Goodbye, Belle

Today I said goodbye to Belle, my patient from the nursing home.  For the past 4 years I've spent a portion of almost every Tuesday with her but her funeral made me realize something- I knew a very small part of her.  In fact, it's that way with all of my patients.  I come in right before they go out.

I get to know and love people who most often no longer resemble the person their families and friends knew and loved...or in some cases, despised.  I walk in when almost everyone else has walked out.

Is this the carcass of life then? The last dregs? Or is it, as I've come to view it, the reduction of a person down to their very most basic essence? It is hard to be funny and wise when you're in pain, or suffering from dementia, but I find this in almost every single person I meet.

Belle was spoiled by her husband and when he died, I learned, became clingy and needy but also feisty and full of ribald jokes.  When I came along, she was going deaf.  She grieved for her home and husband. Couldn't understand why her friends and family had seemed to desert her. And eventually, she invented two new friends who stood by her until the end.

I miss the woman I never knew and treasure the friend I made during Belle's last few years. I will miss her.

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