I wound up on hospice by default, no one else wanted it. Seeing patients with no hope of recovery depresses a lot of my fellow food service workers and even some of the nurses. Food service on hospice was always hurried, conversation always quicker. For whatever reason I didn’t share in that stigma, maybe it was my military background, I had acquaintances moving in and out of my life on a regular basis and hospice was no different to me. Sometimes you came to work and the people that were there yesterday were just gone today and sometimes they were there but not there.
I was training a new food-service worker and shadowing her throughout her rounds as she delivered trays of bad food to hospital beds. She was cute, slim, and had a proclivity for jumping on my back. She was young enough to be my daughter and later, many weeks later Carol the trainee would become more than a fellow worker. Carol would for the rest of my life share a special place in my heart as my midlife crisis girl.
Today however, she was just a new trainee and as we arrived on hospice floor she said,
“On hospice we have to wake them up if they are asleep?”
“Yep,” I replied “The reason being is some of the patients have been stealing food from each other”
She looked at me questioningly, ” but why on hospice?”
“When you’re dying bad food is more important to you. The food, the mail, the few visitors, that’s all these guys have left”
She nodded, and off we went room to room until we arrived at Mr. Holmes room. The door was closed so we did the customary knock knock before barging in. As we entered I caught a faint whiff of something in the air as my eager trainee flipped the light switch on and charged toward her patient and announced,
“Breakfast, Mr. Holmes”
As she pulled the serving tray down. It occurred to me what that smell was.
I said plainly, “Mr. Holmes won’t be eating breakfast today.”
Carol pooh-poohed me the way, only women, even women young enough to be your daughter, do and said curtly, ” He has to eat breakfast”
She continued laying out food on the tray. As I smiled for my vantage point by the door.
“Carol” I said, “Mr. Holmes is done with breakfast”
She paused, looked over at me and said, “did someone else bring them food? I thought we were the first ones out of the kitchen”
I held back the chuckle that was bubbling up in my throat and said in my best deadpan voice,
“Carol, Mr. Holmes is done eating breakfast today, he is done eating breakfast forever”
As my startled training jumped what look like two feet straight in the air. I said, “we better get a nurse”
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