I’m woken up. I have a call. It turns out I was dreaming about something fun, but I wasn’t actually doing it. Darn!! As I wade through the muddle of sleep, I am actually so tired that I am dreaming that I am looking at the clock to see what time it is. Eventually, I sit up and take a look. 4 AM. I have a pile of clothes by my bed, but they are not the ones I need to be wearing. My attire must be formal and professional at all times. I wander to my closet and get dressed.
4 AM. It should be illegal to get up at this hour.
It is chilly this morning!!! God, where is this nice spring weather we are supposed to have? We jump into the van. I’m driving. 🙂 I love to drive, but not all the time. I drive so much, that I am proud to say that I drive very, very well. I drive under all conditions, weather, roads, emotions, tired or not, distracted or not. I cut through traffic like a knife through butter and I don’t even have to speed.
I head out to Oregon City. I listen to rap on the radio, my music of choice when driving. I wonder if rappers have to get up at 4 AM to do studio work. In any case, they sound energetic and happy; they probably had 12 hours of sleep before recording what I am hearing on the radio.
We drive down dark freeways, through small towns, past sleeping homes, closed businesses, up winding hills, through patches of fog before I pass our destination. I am soon standing out in front of my destination – a nursing home. I go in and find a lone woman at a nurse’s station. She gets me paperwork to sign and a face sheet – a one page sheet filled with vital data about the patient. She sends me to the patient’s room. I wheel my cot down the hall.
When I get there we find there are two people in that room. Since many dead people look like they are sleeping, I check carefully. I look down at the woman I am to pick up. There she is, eyes shut, head back, mouth open, red dots and patches on the inside of her mouth. She is wearing a patient’s gown, some jewelry and a sling. Above her bed are pictures, some of her young, alive and happy. There are pictures of babies and children. All around her are her belongings, mementos and trinkets from family. I always feel compassion when I look at someone who has died. Every single time.
I work quickly, getting out a plastic liner to place over the cot to contain any bodily fluids that may escape. I snap on disposable medical gloves and start moving the body. Unfortunately, there is no sheet underneath her to pull her onto the cot. The bed is low and my back starts to hurt as I try and gently pull her onto the cot. I drop the stretcher down to the level of the bed and get her onto the cot. I cocoon her in the plastic, zip up the cot cover, then put a beautiful blue passing quilt over the top.
I come home by almost 6 am. Ahh, wonderful sleep at last.
There really is no such thing as a “typical” death, but really, about 80% of the people I pick up are roughly the same age, in the same way in an institution of some kind. For me, this was pretty typical.