Month: May 2017
Ms. Connie was known, to her delight, as the Jackie Kennedy of Our Sanctuary nursing home. A tall, eighty-something woman who tucked splashy flowers into her voluminous curls, she’d strike up a conversation with anyone she encountered.
These chats were never a half-hearted “How are you?” tossed off before zipping away in her wheelchair. She’d ask an aide if her ailing daughter was feeling better, or check whether the receptionist’s son had heard from his dream college–“I’m keeping my fingers crossed for him!”
Ms. Connie shared a suite with Ms. Alice, a woman who was in her nineties. Ms. Alice was more reserved, but equally good-natured. Morning and evening, you’d find her sitting in her room, absorbed in a book. Despite their contrasting personalities, the two were close friends.
We met when I was fourteen, two years after I’d started volunteering at Our Sanctuary.
About the artist:
Justin Sanders is a palliative-care physician in Boston. From today, he is the former visuals editor of Pulse. “I’m going to miss this job, and miss combing through the wonderful images sent by our readers. Fortunately, I have lots to keep my hands full, including a new baby.” He still loves reading the New Yorker and cooking pizza at home.
About the artwork:
“With the arrival last week of a second child, the corralling of the first, the pressures of building a career, and my ambivalence about passing on the responsibilities of editing this wonderful part of Pulse, it was helpful to come across this scene. Despite the seeming chaos of building a life, of saying hello to new things and goodbye to others, it’s helpful to remember that life goes one way: forward.”
How many times have I tried to begin writing about my experience of stress and burnout?
I’ve lost count.
Each time I begin to write, detachment renders me into pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. Where are the straight edges? Where is the frame? What is supposed to be where all of these empty spaces are? Where is the box lid with a picture to guide me?
A few years ago the medical library where I had worked for six years relocated from a building outside the hospital to a space inside the busiest area of a busy hospital. Prior to the relocation, I rarely entered the hospital or did so only when my energy felt sufficient to handle whatever I might see, hear or smell. It helped that I worked an evening schedule. After 5:00 p.m. the hospital was almost unpopulated.
A woman I volunteered with and hold most dear had a twin sister. Recently, during one of our sessions, I found out that her sister was headed for hospice; the next day, she began the active stages of dying.