“The doctors mentioned putting him on palliative care,” is what a nurse told me on the floor this week. My heart sinks. I thought they were going to send him to a stem-cell transplant? I thought there was more treatments to try? I thought this boy had 1-2 years of fight in front of him? Now, we could be talking about removing all treatments this week?! It’s unexpected and sudden…or is it?
When this 3-year-old patient came to the floor I knew he was a very sick little boy. As I got to know him, the sickness fell away and the little boy emerged into the spotlight…into focus. It started with his love for trains and helicopters…then painting and watching cartoons…then it was his eyes, his smile, his hands…his laugh…that I connected with. I connected with him. Assessing spiritual needs means I am always digging deeper into his spirit and into his soul. I am watchful for what this little boy’s deepest needs are, and then I try to meet them…to fill them. Me. An honor that goes beyond words, but a connection that makes illness fall away and spirits emerge. A connection between two people regardless of the life circumstances that brought us together.
It wasn’t until I started really seeing you that fears emerged. Fear of what is going to happen to you…of what the journey to death may look like. I found myself thinking that if you are going to die, I want you to go now. My heart breaks at the existence of such a thought. It is then, in that thought, that I see clearly the crippling fear talking. Fear of drawing close to something or someone that I know is going to leave…that I know I’m going to lose. Fear of the pain that losing you is going to cause. Fear of helplessly watching you suffer…sweet boy, I don’t want you to suffer. I don’t want to listen to those cries of pain and loneliness and fear. But the alternative of leaving you is not an option. Strangely, I want to be here…I have to be here…I cannot do the alternative of leaving you, regardless of the painful journey.
But, there is joy. There is beauty. I look into your eyes in a way that I never have before. The way I take in…soak up…the beauty of your smile and hands and laugh astonishes me. This complete seeing and cherishing you…this complete loving you…can only be called Divine. It’s a love and cherishing that I’ve never experienced before, and if this way of seeing is how God looks down upon me then I am so very loved…loved with a depth and adoration that I never thought God could have for me. But the unbelievable reality is that this love for you is but just a taste of true Divine love. God’s love for you…and for me…is so much bigger. That truth cannot be explained, just known. Deeply known.
And so it is you, sweet boy, who is teaching me. Your dying is somehow teaching me about abundant living. About abundant loving. Oh, the beauty and complexity and love and mystery is overwhelming…