Superheroes and Hope for the High Holidays
Who amongst us feels like a superhero at the end of the day? Do you ever feel like we must have superhero powers to manage juggling all that is on our plates, including all our daily professional and personal responsibilities, not to mention all the emotions included in our day-to day-lives?
Well, I stopped asking myself that question. I stopped thinking in terms of how busy am. Instead, in the new Jewish year as I try to be more introspective, I’m going to try to stop and ask myself what have I missed in the process of my juggling act. In terms of hospice patients, was there something I missed? I will remind myself to ask what stumbling blocks are in the way of a patient’s ability to feel like a superhero and how can I help remove them.
This reminds me of a story of one of our patients, a neighbor of mine who died several years ago. It was about this time of year with all the Jewish High Holidays. This patient was wheelchair bound, nonverbal and not mobile. I knew he and his wife were watching their family and friends rushing around preparing for the endless holiday meals while they felt they couldn’t physically participate in the holidays as they did in the past.
I was in the process of building a Sukkah, a hut built outside of our homes and synagogues as a temporary place for eating, sleeping and socializing during the holiday of Sukkot (October 4-13). I stopped and thought how this man’s medical condition and physical decline eliminated the possibility of him having a Sukkah in his backyard. He could no longer carry out the lumber, build it or even comfortably sit and socialize or eat in it.
I decided to make it a challenge to include him in my family’s holiday festivities. I offered literally, no stumbling blocks. I had a flat surface with no stairs to climb where the patient can be wheeled inside our Sukkah. I prepared a menu with softer foods and pureed soup, and most importantly offered him an ability to get together with friends and really be an active participant in our holiday meal. This was a meaningful meal that will stay with me forever, as I remember his tears and smiles as he left our Sukkah.
What I did was stop and try to put myself in his shoes. I changed all the impossibilities of why it couldn’t happen to a different way of thinking of how can I make it a reality. Hospice patients shouldn’t be excluded from beloved Jewish traditions because it has gotten too hard. Our job instead can be to bring the traditions and celebrations to them.
So, during this holiday season, I’m going to learn from that meal with an old friend and ask myself, how can I provide better care for our patients by taking a break from my superhero days and take the time to remove some stumbling blocks and become a more effective and considerate human being?
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