Printed in the Conscious Creation Journal
October-November 2000, Issue 14
I had just run off with the love of my life, further south. It was the happiest summer of my life. A new man, a drastic change in weight, image, and self esteem. I found a great job with a local hospice as a Registered Nurse.
I met Tina, one of the patients I was scheduled to visit, at one of the nursing homes. I was there as the official Hospice Nurse. The facility had had problems with its licensure and was a bit of squalor in the middle of a Florida city where the old money came to play. Not quite Palm Beach but you could buy enough Armani in town til you got to the airport to fly out to do the real shopping.
As I read her chart I saw her for the first time. She was giving the Nurses hell about needing pain medicine, etc., etc. She had HIV. She was skin and bones, hair cropped, lips taut over teeth that were always painfully dry, sores on her lips. She wanted her cigarettes and lighter now! She weighed about 75 pounds but she scared me, I am not intimidated easily, but there I was, wondering how to deal with her.
The first meeting was brief, she was very even and polite to me, and I left ASAP before she yelled at me, which was what I expected her to do at any moment. I judged her, the prejudices about HIV coming out, I was afraid of her, as I have a Lupus-like condition that suppresses my immune function.
As I got to know her, she became as close to a friend as I ever had, and I did not realize it at the time. We sat on the balcony one day. As we spent time together, it did not seem like Tina would be dying soon, she was so energetic, driven. We were about the same age. She looked at me and said, well it looks like you’re pretty set in your life. I thought I would be set by now, but then this happened. She told me she wanted as her last wish to see Barry Manilow in concert with her mother. I said I thought she was a Metallica person for sure. She looks at me hard and says, “I would never have thought you were a metalhead.” We became buddies at that moment, looking into her big wide painful eyes.
I cry as I think about her; I knew she was here for only a little longer, I wish I had used my time with her more wisely. Looking back one realizes the opportunities missed to interact on a non-superficial level with the people we come into contact with, to realize the value of each moment as it is passing before us, and not waste time in a place where it is not good to be.
Addiction in the dying.
She shared with me that all she wanted was to be away from the old people and have a room where she could go out and smoke. The Hospice I worked for blatantly catered to the rich, whom they encouraged (with arm-twisting sometimes) to donate to Hospice. The chances of an HIV Medicare client getting into the posh Hospice House were small. I bothered everyone every day to get Tina into a room at Hospice. She looked like she would die any minute, some unseen force keeping her alive.
I helped her with her physical problems, the constant bedsores, trying to get the old Hindu doctor to titrate her pain medicine appropriately while he worried about addiction.
After a few weeks, I badgered them into admitting Tina. She arrived and was beaming. She was where she wanted to be when her life ended. Her goal was achieved.
Her room looked out over the small courtyard with a lion’s head fountain on one wall, she sat on her lanai and smoked, and sat very still and watched the water birds on the grounds. I would play Tai Chi in the courtyard and she watched me the whole time as I played the Saber form, every time. No one who did not know could guess at the ecstatic feeling that playing the form brought, especially in the middle of a stressful healthcare worker’s day. I’m told that when a Tai Chi master plays the form, animals come out of the forest to watch; people love to be around you if you can flow your energy.
My coworkers would sometimes come out to watch briefly, but it was too weird, their socks didn’t rock. Tina looked at me with ecstatic eyes as I played, and I knew she was seeing the Chi happening. I had a small epiphany where my internal dialog shut down and I saw into Tina’s soul, it happened when, in the middle of a saber move, our eyes met, and I felt us wordlessly communicating, I felt her stillness there, the birds on the water, everything about the day, were a study in synchronicity; when you look into the eyes of another human being and feel that you are both part of all there is.
I remember another time, I was nineteen, in a tai chi class in New York’s Chinatown, where the master only attended to perform healing through discharging his Chi energy into his clients. He was seated in a corner of the studio, the high-ranking students surrounding him, etiquette forbade anyone approaching him arbitrarily, he did not speak or look at anyone. The client approaching forward on her knees with head bowed, hands in respectful salute. I was just walking by, the master placing his hands on her, then, it was like a bolt of lightning struck the room and a white light filled my field of vision, the master had traditional gold embroidered robes on that now glowed and made an aura. I stopped, time stood still as I slowly turned my head to look at the master. Our eyes met. I felt intense detached benevolence. I wondered where I had had this divine feeling before, surely I would not have forgotten where. I’ve often had out of touch feelings and had trained my body to walk away, get out, when this happened, the students in the area were staring, so I went into the bathroom, and regrouped, rationality took control, and when I came out, everything was back to normal.
Tina’s mother can only be described as a pillar of female strength. She spent as much time as her job permitted with Tina, visiting every day.
I brought Tina some food I thought she would enjoy, but she said, “I can’t eat anymore, but how nice of you to think of me.” Tina was finally fading. Her pain was finally controlled by the good nurses of Hospice as she sat on her patio, content.
Her funeral was at a Unitarian church. The building was mostly glass and a spiritually inspiring place. I was deep into not indulging in my emotions and nothing got to me.
I saw a picture of Tina before she was ill. She was robust, smiling beautifically, and as I recall the scene now, the room was filled with the memory of Tina then, her youth, her energy, her innocence. I thought how much she looked like me. I felt without thinking that we were joined, one somehow. A wave of anguish filled me at that moment, something more from outside than within, and I cried uncontrollably through the funeral.
My coworkers looked at me with disbelief, I was nurse unshakable. Her mother sent me a look filled with love, I cried even more at this lady’s ability to give love. My sensitivity was soaring high and I saw a piece of the earth mother in this woman.
As I left the church the cool spring Florida air surrounded me, the wooded grounds filtered the sunlight in welcoming patterns, and it felt so good to be alive with not much to worry about.
Tina was off on her road, and I motored off in another direction.
Thanks for sharing my memory of Tina. (names have been changed to preserve confidentiality.)
©2000, Lydia. Printed in the Oct-Nov 2000 Issue of the Conscious Creation Journal. http://www.consciouscreation.com (Feel free to duplicate this article for personal use – please include this copyright notice.)