The general public could never understand the emotional bonding that we have with our residents. Granted, not every resident pulls at our heartstrings. I enjoy watching how one particular resident will connect with a specific employee. For example, I might find a resident “challenging“ while my co-worker will find her endearing.
Gratefully, there are the people who come into our facility and instantly carve their ways into our hearts and give our faces a reason to smile. They bring their spouse, children, friends and extended families. Day in and day out, we interact with the loved ones and develop a genuine rapport with them.
I am remembering a few out of the hundreds that I have met. We had a husband who visited every lunch and dinner. He was happy go-lucky with a fresh joke every day. There was a faithful son that came every day at lunch and read his mother the newspaper. He could identify flowers by their scientific names in all of the bouquets we received. He had the most marvelous gardening tips.
We had two sisters-in-law who roomed together and collectively their children (cousins) were fantastically supportive to each other and to us. A volunteer-turned-resident’s daughters came daily to help bathe and lotion their dad while encouraging us in our work.
Just last week, we lost a resident whose large extended family camped out and gradually took over our family room. From the moment of admission, something in me thought, “These are wonderful people.” The clan did not prove me wrong, as they were grateful, caring and quite fun to see every day. “Aunt Betty” took it as a personal assignment to become my official matchmaker.
Inevitably, death calls the resident away. The families we work with grieve, say their good-byes and we rarely see them again. Closure — it’s the reason I often go to the funeral or viewings. Personally, I need it, too.
I have called this “double grief.” We are saddened, at varying degrees, at the loss of our resident. Add to that the loss of connections we make with their family. The emotions still take me by surprise.
A cherub of a resident recently lost her husband. She is now widowed and continues to sweetly greet both co-residents and staff. She has a strong faith that God is in control. Her genuine peace has influenced me. She wrote on a napkin with a shaking hand, “Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” Thank you for that reminder, Eunice!