I can't tell you much about my patient. She was (__) years old, and had lived a good and full life in her opinion. She was, sadly, dying a rather bloody and messy death.
I pulled the soiled gown and blankets back to expose her body and saw a rather beautiful woman before me. Her skin was parchment thin, with blue veins under the surface that ran like a map of tiny rivers over her thin frame. There were islands of tan, where age spots had settled in clumps, and a few suspicious moles that stuck out like black tags. And yet there was tone, under all that.
"Do you know I'm (__)?", she asked as I washed her with a crisp white washcloth. "I lived so much in my years. I raised a family, and watched them raise families, and have great grand children who are growing up and almost grown. I'm (__) years old." This last sentence was said with conviction. A statement of fact. She said it with firmness and determination in an attempt to convince me, a mere 30somethingalmost40, that she was in fact at the end of a very long and happy life.
And she was fine with it.
"I'm (__) years old. I'm supposed to have a stroke, and die in my sleep. There isn't supposed to be all this messy hospital business going on here."
"Sorry," I mumbled when I adjusted her in the bed.
"Oh no you don't apologize. I can handle it. I can handle anything. I have lived a great long life. So you just do what you need to do to get me clean so my children are ok with how I look. And please, understand, it isn't that I'm complaining about my age."
I gingerly slid a sheet from under her body, rolling her left and then right as I pulled and tucked a clean sheet under her. I finished up with a clean gown and a pile of warm blankets.
All while listening to her clear soft voice.
"I led a very good life. My husband went a while back, you know? I went on without him, and I did a lot. I lived every day to the best. Make sure you can say that, okay? Be sure that you can get to be my age, and be healthy, and walk every single day if you can, and crawl if you can't, because that is the key. You have to keep moving to make every day the best."
I looked at her watery blue eyes and wondered just then, how it could be that I was hearing my own heart, spirit, and personal song from this perfect stranger?
But I was.
The universe put her here, in my path, to hear those words.
So Mrs. Whateveryournameis, I will. I will be grateful for the beautiful people who grace my life. I will work with what I'm blessed with and make every day a best day ever. I will pay it forward. I will. I promise. Because you gave me a glimpse of what my future could be, and as strange as it is to say...
I hope I'm just like you when I'm your age.
I hope I can look back and say, "I did a lot with my life. And that I lived every day to the best it could be."