Today I slept.
It's been a long week. We've had a number of folks with undiagnosable whatevers--things that we either have to wait for the disease to progress to be able to diagnose, or for the patient to die so we can diagnose whatever hit them on autopsy--and that always is hard.
So I got up this evening, after sleeping most of the day, and cooked. I had a bottle of wine, three different kinds of cheeses, and a selection of fun vegetables, so I cooked.
And just after ten o'clock, I was suddenly the head of the conga line.
Every nurse has a conga line. It's made up of the patients who die--the ones whose names you remember, whose various afflictions you remember--the ones you might've known even before you were a nurse.
Unexpectedly, I felt Darlene's hands on my shoulders. I kept washing dishes until I knew that Velva was behind her, kicking in rhythm to whatever four-beat polka they play where she is. Curt joined in, his wool sweater as scratchy as it ever was before herpes took his sight and hearing, and made his sister take over the coffee shop. Last in line came Astin, dead of metastatic breast cancer that we caught too late. She and Darlene kicked in perfect rhythm, while Velva and Curt had a good time making up new steps to the music.
I conga'ed around the apartment, macaroni and cheese and zucchini cakes forgotten.
Some of my patients pray to Saint Therese. I pray to the people that I loved--and who hasn't fallen in love with a patient, wished they had been friends with them before--for help, and guidance, and compassion.
And sometimes we dance with them, in a silent conga, grinning, as the music only we can hear and the hands only we can feel guide us.