I randomly remember things. I was thinking about when I worked as a case manager, working with mentally ill adults, and one of my clients died. I was grief stricken. I was sad and angry because then when I was in pain, I went to anger pretty damn quickly. I just did. The client who had died was a really nice old man, the only client on my case load that I allowed to call me honey. He did in a sweet, completely nice way. He used it as a term of endearment. He was a nice man and I was his case manager for years, four or more, I think at the time he died. It broke my heart.
Yes, he had been sick. Yes, I knew it was coming. I had seen him a short time before he died at the hospital. I left that hospital in tears, making it out of his room before I started crying, but I cried all the way to my car and once in my car, I sobbed. I loved my clients. They were good, kind people, most of them, and he certainly was. Yes, he was mentally ill. So what?
He was a kind old man who I was required to see once a month and I sat and talked with him and got to know him a bit. He would sometimes tell me, “Things are going to get better.” I asked how. He said he just had a feeling. He lived in an Assisted Living Facility. It was a good place but he did not have a lavish life. He shared his room with another person. They had a dining room and a television room. He was well liked by the staff and treated well by them. He was in a wheel chair.
One year I gave him a Christmas card with the gift card from our company in it and he told me it was the only Christmas card he had gotten that year. He said it with joy and gratitude. I almost cried.
I had been meeting him at medical appointments a lot in the end as he had cancer. Then he was moved to the hospital because he was so ill and he was dying. I don’t know if he knew that because he was so ill and confused.
I called his brother numerous times and asked him to visit him. He told me he could not and I told him he was dying. Still he told me he could not. I don’t know if he ever saw him.
After he died my supervisor, a woman I loved and respected, came to my office and we had this conversation.
Supervisor: There will be a meeting at 8 am tomorrow that you need to attend regarding (the client).
She told me to take my file, be sure it was all updated, and I had all info regarding my last visit with him. She told me that they would ask questions about his medical condition, doctor appointments, everything.
She gave me a lot of information. She prepared me for the meeting and I understand that she needed to do this. I would be meeting with the President of the Company and the Vice President and I can’t even remember who else, but important people. This was standard procedure when a client died. I don’t think I understood this. I am not sure I would have cared.
I thought a moment. And this is what I said,” Maybe we could all stop for five minutes and just feel bad about the fact that a nice old man just died.”
My supervisor stared at me for a moment. She did not judge me. She did not get angry. She did not take this personally. She saw that I was in pain. She saw that I loved this man. She calmly said, ” I will go to the meeting tomorrow. I need you to be sure the file is completely up to date.”
I looked at her and realized she did not want me to get fired because as sure as I had said that to her I would have said it to the people in the meeting tomorrow. This is partly why I LOVED this supervisor and still love this woman.
I said, “Okay.” I prepared the file. I was thorough.
I was also offended, not by her, but by the meeting. Did they think I did something wrong? That I neglected him in any way? He had cancer for fucks sake. No, it really was standard procedure to review everything immediately when someone died and unfortunately our clients died sometimes. I was in pain, though. Yes, I was a professional and I kept good boundaries, but he was a human being and he had just died. Fuck. It was too cold for me.
And I grieved the loss of that man for a while. I still cry sometimes when I think about his death. He was a kind man. A nice guy. I also smile when I think about how he would call me, “Honey.” As in, “Thank you, Honey.” or “Hello, Honey.” I can still hear his voice. I am all about respect, and he was always respectful. So respect, G.