Wednesday, October 1, 2008

merciful death


One of my clients died on Monday. An older woman, although certainly not old by Western standards... old for the street though. She likely died of alcohol or drug related causes, they'll be no autopsy, it doesn't really matter after all.

This woman lived on and off the street for a number of years, various family members and friends took her in at various times, but always she returned to the street and to the shelter. Even when she had a place to go, she could often be found drinking on the curb and then crashing in the shelter with her friend.

Her health was horrible, she weighed next to nothing, and had a hard time ambulating. Even with her walker, watching her, you were also concerned she just wouldn't quite make it across the street. She had lice recently, the worse case you can imagine. It was literally eating her alive before she noticed and sought treatment for her "sore head". Staff treated her but wound up cutting most of her hair out because the mats were so thick. At one point a piece of her scalp ripped off, she just didn't feel the pain.

Knowing she's not here anymore, knowing she is no longer wandering the streets, drinking constantly and sleeping on the ground, well, it doesn't make me sad. I'm sad that her life had to end the way it did, alone, in a hospital, picked up off the street in a random place she didn't usually frequent, but I'm not sad that it ended. I'm sad that her life did not improve, and that she died on the streets she lived on. She was planning on coming to detox, and starting to get her life turned around. Now she'll never have that chance. That, that, I'm sad about. But that she's no longer suffering? For that, I am grateful.

9 comments:

Reas Kroicowl said...

May she rest in peace.

Caroline said...

"It doesn't really matter at all" - THAT made me fill up with tears - you and I know IT DID, it did but she doesn't count because of her life - keep bearing witness kiddo, it's all we can do

Still Dreaming said...

It's not that it doesn't matter that she died, it's that it doesn't matter what she died of. The hospital certainly doesn't care, and really, does it matter in the long run?

socialworkemergency said...

No- it doesn't matter what finally claims a soul and body as broken as hers...just that someone noticed that she is gone and thinks of her.

AnneDroid said...

I just found your blog through Caroline's - good stuff.

I used to work in a homeless shelter so this post moved me. I remember well the funeral of one of the guys, with only a handful of us staff in attendance. Dismal. Yet we weren't there just because we were staff - we loved him, which consoled me a bit somehow.

bluejeansocialwork said...

Wow. You wrote really beautifully about a very intense and sad event. Your care really shows, as does your understanding of the complexities of the situation. Thanks for sharing about what you do.

Still Dreaming said...

thank you all for your kind words. this story, is all too common in my day to day goings on. this woman touched me in particular though.

lcsw mom said...

The beauty in this is that although most don't care she is gone, or what she died of or notice her passing, you do, and maybe somehow that will bring her soul peace.

Herman said...

:(

I agree with everyone else, what you wrote is beautiful. And I'm glad that someone is remembering her.