You find yourself saying to a patient, “I’d recommend that you check your blood sugar first thing in the morning, before you smoke marijuana. You should have a clear mind to complete the task.”
When at a patient’s home, you point to the ceiling, where there are tiles falling out and insulation visible, and ask the patient, “what’s going on there?” He answers, “oh, squirrels.”
A few weeks ago you walked into a home and shortly after arriving, the patient’s girlfriend exclaimed, “oh! The dog has a needle.” And yes, the patient had dropped the needle from checking his blood sugar on the floor, and the dog was carrying it around in his mouth. Thankfully it was found before something bad happened.
After a hospice patient dies, you find yourself with the family members, disposing of the liquid morphine. You ask for something to pour it into, like coffee grounds or kitty litter. There isn’t any of either in this home, but someone offers potting soil. As you are pouring it in and mixing it around, you start to laugh with the family about a science experiment. Maybe we should plant something in this soil and see what happens, how it grows! There is a dead woman in the next room, and here you are pouring narcotics into a bucket of dirt.
You can predict someone’s death, usually within a few days. This knowledge kind of scares you but so far you are usually right. The dying process in the last two weeks is pretty predictable. You know the smell of death, and the sound of the death rattle, and the feel of someone’s skin after they die. In a culture so removed from death, this is a rare thing, and you realize you are developing skills that few people have.