felt. Thank you for taking care of the sick when society is too selfish to care.

  7. Read some of your posts. I am also a nurse (retired to take care of my husband), I also love camping, using tools, painting, blogging… I lived in Texas a while too near Longview and Tyler. So, a lot in common. Thanks for reading my A to Z posts. All the best to you.

  8. You, as us all, are only human. That means we are constantly struggling with difficult emotions. Truth if the matter is what your patient said was for you and not for her daughter. You showed true grace and restraint by not taking the opportunity to belittle and chastise the daughter.

    Thank you for all you do. It meant the world to your patient in this instance.

  9. Wow, that must have took some guts to do that. I completely understand, it must be such a hard job pleading with family to come before it’s too late. I couldn’t imagine. I would have only regret. Anyway, I loved the story. Don’t change.

  10. It seems as if either or both had secrets to confess, apologies to be made and/or forgiveness to be given or accepted, hatred or love or both to be expressed. Whatever the secrets, the daughter had the mobility to come and go and come again down to the last moment. Secrets to the grave, the makings of nightmares. My Mother and Father, Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, Great Aunts and Uncles took their secrets to the grave, never expressed their true feelings during their lifetimes, lied and covered up their illnesses. Relatives always said “heart attack” no matter what. I imagine that if one of them ever died from a blow to the head, they’d say that the heart stopped beating at some point and so they’d declare “heart attack.” They had no money to fight over, so who’s going to ask for the records. All gossip & no truth, secret grudges and never speaking even at official gatherings. As polite as a politician. Relative X hasn’t been around. Heart attack. Should be comedy skit. A little hyperbole. Mostly cancer I think. These are the lies from around 1890 onward.

    1. P.S. I like the twisted famous stories better. There’s the official story of the last words of Abraham Lincoln and the purported words to his wife, “You and your damn plays.”

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