The random ramblings of a perpetual procrastinator. These are the life & times of a nursing home CNA navigating the ups & downs of living with someone who's living with a disability. A sometimes amusing, sometimes bittersweet look at my journey into real adulthood.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Goodbye to you, Gertie Goose

Yesterday I was off.  When I went back to work today, I found out one of the residents on my unit developed pneumonia.  She was in bed & did not look good.

Around 10:00 the nurse told me, "Gertie won't be here in the morning."  And it happens just like that.  One day she's fine, & the next she's dying.

I only started to get to know Gertie at the beginning of August when I was first placed on that unit.  Four weeks is not a terribly long time.  I don't know where she grew up, how long she was married or what her favorite color is.

But I do know some things - a lot, actually. I know that she smiled every time I called her Gertie Goose.  I know she sometimes tried to bite the aides, & I know that it was because we needed to use a mechanical lift to transfer her, which had to be uncomfortable & scary.  I know the trick is to take her dentures before I transfer her.  She was onto my game & giggled every time.  I know that she tried to "sneak" something from her dinner tray back to her room each night - sometimes bread & butter or a brownie; occasionally ice cream...even though there was no fridge in her room.  I know that when she did not like a fellow resident, she was not afraid to call them a certain unpleasant name.  Because of that, I know that in her youth she must have been full of the same spunk & sass she held onto throughout her entire life.

Gertie's son is her power of attorney, & he chose not to have her taken to the hospital for treatment.  I'm sure that's what she wanted, & even so I'm sure it was the hardest decision he ever had to make.  He was not there this evening.   

Gertie's daughter lives in another state.  She's currently homebound because of an injury, so she's not able to come to Pennsylvania at this time.  Even if she could come, she wouldn't be here in time.  I can't begin to imagine how devastating that must be.

And so, there Gertie was - at the end, with only staff members surrounding her.  But she spent her last days with us, & in a way we are family too, so it seems somewhat fitting.

I spent a few minutes in her room at the end of my shift.  I ran my fingers through her hair & rubbed her back.  She was gasping, even though she was getting oxygen.  The body that carried her through all these years was failing.  Thankfully, she wasn't suffering.  She was comfortable.  She was sleeping. 

When it's time for me to go I kiss her hand; tell her I love her.  I know in my heart she can hear me.

Four weeks is not a terribly long time, but it is long enough.

This day is a day that I knew was coming, even before I started this job.  But all the preparation in the world doesn't make it hurt any less.

I know that Gertie's absence will be real & strong for a while, but then someone new will move in & we will all move on.  I will not think of her everyday, but she will remain nestled in my thoughts forever.

Someday - when a spunky, sassy resident calls someone else a whore - I will think of Gertie Goose.  And I will remember that she taught me how to cope with the days like this.


  1. Reading this makes me want to cry; I know how hard this must be for you. *hugs*

    You know where to find me if you need anything, even just someone else to talk about Gertie to. I'm one house up on the right ;) Love ya sis.

  2. What a beautiful post. She sounds like an amazing woman. I'm sure she would have been very grateful that you were there with her. I think that's all anybody wants- somebody to stroke their hair and tell them they love them, in the final few hours of their life. Bless you. You did a really beautiful thing.

  3. What a terrible thing wrapped up in a sweet post! You got me tearing up here lady! I am sorry for your loss, she seems klike my kind of lady! I call everyone a whore lol Hang in there! =D

  4. This is SO sad. im so sorry for your loss. She seemed like such a wonderful lady and lucky to have you there with her in her last days.

  5. There is a special place in heaven for people like's a job I can't do. God bless you dear...and I'm sure Gertie is quite glad to have known you!

  6. That's tough. I'm so sorry! I agree with take a special person to do what you do. Gertie was lucky to have you around.

  7. What a beautifully written post - you're clearly an amazing woman. I agree with Gen, I'm glad there are women like you out there who do such an important job.

  8. wow. you really have your hands in the clay of life. i enjoy seeing you enjoying your time and space.

  9. I linked to you from Jenn @ South of Sheridan. This is a beautiful post and a wonderful tribute to Gertie Goose! I'm sure she would've appreciated it if she could've read it.

  10. Thank you so much for the support, kind words &, most of all, for thinking of Gertie with me. It means more to me than you can realize.