I worked in health care for quite a few years.
As my mother did before me.
And her mother did before her.
I believe in part, this only helped to sharpen and focus my empathic abilities.
In a weird way.
As a health care worker, in the thick of direct patient care, I took after my Grandmother’s style, rather than my Mothers.
My Mother tended to get too emotionally involved, always mourning and shedding tears upon the death of one of her favorite patients…of which she had many.
While my Mother, and her Mother before her were both psychic.
My Mother was not a medium, as myself and my Grandmother were.
So it stands to reason that my Mother had doubts about the Other Side, and felt a deep loss with the death of a patient.
My Grandmother and myself were more pragmatic, knew instinctively not to get too involved.
This would seem to be a contradiction of empath abilities, but I assure you it is not.
It is commonly reputed that some empaths have difficulties in getting overwhelmed by other’s emotions, becoming too involved.
Therefore, when working with patients, it was imperative that you did NOT become overwhelmed in their pain and roiling emotions. To do so would render you ineffective, to say the least, and unable to assist them, bring their emotions to a more calmed state, and help them as best you could.
In a interesting way, it was good training for the career path I was to take in the future.
So it was, that I did not become overly involved with my patients, though I have many commendations on record for patient care.
I only really became attached to two patients, one of whom I took care of for a relatively short time, but who made a huge impact on my life, and for reasons that might seem inexplicable.
Her name was Ellen.
She was in her late 70’s.
Ellen had a beautiful face, which was at odds with her cruelly twisted and fused body.
Ellen had rheumatoid arthritis, a very, very painful condition.
She also always wore a beatific smile on her face.
I can’t convey what Ellen felt like to a empath, to someone who can see how pure one’s spirit is upon first introduction.
I was in awe of her, and talked to her as often as my heavy patient load permitted.
I learned a great deal about her from our limited interaction.
She had given birth to twelve children, two of whom she lost in later years.
I listened, fascinated, at lunchtime while I helped feed her, to her tales of the early days, when her husband ran the farm, and she raised her growing brood.
Ellen told me she kept the crybabies at home while the older children went with her husband to Mass.
She didn’t want to interfere, you see, in other’s enjoyment and religious fulfillment at Mass with the crybabies doing what crybabies do best.
Ellen told me of the mammoth meals she had to make, rising at dawn, resting at dusk, and the chores and hard work that went into making and maintaining a farm and a large household.
Then she told me of losing her husband far too early, when the youngest children weren’t yet in school.
Of her struggle to keep the farm, with the aid of her oldest children.
Her guilt that the oldest children had to help keep them afloat, in addition to attending school.
Her fears that they might in the end, lose the farm.
What struck me the most, was while she was relaying these fears, was that you could see in her eyes, that she was reliving these times, and focusing mostly on the good times, the joyful times.
She laughed, she teased, and she had a optimism mixed in with every word, that I found awe inspiring.
They did not lose the farm.
Her children grew, healthy and whole, got excellent educations, and made a good living.
All her children had ensured that their Mother was put into the finest nursing home possible, and visited often and with great love and affection.
They fussed and worried over her, and I observed this from a distance.
She never complained you see.
Though her body was racked with rheumatoid arthritis, she never complained.
It hurt more than you can possibly imagine to move.
Those of us who did turn her from side to side to ensure she did not get bedsores.
Those of us who bathed her.
Those of us who changed her soiled clothing.
We could see how much it hurt.
Yet Ellen never complained.
She smiled through the pain.
She would tell us she thought she was wading in the creek when she inadvertently wet herself.
Ellen would apologize if she made a mess that we had to clean up.
Ellen always tried to make us smile.
I felt pitiful and impossibly small next to her.
I still do.
I wished so badly I could be like her.
She was a bright light for me, the first patient I would without question have traded places with.
To remove the prison of pain she lived with day after day after day.
With a smile on her face, and good cheer in her heart.
Even now, I feel I have not done her justice.
She was the oldest, most beautiful soul I have ever known.
Ellen died six months after I had the privilege of getting to know her.
It was the norm to host the visitation at the Catholic Nursing Home I worked for.
Ellen’s was the first and last visitation I attended there.
She was also the only person I shed a tear over.
I wish I could do Ellen more justice, the smile, the endless optimism, making everyone around her feel special, loved.
I vowed to pay her tribute one day, to try with my limited ability with words.
Though I have failed to my own mind to accurately portray Ellen today.
I carry her and her example with me every day.
To be optimistic when the odds are stacked against you.
To be in pain, and yet not take out that pain on others.
To love all, and judge none.
Those are only a few lessons I learned from Ellen.
They are worth learning, and for that reason.
I hope everyone has or encounters a Ellen in their life.