I Am Not Immune
As an elder care estate planning attorney, it is one thing to sit in the office and offer guidance and advice on what to do when a loved one becomes ill or dies. It is quite another to personally go through it.
I started this law firm specifically to help seniors age with dignity and grace due to my experience as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home and home health care aide. Although I lost my mother when I was six, my grandfather when I was 10, and my grandmother when I was 19, I was not outwardly emotionally affected at the actual times of the event (no doubt I was affected which directed many of my future decisions). I have always stated in my community seminars that I have used my psychology degree in my law firm much more than my law degree – because working with the different dynamics of families is just as challenging as it is rewarding.
But, it was not until I was a mother myself and lost my father in 2013 when I felt I could truly and authentically connect with my clients in a way I never had before. Connect with clients who were taking care of parents who were never going to get better. Connect with clients whose parents were dying, as my dad had. Each winter we questioned whether “this” would be the winter he would die. Not wanting that to happen, but knowing it could and trying to be emotionally prepared (as if there is ever a way).
This past month has thrown me for a new loop. My mother-in-law, with whom I was very close, died unexpectedly. Yes, she was in the hospital recovering from pneumonia and the recovery was going very well. She also was scheduled for heart surgery to replace a leaky heart valve (not her first time). On the day of her death, she was in good cheer playing games on her iPad and joking with her daughter. She got up to use the restroom and lost her pulse. They couldn’t get it back. The family was in shock for days.
I have lived my life with the philosophy that death is a part of life. I have tried very hard to love without attachment. To know we are all here temporarily. To rely on my faith of the higher power and greater purpose. But, Betty Sue was not supposed to die, so soon, at 74. Not before my children turned 10. Not before her husband. Not while she was still contributing so much to the people around her. Not yet.
No, I am not immune to the disbelief, the utter sadness, the void of losing someone I love dearly. I am not immune of not knowing what to tell my children when they ask “who is next” because they lost great-grandma and grandma within four months of each other. And, no, I am not immune when clients are in my office and sometimes get teary eyed when guiding them.
My hope is that my clients know that my tears are because I care for them and what they are going through. And that my experiences enhance the services we provide because we know firsthand the experience of caring for and saying good-bye to loved ones. I also hope that I never become immune to the emotions and feelings that our clients go through. Going through the motions is not enough, to be of excellent service, we must also go through the emotions.