I came off duty the other morning after the massive celebrations of the grand final win by the local football team. The night in the emergency department had been busy with lots of people celebrating, happy and talking about how great it was that their team had won.
While I was waiting for my ride home I sat in the shelter outside the hospital where relatives would sit to get fresh air and also have a cigarette. As it was raining I took shelter and shared it with an older gentleman who looked to be sitting in contemplation. I noticed some graffiti inside the shelter and commented to him that it was lovely to see such positive graffiti with one of the sayings being “Life is not about the amounts of breath we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”.
The gentleman agreed with me and wryly laughed at this last comment. I asked him if he had been out celebrating and he said that “no, my mum passed away 10 minutes ago” and said that he came out while the nurses were preparing her for the viewing and was sitting pondering the comment on the wall of the shelter thinking about all the wonderful memories that he had shared with his mum while she was alive.
He started talking, fresh in his grief, sitting, explaining about how his mum looked, how she was when she took her last breath and the beauty of the moment when she was ‘no more’ .
I respected his mourning giving him room to just ‘be in the moment’ allowing him to express his emotions, talking about his family, her life and the impact of what will happen now she is not around and he then opened up to talk about her religion and how that this was a sad moment for him but a blessing as she is now out of pain and has been delivered safely into the arms of her God.
Allowing a person to vent feelings and emotions to a total stranger especially in such a tragic event as a death is a very humbling moment. It brings together all the feelings that you have inside and makes you want to support that person who is hurting, even though they are a total stranger.
I sat and listened to him talk giving him space, validating his emotions with the occasional nod, appropriate response and asked if he had someone with him to take him home. He said he was waiting for his family to come and that he will be ok.
My husband then arrived, I said my goodbyes and wished him all the best, we didn't exchange names as I just became some random person that he had a conversation with. I’m not sure he will remember this as in grief, conversations and events are often forgotten, for me, this experience will stay in my memory for a long time.
When I got in the car, I told my husband about the experience that I had just had with a total stranger which made me realise just how precious life is. How often do we take for granted life, going about our busy days without even acknowledging or telling our loved ones what we think or feel believing that they will always be there for us.
Life is short, we really need to acknowledge the people around us be it family or friends, because one day, they will not be there and only then will we appreciate what we have lost.