A nurse caring for a dying patient shared these words from a family member of the patient:
“Thank you for what you did when my mom passed away. It was the best awful experience of my life.”
The words “best awful experience” grabbed me so quickly that I found myself reviewing my own life to see when I might have felt a best awful experience without realizing it at the time.
A memory came to me quickly.
My mom passed away from Alzheimer’s 10 years ago. I flew back east when my dad called to say she was in the hospital and didn’t think she had much time left. Arriving at her hospital room she opened her eyes and looked at me as she had so many times over the last year of her life – with a blank stare and no recognition of me.
I was used to this by now.
The nurse came in to feed her and I asked if I could do that. As I was feeding her, she looked right into my eyes. Tears suddenly streamed down her face and she said, “My Linda! Oh my God, what are you doing here!? I’ve missed you! I love you.”
Not wanting to completely lose it, I smiled big and joyfully said, “I’m here to visit you, mom. I’ve missed you, too, and love you very much.”
Our eyes stayed locked for another thirty seconds or so until I saw her slipping away. Her face went blank, the tears dried up and she was back in her own world as I continued feeding her.
Looking back, the words “best awful experience” described that moment perfectly.
The best allowed us to have one more real connection with each other. Expressing our love one last time. Only to be entwined by the awful experience of seeing and feeling her slip away, yet again.
My heart was filled with gratitude and sadness at the exact same time. There was no separation between the two.
Dad’s Best Awful
I now realize my dad expressed this same sentiment.
When I finished feeding mom, I looked at him and with tears in his eyes he said, “That was the most beautiful and painful moment I’ve ever witnessed.”
It was a “best awful experience” for him, as well.
There were other less intense memories that came when reviewing my life and I absolutely saw the best awful interwoven in those experiences, too.
Not Mutually Exclusive
Life is full of moments when the best awful experience is happening to us simultaneously. Even though we don’t always see it as that.
It’s easy to separate the two.
But they aren’t always mutually exclusive and those experiences become a gift when our hearts are open to them in that way.
They can help us be more fluid with the dance of life. They can help us grow. They can help us become stronger. They can help us be more compassionate.
And they can help us feel the peace in the pain.