Monday, February 6, 2012

In Memory of Joan

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You guys who work in healthcare know when you're getting burned out. You feel itchy under the skin, the slightest irritants make you check the clock for when the hell you can get out of the building, and you realize you're not your usual patient self with the poor recipients of your treatment.

By last Friday afternoon, I was there. I canceled my evening plans, knowing I was a wrung out sponge with absolutely no energy to engage in fun. What a shame!

I was all the more understanding of my need to isolate when I got home and checked my text messages. I received a message that did me in.

My absolute favorite patient at my last assignment, Joan, with whom I spent a few minutes almost every evening at dinnertime, passed away Thu. I can use their real names because I have permission from her husband, Monty. And I want to show you who they are and were to me because they touched my life so beautifully.

My dear friends, Joan and Monty

Joan and Monty  have meant the world to me. Anyone who worked with us at the facility knew of the beautiful bond and the chemistry that occurred when the three of us were together. There would be songs, memories and laughter. Joan would often be cognitively clearer and able to converse appropriately.

Our connection was magic.

Monty would travel 45 minutes one-way every day to have dinner with Joan. He would show up about 3:30 or 4 with cookies from Whole Foods, and Joan would reach out with her arthritic hands to attempt to share every time I found them tasting their treats. She was so generous even in her cognitive decline.

Some days they would find me in the rehab department. Other days, I would traipse down the hall from one of the nurses' stations to find them exploring the far hallways in the building. The one thing that was consistent was that we would make sure to connect before I left for home.

There were many conversations of her travels to Europe as a singer with the Armed Forces Network during WWII, her experiences singing with traveling orchestras, her life as a young single mother and their touching "how-we-met" story.

One day before I left my assignment there, "Mont" began to sing to Joan. I had the great fortune to record just a snippet of it.

AUD0003 by travelingotr

It was a song created from the following poem:

by Thomas Moore
Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly today,
Were to change by tomorrow, and fleet in my arms,
Like fairy-gifts fading away,
Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
Would entwine itself verdantly still.

It is not while beauty and youth are thine own,
And thy cheeks unprofaned by a tear
That the fervor and faith of a soul can be known,
To which time will but make thee more dear;
No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close,
As the sunflower turns on her god, when he sets,
The same look which she turned when he rose.

I never paid true attention to the words until fitting that such a wonderful man would sing to his bride this song. 

Joan and Monty,

I love you both to the ends of the earth and back again...


  1. I lost one of my favorite ladies over this past weekend.
    It's amazing when you have that heart connection with your people. But oh it hurts when they go!
    It's the danger of having so many dear friends in their 80's and 90's.
    But the blessings they bring to my life make it more than worth it to continue.

  2. Tre, what a wonderful glimpse into your life as an occupational therapist you have shared! Such a sweet story. It sounds as though you and they were equally blessed to have known each other. Love the song, just in time with Valentine's
    Day right around the corner....beautiful words.