Months To Years Fall 2018 Months To Years Fall 2018 - Page 27

Ruth By Peggy Hendry When I was a hospice social worker I went to a lot of That day she said to me, “I’m the same person I always funerals, but I cried only at one. was.” It’s acceptable for hospice staff to have tears in our eyes So, I focused my time with her on reinforcing that she sometimes. It shows that we have compassion for our was the same person and much more than her current patients and their families. People can sense a lack of appearance. compassion and that, I believe, does them harm. But, to survive, we also have to find a way to stay calm amid all During my weekly visits, Ruth told me the story of her life. the suffering we see. Healthy detachment is as necessary As a child she was a tomboy. She played ball with the as healthy compassion. guys and joined in their Halloween pranks. When she grew up, she became a nurse. She enlisted in the Army during At Ruth’s graveside, I lost the balance between the two World War II, despite—or maybe because of—knowing and broke down in sobs. That was not OK, not OK at that she would leave nursing, marry, and have children all. In fact, crying like that was unethical because it took when her fiancé came home from combat. But the next attention away from the grieving family. I was supposed time she saw her beloved, he was a patient in the Army be there to support them, not for them to support me. hospital where she worked, and was horribly injured and significantly disabled. Everyone—her parents, her friends, Ruth isn’t her real name. I choose to call her Ruth because even the man himself—said she should break off the of her faithfulness, and her willingness to give her all for engagement, but she was adamant. He was the man she the people she loved. loved and she was “by God, going to marry him.” When I met Ruth, the cancer that had started in the left The couple set up housekeeping in Tucson. Because her corner of her mouth had eaten her face in a half-inch husband’s injuries prevented them from having children radius around that spot, exposing her teeth and gums. of their own, they fostered troubled boys. Ruth kept on 27