Today I spent part of my morning with one of the hospice patients "Mr. R." that Kona and I visit with on a regular basis. I wasn't aware that it was his birthday until we arrived. I was so happy to see him sitting up in his lounge chair, awake and alert. Recently when we've visited it has been tough as he hasn't been feeling well and is often drifting in and out of sleep during our visits and seemingly uninterested in us being there. Dementia sucks.
Today it was a completely different story. We walked in and his face lit up. He had a huge smile and instantly said hello. One of the hospice staff told me it was his birthday and I told him how happy I was to be able to visit with him on his special day. He said hello to Kona, and reached out on his own to stroke Kona's back. I pulled a chair close to where he was and sat down next to him. Kona sat perfectly in between us, at the exact level for "Mr. R's" hand to be able to rest comfortably on his head. We preceded to have a lovely conversation, and although I'm not sure that "Mr. R" understood that I wasn't part of his family, it certainly didn't matter. Today I felt like family.
The best part of the visit was when he reached out several times to hold my hand. The feel of his soft, thin skin reminded me so much of my Dad's hand that it actually caught me off guard it first and I got a bit choked up. The memory of my Dad's last day came flooding back, the conversation we had before he went in for his surgery, how I held on to his hand as the wheeled him towards the operating room....and how I held his left hand with both of mine as he took his last breath.
It was such an odd mix of feelings today. I felt the loss of my Dad so deeply, yet I felt the joy of having this man's hand in mine, on his birthday, when no one else was there to hold it. It was almost as if we were exchanging gifts. He gave me the gift of feeling as if I was holding my Dad's hand again, and in turn, in his eyes I was a daughter he hadn't seen for so long, and had been missing terribly. We both found comfort in each other and it was magical.
Thank you "Mr. R" for sharing your special day with me, and thank you Dad, for guiding me to do this work so that I could hold your hand today.