I don’t know what I’m doing here.
I see the same people everyday, but I don’t really know them. And they don’t really know me. I miss my people.
I can’t see anything, it’s dark here and I don’t have my glasses.
[Choking back tears]. I’m feeling lost. Did you leave me behind? Where have you all gone?
These are my father’s words, last week, on a phone conversation with him. He was at Yale Hospital, awaiting surgery. Earlier that day, he’d been walking home from the podiatrist’s office in his small town to the same house he’d lived in for the past 50 years. Unfortunately, a woman was in her car making a left turn off a busy road and didn’t see him on the cross-walk. He shattered his pelvis and fractured two cervical vertebrae.
Like many others during the pandemic, not being able to visit loved ones with dementia in the hospital feels particularly heart-wrenching. Of course, Papa couldn’t answer the phone because he couldn’t find his glasses to see it, or even recognize the ring over the multitude of other beeps in the room. He couldn’t remember the code to his Ipad so he couldn’t FaceTime with us. He couldn’t remember where he was or why he was there. I understand why he must have thought he was being held captive.
“Elizabeth,” he says. “I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“Papa, you had surgery.”
“I see the same people everyday, but I don’t really know them. And they don’t really know me.
“Papa, they are the nurses and doctors taking care of you. They are helping you to get better.”
“But Elizabeth, I miss my people.”
“Papa, we are here with you. We just can’t come in the hospital because of COVID. Can you find your phone?”
“I can’t see anything, it’s dark here and I don’t have my glasses.”
“I know, I love you, Papa.”
“Elizabeth,” choking back the tears. “I’m feeling lost. Did you leave me behind? Where have you all gone?”
Oh, Papa. As I reflect on your words now, how clear they seem. How much wisdom they hold for us in this fragmented, isolated culture we live. His questions are not those of a delusional demented old man, but actually quite poignant, from an elder whose veil is thin enough to see, to ask the right questions. With less direct words, these are the same questions I grapple with everyday with patients, friends.
What am I doing here?
Nobody really knows me.
I feel lost.
Did you leave me? Do you love me?
With the support of so many dear friends here in Maine, cobbling together aids, doctor’s orders, home health care, equipment, we convinced the trauma surgeon to discharge him to home, instead of a nursing home where we wouldn’t be able to see him for weeks due to COVID.
Discharge him to home.
I didn’t fully grasp the meaning of these words, until the ambulance pulled up to our house Tuesday night. Beholding Papa’s face, as the doors opened and he was greeted by all of us- children, grandchildren, spouse, familiar four-leggeds- I saw in one glimpse what it meant to come home. To go from lost to found, from darkness to light, from isolation to belonging. His whole body, in one gesture wordlessly speaking: I am home. I recognize you. You know me. I remember where I am and why I am here. I am home.
It may have been one of the most moving moments of my life.
A surprising synchronicity revealed itself to me in that moment. Over the past months, I have been working to slowly, carefully, intentionally, hone the higher purpose of Good Medicine. The purpose that informs every decision, every action, every relationship. The purpose that walks us into a new way of being with each other and our community.
Good Medicine brings people home.
We help bring people out of their dark silos of isolation into the light of their bodies, their birth right of belonging to something so much more vast than they could ever imagine.
Wherever you may be celebrating Thanksgiving, with whomever, my blessing for all of you on this day, is that you have the feeling of coming home.