Saturday, August 23, 2008

a father and his two sons

a lot of the reason why i went into nursing is for those times when a family allows you to be a part of them during times when normally non-family members are not welcome... times of new life, times of crisis and emergency, times of death. such was the case recently with a family in an aldea near here, namely a father and his two sons.

the father and son came into our clinic about three and a half months ago asking for an exam of a "ball" that was on the father's back. leslie recognized the father as a man who had been an alcoholic for many years, and heidi and leslie leaned over to exam this "ball" on his back. after examination, they told the father and son that it looked a lot like a tumor and they would need further testing to determine if it was cancerous or not. at this, the son took out papers that they had received from a doctor in the City, determining that yes, he did have cancer that had gone into his spinal cord, although they were unsure of exactly the extent of metastasis.... he had just come into us hoping for a second opinion that gave him a more promising future on this earth.

and his time on this earth was not much longer. a couple weeks later his son came in asking for some strong pain medicine since his father could no longer get out of bed and was not eating very well. we gave him some meds, promising to come see his father in person in a few days. so a few days later we traveled the 30 minutes out to cruz chich to see how his father was doing. when we got there, we found him in his bed, awake and aware, but unable to move and obviously worn out. unable to use the bathroom, the family had found a doctor in a local town, joyabaj, who put in a urinary catheter, but now the father could not travel there to see him and get it changed so we volunteered to help out. and in this way, medicine became a way that i was able to enter into this family's life for a few months.

since this father was already saved, our times together carried with them a sense of underlying hope and peace in place of the despair, desperation, and sadness that end of life care can often bring with it. but, along with the sense of hope, this family gave me a sense of refreshment and encouragement in a situation that would never normally lend itself that way. on each visit, i watched these two sons care for their father better than i would have ever expected, especially in a country where the women would almost always be doing this type of care... especially to a father who had probably spent most of their life drunk. i watched as they tenderly moved him when needed, helped him understand what we were saying and thinking, listened intently and made sure they understood the best way to continue to care for their father, learned how to change the catheter themselves and properly bathe and care for him when i was unable to make it there, were always willing to make the drive out to get more needed supplies.... and read scripture to him. they were always offering, one time even making me take compensation from them for the gas it took to get out to their house, and in place of the "you are a rich gringo and you owe me money and supplies" attitude that we often face here, i was met with a family careful to make sure they were not taking advantage of us, while still willing to knock on any door to get their father the best care ever... something i can respect.

i am re-reading a book right now (velvet elvis by rob bell - awesome book) and one thing he talks about is how each of us have a story to tell and that it is not about us... ultimately it is about god. so, he says, claim your story, and claim the stories of those around you. they are stories of the hope, grace, peace, love and all that is our God. and it made me think of this family and what an encouragement they were to me in the midst of stories that don't always bring such hope and love... in the midst of days where i am sometimes unsure what i am really doing here... in the midst of even "ordinary life."

and i thank god that i had the opportunity to experience life with them, even if for a short period of time.