The next to last week is over, and I am now looking my final week at work straight in the eye. I had a few tough moments as I said my goodbyes to a few people, and several patients were teary-eyed as we bade our farewells. Even though there's a chance that we may cross paths when I'm covering a shift at the clinic here and there, the relationships we have known over time will never return.
One couple of whom I am exceedingly fond are simply held in a dear, dear place in my heart. I felt choked up as we shook hands the other day, and even though I promised to keep tabs on them, our days sharing laughs together are essentially over.
Another patient with whom I have been through a great deal turned away from me as she began to cry yesterday, and she said "it will just never be the same with anyone else."
Still another patient said, "I've been feeling really bad about it, but I know you have to take care of yourself. Thanks for going the extra mile for me."
Coming out of an exam room this afternoon, the medical director of the clinic looked at me and informed me without a shred of irony or sentimentality that I am breaking many patients' hearts this week.
It is a tough burden to bear when one provides the care that others so depend on. It's even more of a burden when one realizes that leaving those individuals behind is yet another loss in their compendium of loss and grief. Still, these relationships have a value which will carry us all forward, and new relationships will yield even more gifts and learning for each of us. Saying goodbye is a practice and an art, and for better or worse, I'm getting a whole lot of practice these days.