Death waits for no man ~ M. Zusak

It’s January 1st, 2022. My first client of the year and she is dying. They are surprised I work on New Year’s Day. This is just a day to me. A day in time. A day that someone lay dying. Death waits for no man. Death will take when it will take; it cares not for the convenience of the living. There is no good time to be born. There is no good time to die. I am here to do the work of witnessing a life through touch.

I arrive & greet her family. They thank me for coming. I smile and tell them I am happy to help however I can. Working with the dying is my most challenging work physically. I can only slide underneath a person’s weight so much before the layers of fabric, sweat, and warmth prevent my arm from going any deeper. Pressing into decades of bone, blood, and flesh my hands reach for what they can. Degenerating muscle. A wasting form that aches from stagnation.

There comes a point in the journey of dying where words are too much. Too taxing. She is there. She reads the words on my sweatshirt. Remember you’re magic. Remember your magic. She looks up at me. She smiles. Not just a smile. A smile of knowing and of seeing. A smile of recognition. When she sees the feathers on my forearms she gives me the same smile. Hers is especially bright. A smile of peace. Of acceptance. Pure love radiating from her face. All I can do is reply in kind and hope she sees my smile through my mask. Her face tells me that she does. The eyes always speak for themselves. This is how we communicate for the rest of her session. Through eyes, smiles & touch.

I move around her body in the quietest way I can. From one side to the next so that I don’t fatigue my hands. In hospice work they are the hardest working part of my body. My feet pressing into the soft carpet as my toes grip to keep me stable. Pressing my hips into the side of her bed for balance. We dance in minute steps. I move to her head. Gently waltzing my fingers through her hair. The final moments of our time together today. A soft completion of two strangers meeting for the first time. Maybe also the last before her journey to whatever comes next. Hello, my name is Lindsay, I’ll be your angel of death today.