“Let me see your tattoo!” She said.

I had no idea how she knew there was a tattoo on the back of my head. I had just opened the door to her.

“Oh oh,” was your thought in that moment. “This isn’t going to end well.”

It’s true. I’m not a big fan of people randomly touching my head, especially if I don’t know them. It’s a bit like a pregnant woman having her belly touched; my bare head is not an invitation.

But this woman – this nurse – was different. She had strong energy about her, and it was good. I let her turn me around and take a really good look. Well I didn’t “let” her. But I also didn’t use a self defense move to stop her.

Then she came in and gave  you a full tattoo examination, like reading a book. And you have a lot of pages.  It was awhile before we talked symptoms and side effects.  This is what made your palliative team so different; having already learned that palliative meant comfort, I was not totally surprised.

On my last visit to my midwife – after a week of home visits – I cried. “Can you be my GP?” I asked.  I wanted that kind of care to be a regular part of my life.  I have found myself a good doctor, our doctor, and I know you had huge respect for him too. But just yesterday I acknowledged to him that palliative care afforded medical professionals something he could not provide, in his regular family practice.  “There is a level of engagement that is invaluable, ” I said to him. And he nodded.

The palliative team took so much time with us, and I mean us.  I was in their care too.  So was anyone in the house, including the dog. And I would say the hardest part of their job is not the inevitable loss of the patient, but the self that they offer their work in revealing so much of their humanity.

There were days when I was on high alert. Your symptoms were not explaining themselves and you were not either.  I was doing my best to interpret so that I could care for you, but the follow up from the on call weekend palliative nurse – the space she gave me to whisper or cry for a moment – that is what stopped me from curling up on the balcony under the Adirondack chair.

They are coming by tomorrow, the nurse who was your constant and the nurse who marked your progressed as you passed.  I’m not supposed to be helping them, but I want to show them this peace.  They are coming by so that there can be closure on your care, so we can remember your stubborn strength together, and remind each other of what we shared with you.  I’m really looking forward to telling them about my plans for a new tattoo.

Left forearm:  a sleeve of my nana’s garden: pansies, snapdragons, sweet williams, portulaca, barberry bush . . . and a crabapple.


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