Have you ever had one of those days where you woke up feeling like total crap, but you knew you had to power through the day because there was no way to get out of what you had scheduled? Yep, that was me today. Maybe I felt this way it’s because I didn’t take a supplement yesterday like I was supposed to and it’s catching up with me. Maybe I slept wrong and the headache that I felt coming on soured my mood. Heck, maybe it’s because I’ve been making an effort to eat healthier and my body decided to revolt with a resounding, “I DON’T THINK SO, NONE OF THAT GOOD FOR YOU CRAP IS COMING IN HERE!” Regardless, I felt like dog doodoo.
Nevertheless, I washed down some acetaminophen, made sure I took said supplements, and hopped in the car along with my breakfast meal replacement smoothie (yay for healthier food choices…). By the time I got to the office, the headache hadn’t materialized, but the rest of the crappy feeling was still there. I won’t go into details about some of the legitimate reasons for feeling crappy. You know, HIPAA regulations and whatnot. Suffice it to say, there are a couple actual medical things going on so at least I have half a good reason for feeling lousy.
My day was booked solid with patient visits, and although my total visits amounted to only four, when adding in charting and driving time to each, there was barely time in between to pee. And let me tell you, when you’re on the road visiting patients in their homes, you can’t exactly ask to use their bathrooms. You end up weighing the bathroom pros and cons of McDonald’s vs. Wendy’s vs. Taco Bell vs. Burger King vs. random gas station. Gas station bathrooms are definitely out, as I cannot recall one I have ever been in that was not beyond gross. Today, Taco Bell won out because I’m a Diet Pepsi drinker and of the fast food places, this is the only one serving Pepsi products. ***SIDEBAR*** Have you ever felt guilty just stopping at a fast food joint for the bathroom access? I mean, do you do the quick dash in, hoping staff won’t notice you, and then do the covert retreat back out the door, knowing you should have gone to the counter and at least gotten a $0.50 apple pie or something to compensate for the water, toilet paper, soap and paper towels you used? Being on the road every day for work, this though goes through my mind more often than I would like. Today though, I made up for it by actually ordering something after my pit stop. All is now right again in the world of give and take.
Of my visits today, I am most reflecting on my 85+ year old patient, who is spunky, energetic and opinionated. It’s always a pleasure visiting her because she has something to say about everyone and everything. Today though, I was visiting at her request, not just stopping in for my regular bi-weekly chat. Today my patient seemed distance and sad. She had requested I come by because she was struggling with the death of her sister just a few weeks ago. My patient is one of 7 children, who, prior to her sister’s recent death, was one of the 5 remaining. Two brothers died over 40 years ago in their twenties, so it had been the 5 left for many years. That seems to all be changing, as not only has her sister died, but the remaining siblings are each in very poor health, in varying stages of decline.
Not that my patient is the picture of health herself. Hell, she’s on hospice, so she, too, is declining. The difference though, is that my patient is still mobile, has her cognition intact, and she still has plans for her future. She’s getting more tired and confused each day, but by and large, more active than her brothers and sisters. So as I sat across from her, I listened as she contemplated her sister’s last days, their life together, and all the things she didn’t say to her. I could see the emotion play across her face. At one point, she put words to that emotion and revealed that it is so very hard for her now because she knows she is going to die. Before it all seemed like something that would eventually happen, but that eventuality is coming soon. She also struggles with why she still has so much energy when her siblings do not. It’s the typical, “Why me?” question, only in this case, it’s Why NOT me? She wonders why she has been chosen to feel better and be physically better than her siblings.
Our conversation led to talking about the number of days in our lives, and how we do not know that number. We talked about God, and whether He allows things to happen to us, even though He can change things, or if He sits by like a parent and watches us, hoping we make good decisions and choose wisely. I believe our days are written for us long before we are even born, but what we do with those days is up to us, and how our days play out is largely a creation of our own. We can choose to not pick up that cigarette, or alcoholic drink, or that syringe. We can choose to not go out with that controlling person, or we can leave the abusive home. We can choose to be on time for work, to hold doors open for others and to help someone carry groceries from the car to the apartment. They are all choices we make which affect the very fabric of our lives. But I don’t believe we can choose when our lives will be over. Yes, we could take our own lives, but if our life was meant to end that particular day, then it would have, whether by our own hand, my someone else’s or by accident.
These are the questions which are the foundations of debates across the world. I could contemplate the vastness of life, choice, faith and God for eternity and still not be anywhere closer to the truth than I already am today. So as I sat looking at my patient, I could see her memories flashing through her mind as she stared off at various times. I could see her wondering what life was all about, if it was worth it, or if she had done what she was supposed to do. She was contemplating her life, knowing someday soon it would all be over. The questions she had were visible, yet unspoken.
I could see her questioning her faith a bit as well. After all, what type of faith would we have if we blindly went with it, without asking a single question or challenging ourselves. God is big enough to take our questions, our anger, our confusion and our resentments. The hardest part about faith is continuing to have it, even when outside forces press on us to abandon it, and the questions seem too hard to answer. That’s when faith matters the most – when it seems we have it the least.