His name was Chris. Thinking back, there was never anyone in my lifetime that had such influence on my decisions. During the professional period in our time together, when I would ask one of a million questions of him; he would often simply reply “I have no idea”. And the honesty in that somehow comforted me. Over the next year or so I exhausted myself on the objects of our conversation and set about with newfound strength and determination to resolve the challenges and overcome the obstacles my past had erected. Despite the circumstances surrounding our meeting (which some consider miraculous), I never knew the full impact our relationship would continue to have in my life.
“School” he suggested.” Impossible, I just knew. And even today I find it difficult to consider any form of continuing education without butterflies and nausea. He may have been able to push me into it…had his Cystic Fibrosis (CF) not intervened. Maybe had I been further along in my Nursing education, I might have realized when I visited him in his hospital room that day, that was the last I’d see him. I called later in the week to ask if he liked the music cassette I’d left for him. His wife’s request to not stop by again should have been my hint. But I didn’t know. Now it was I who “had no idea” I did not know that the person whom I now considered a close friend, that welcomed me to his home, invited me to his wedding, and sat at my supper table with his new wife was soon going to die. And I had really never thanked him, never asked him what I could do to repay him for the sacrifice he made for me (which I now very clearly see). During our sessions together he would often collapse to the floor in fits of coughing spells that would last for an uncomfortable length of time. He just gathered himself up into the chair and apologized. He gave time he didn’t have for himself, to me. He knew all along that his days were numbered. I had no idea.
Today with 21 years of nursing experience, it is hard for me to understand how I did not know. As a steel mill crane operator, I had no reason to research CF or understand its signs and symptoms. I had no idea of the tragic consequences of its life-clogging form. I never knew anyone who had it, and had never even heard of anyone who had it. CF really had no impact on me — until Chris. So it was as if I was blindsided by this when I called again the following week to see how Chris was doing and his wife told me he had died that day.
There had been no conversations between us to register some recognition of finality. Maybe he wanted it that way. But 22 years later I still look at his picture and wish I had really thanked him, wish I had been able to let him know how much he helped me and how much he gave me the courage to take the steps needed to get my degree in Nursing.
With Caring Choices, the conversations are encouraged to prevent anyone from ever having to experience a loss with “no idea” of the wishes and the love that exists in our lives together. We support and encourage the moments that seem too hard to initiate, we spotlight the “elephant” in the room that no one talks about but all see. And we question with love. We hope with kindness. And we do have an idea how you can be prepared for the inevitable end life itself brings.
(c) 2013 Caring Choices