The Hand Holders

Caregivers are often misunderstood and their voices lost in a crowd.  They seemed to blend with the wall and become invisible and unnoticed.  They have been referred to by tactless, inconsiderate and ignorant few as ” maids ” and their functions unclear regardless of the written job description.  Yet, in the confine of their world, you’ll find a compassionate and dependable friend who their patient lean on for strength.  They become the only link between the declining world of their patient and the outside world they once knew.  They adopt a chameleon state by assuming the persona their patient wants and needs just to get through the day.  It maybe as a mother, sister, a child among other roles.  They become instant Psychiatrist dispensing comforting word of advise or Sport fan cheering the favorite team or player.  Their role is unlimited and undefined.

Today, I bade farewell to five years of caring for my 92 years old patient.  Over the years, he has taught me humility, compassion and hope among other virtues.  I grew on the job I inherited by chance rather than by choice.  I can only interpret it as my calling. How else could I assume a position so different from my past experiences?  When I look back at my travelling across the Pacific and Asia, I can only conclude that it was in preparation of what was to come.  To learn flexibility and adopt to the unexpected.  To put in place contingencies and plans in case of an emergency.  All these have come into play and moulded me to be not just a good Caregiver but an excellent one.  I say this humbly and with humility.

My patient has no living immediate family or children except for a distant nephew who calls and visit on occasion.   Towards the end of his time, we often talked about spiritual things.  My God, his Budha but he agreed with me that regardless of what he calls Him,  he accept His presence as the Creator.  His health slowly and steadily declined and on the last week bound him in bed.  I sat by his bedside holding his hand, stroking his hair and assuring him he is not alone.  He smiled and thank me repeatedly.  I set up an air bed next to his bed at night but most of the time I just sat by his bedside.  I promised myself that I will do this no matter what as my last act of kindness to another human who’s final curtain is slowly closing in.  My last recollection before I left to get my beddings ready was my patient smiling and giving me a thumbs up.  When I came back half an hour later, he was gone.  He was not responsive even as I gave him  CPR.  The paramedics  confirmed time of death was 10:56 pm.  There was no sign of struggle or trauma.  He looked so peaceful.  His name was Mr. Minoru Onoda, a Japanese born in America.  He would have been 93 years old come February 28, 2014.  I will miss him very much but my consolation is that he did not die alone except on the last 30 minutes of his life, and I know he felt loved and never alone.  Aloha oe Onoda San.



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