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Certainty

Monday, 8 February 2010

Dear ICU Nurse,

We did not see you today. We did not see you today because you were wrong. We did not see you today because you were wrong when you said that she wasn’t dying now.

The following responses you gave to me on Saturday were not helpful:

I don’t know why you are all crying…it isn’t as though she’s dying today.

Based on my ten years of ICU experience, I can assure you that it is going to take many days.

I’ll be here on Monday…she’ll still be here so I’ll see you then.

We were crying because we knew that within a day we would no longer have a mother. A grandmother. A great-grandmother. And while we knew that it was the right time for her, it is hard to let go.
We may not have your ICU experience. But we could have assured you that her death was not going to take days. We knew because we saw her soul slowly, and peacefully, separating from her body.
And while you were going to be back in the ICU on Monday, we knew that we would not see you because we knew that she was ready to go Home.

I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. You were, I hope, trying to be positive. Perhaps those same words would have brought comfort if conveyed in a warmer tone of voice and with kind eyes.

It’s important to gauge the emotions of the family before making such proclamations. Having already made peace with the finality of her situation, we found your statements upsetting. And undermining. And just plain irritating.

So no, you did not see us today. I wonder if you even noticed…

Signed,
Frume Sarah
grandaughter of Esther Malka. Z”L.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, 9 February 2010 4:25 pm

    our condolences. so sorry.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Wednesday, 10 February 2010 6:32 pm

      Thanks so much. {{sigh]}

  2. Tuesday, 9 February 2010 7:41 pm

    i’m so sorry.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Wednesday, 10 February 2010 6:39 pm

      Thanks, Phyl. It was time. We have that reading that says “whenever parting comes, it comes too soon.” And it is true. But on the other hand — it was time for her. So I think about Ben Sirach when he said that “death is better than a life of constant sickness.”

      I just really miss my grandma…

  3. Nancy D. permalink
    Tuesday, 9 February 2010 9:46 pm

    My deepest sympathies at the loss of your grandmother. This was possibly the most powerful entry you’ve ever posted. Not only did it give me chills, it made me cry – both because you lost your grandmother and because you were spoken to in such an insensitive manner at a very difficult time in your life.
    May the memory of your grandmother bring you peace at this most difficult time.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Wednesday, 10 February 2010 6:52 pm

      Thanks so much, Nancy. This post was so cathartic to write. I was really angered by what she said and I knew that I shouldn’t say anything in anger.

      We’ve been together sharing memories since the weekend…and they truly bring such comfort.

  4. jamimess permalink
    Tuesday, 9 February 2010 9:57 pm

    So sorry to hear about your grandmother. Thinking of you.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Wednesday, 10 February 2010 8:04 pm

      thanks, James. Sad times….

  5. Wednesday, 10 February 2010 11:32 am

    I’m so so sorry about your grandmother.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Wednesday, 10 February 2010 8:05 pm

      Thanks, Hil. Baked goods would help 🙂

  6. Dadgifaffe permalink
    Thursday, 11 February 2010 3:54 am

    That nurse was, indeed, insensitive. In all fairness, I must note that she was a real exception. Overwhelmingly, the nursing staff in that ICU consisted of highly skilled and extremely compassionate women and men. Our family is much in their debt for the outstanding care they provided.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Wednesday, 17 February 2010 9:36 pm

      Yes, you are right for adding this, DG. The nursing staff was tremendously skilled and compassionate. This one nurse was the exception. And while the attitude of one cannot spoil the experience we had with the many, it caused pain nonetheless.

  7. Lael permalink
    Thursday, 11 February 2010 11:35 am

    I know her memory will bless so many as she did in life….And may you and your family be healed in that knowledge.

    Gosh, we had an awful experience with my maternal grandmother in hospital. This is such a sacred time (and it’s funny what the family can sense that the professionals sometimes miss), so it’s a shame when this happens.

    I miss my grandmothers, too. But in a way, that’s a good thing….

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Wednesday, 17 February 2010 9:40 pm

      Thanks, Lael. I suppose it would be a sad commentary if one is not missed…

      I wonder if not everyone regards dying as a sacred process. I mean, I thought that it was clear that my grandmother’s soul was actually separating from her body. But I recognize that I am predisposed to see everything from a spiritual perspective.

  8. Friday, 12 February 2010 9:31 pm

    I am so sorry. Death is the hardest thing I think I’ll ever come to terms with. Because it is necessary. And unescapable.

    My heart is with you at this time.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Wednesday, 17 February 2010 9:41 pm

      Thank you so much, Terresa. I know, from your own powerful and recent experience, that you understand…

  9. Sunday, 14 February 2010 1:01 pm

    I am so sorry for your loss.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Wednesday, 17 February 2010 9:42 pm

      Melissa, thank you for your kind words. It is such a loss to me, to my family, and to our community.

  10. Thursday, 18 February 2010 7:32 am

    Obviously, this just applies to that one nurse: What a bitch.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Tuesday, 23 February 2010 12:17 am

      Yeah.

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