Laughter in Sorrow

In a previous post, I mentioned that one of my jobs is a home assistant for a man with ALS. It has been an unexpected teaching experience in so many ways.

I began working in his home about 4 months ago and attempted to view my position as a housekeeper with medical duty benefits. The “nurse-to-be” in me was delighted. Yet, this mental arrangement was not feasible, and after two weeks, I found myself wondering what needed to change in my approach. While it has been hard, allowing myself to connect with this family emotionally has been the best shift in my mind and work ethic. Me being vulnerable has allowed all of us to be open as we need. This shift helped a few weeks later as I was having trouble deciphering how to help with the grieving process and had one of the most uplifting meltdowns over the phone with a hospice nurse who goes to my church.

I’m sure in the near future I will write of my progress of grief as I see my boss slowly lose more physical capabilities. When people hear about my in-home job, I generally see two responses. One focuses on me – “Wow! What an opportunity for you as a nursing student.” The second is pity. I see eyes and mouth drop along with the questions – “How far advanced is his disease?” or “Oh. That’s hard.”

There is another side to hospice and home care that people aren’t told about – the hilarity. Amidst the frustration of emotional and physical roller coasters, there is laughter. One of the more recent circumstances was a few weeks ago during a shower time. A Home Health aide who assists with my boss’s bi-weekly shower was telling an experience she had at another home. The client (who had Alzheimer’s disease) apparently accused this aide of not caring and was crying “Help me” all through her sponge bath. I was hearing bits and pieces of them laughing, but then I heard my boss cry, “Laura! Help me!” and I was instantly at the bathroom door saying, “What’s wrong?!?”

Nothing was wrong. He was merely imitating the previous patient, however, my response got all of them giggling. And when you have an ALS patient giggling, he/she can quickly lose strength and balance, at which point, I really WAS needed to help lift and steady him.

Another moment of hilarity of note is the change in TV shows that are watched during meals. While some news is viewed, my boss has decided that he likes to laugh at humanity’s fallenness  – aka “The Maury Povich Show.”

The morning typically goes like this:

“So, am I turning on ‘Who’s-your-daddy’?”
I tend to roll my eyes while he says, “Hey, man, this is entertainment.”

When his mother came to visit, I asked him, “So, have you told your mom what smut you watch during breakfast?” I love instigating awkward moments.

My default response to nerves and awkward situations is laughter. I guess it’s better than crying all the time, at least to me it is. I don’t want to deny grief and sadness in this life, but I have hope in Christ. I want to dwell on his love. His promise that He will wipe every tear from my eyes. That he can give joy and laughter in seasons of grief and sorrow.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Driven « tallrayofsunshine
  2. jenrzimmerman
    Feb 05, 2012 @ 21:15:19

    Laura. It took me a minute to figure out who you were. However I just wanted to say that I took a look at some of your stuff and thoroughly enjoyed.

    When I had my community health clinical in nursing school, I had a semester of hospice care (I would highly recommend it if you get the chance, especially because some of the other community opportunities are crappy and no one wants hospice so it’s easy to snatch). You’re going to IU for nursing, right? Anyway one of my career goals is hospice now- such beautiful experiences and opportunities. People are “realer” in the face of death.

    Anyway this is all to say that I have been creeping on you…. 🙂 Hope you’re well!



    • TallRayofSunshine
      Feb 05, 2012 @ 23:41:52

      Thanks for “creeping” on me. I’m liking your blog as well – I stumbled upon one of your FB links and anticipate hearing more about your adventures. I’ll be doing nursing school at IUPUI, so things will be a bit different than your experience, but I will definitely keep you posted. Thanks for “stopping by.” Have a great day!



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