No one told me that I would experience these feelings and emotions upon meeting you. No one explained to me that my heart would swell with love, pain, and happiness throughout the years. I never realized that these would be some of the most emotional and gratifying years of my life. I blossomed from a naïve young adult into a much wiser older adult. I have been able to experience things that many of my friends will never have an opportunity to experience.
When I first meet you I feel a bit timid and not very confident. You have just turned three years old. As we continue to meet my confidence grows. It feels more and more comfortable as the years go by. I am thrilled the day that you start pre-school, graduate from high school, college, and finally are married. You are so excited to share your milestones with me. You proudly show off your photographs.
The day that your spouse left you I listen as you confide in me. You are so sad. I let you talk and vent about this unthinkable nightmare. I could sense that it makes you feel better just to talk to someone about the whole ordeal. That evening I feel very sad for you. A few years later you have fallen in love again. I am so happy for you. You deserve to be loved.
I cannot escape the painful expression on your face as you tell me about the loss of your baby due to a miscarriage. The sadness in your eyes is frightening. Sharing my own personal loss with you is unexpected yet therapeutic because I rarely talk about that loss. We have experienced something similar and talking about it only strengthens the both of us.
The next time we see each other you proudly show off the pictures of your newborn! How wonderful this is for me to see. I am genuinely delighted for you. God is good. While meeting your newborn child, I am happy for you and thrilled that you are sharing this precious person. I love watching this child grow into a toddler, teen, and young adult. My interaction with this child is so enlightening. You trust me wholeheartedly with your own flesh and blood.
You anxiously share with me whenever you are expecting. I am distressed when your second child is born with a heart condition. Is this child going to make it? Are you going to make it? She did survive and again, you let me into her life with trust. I watch her mature into a beautiful young adult. Years pass and as she weds I am so thrilled for her and you. I feel as if my own daughter has been married.
Then there is your son. This is the son that is plagued with constant headaches. The anguish that you feel for him and the pain that he must endure for the rest of his life is unimaginable. You have exhausted all medical possibilities to cure him. Upon your pleading, I will continue to keep my eyes and ears open if I see or hear of anything that may help him.
I am anguished after receiving the phone call telling me that you may not survive from the tragic accident that has occurred at your work place. As a result you are placed in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. You want to give up but through my tears I tell you that your children are thrilled that their parent is still alive. I see a new light in your eyes after saying this to you. You never came back to see me with that severe depression again. You visit with your wheelchair and a smile. You are such a beautiful person who has a lot to offer in this world. You will have to offer it from a chair. I know that you will figure it all out one day. It does not seem fair; my heart is heavy for you.
It is a challenge to do my job for you while on my knees but since you are in a wheelchair I have no choice. I am going to help you any way that I am able. Yes, it is difficult but I feel like a better person for having completed the job. Your intelligence is amazing! You use it to the best of your ability while struggling with an awful disease. Our discussions are remarkable.
Every time you visit I see your hard work and progress, no matter how small it may appear. I tear up as you are proudly showing me how you are able to raise your arm just an inch higher than your last visit. I pray for you before I fall to sleep at night. You are always in my mind in some way, shape or form. You will never give up and for that reason I pray for a miracle to cure your paralysis.
You touch my life deeply. I have learned so much from your unfortunate accident. I cannot begin to express my sorrow for your disabilities. It makes me realize how very lucky I am. It also makes me realize how very strong you are.
When I marry you are so happy for me. After giving birth to my children you ask about them every time you pay me a visit. You truly want to know about their lives and for that I am forever grateful. You really care about them and that touches my heart. Sometimes I talk to you about their misfortunes in their lives. It makes me feel better to vent to someone that will truly listen. I adhere to your advice.
As you are afflicted with a disease that is life altering I feel your pain. This is when I share with you that I had to have a pacemaker placed at the early age of fifty and similarly you feel my pain. We encourage each other and out smart both our conditions with dignity! We teach each other how to live with these afflictions and to not let them get us down. As I think about our conversations, I am smiling, because I know that we have helped each other through this tough time in our lives and for that I am indebted. We get each other.
When I ask how your mother is after telling you that I have not seen her for awhile, I am devastated as you inform me of her passing. I had not known. It makes me incredibly sad. I tell you how she would genuinely ask about my children and how it always touched my heart because she didn’t just ask, she truly cared. I will miss her dearly.
During later visits I watch you grow older and suffer with Parkinson’s disease and I silently cry. I am shocked after you tell me about your spouse being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I cannot believe that it could afflict such an intelligent soul. We shared so many wonderful conversations about our families. I sadly watch as your loved one forgets who I am.
The day that you cried to me after losing your spouse of sixty years is heart wrenching. I feel your loss so deeply because I know how much the two of you were in love. You are trying to find some normalcy in you life by routinely visiting with me. I give you credit for doing so and I hope and pray that your pain will lessen with each day. Eventually I see you being able to get through the day without tearing up. It really touches me when you buy me a small Christmas gift just because you were thinking about me.
While I am reading the obituaries I learn of your death. A part of me dies with you. I will always remember our talks and the things that I have learned from you. I enjoyed all of our encounters and will cherish them as my own private moments. No one else knows what we have said to one another and how we have confided in one another.
These are some of the most important moments of my life. Moments that will stay with me forever. No one can take them away from me. They are a blessing to have experienced and I have cherished every last one of them. Without them my life may have been very different. These moments were shared with various people with whom I have had the privilege to meet and give my services to. These lovely people are merely some of my patients within the dental office that I have worked as a hygienist for the past thirty one years. This is a special family that most people do not get to encounter.
During my education no one had ever warned me of the people that would touch my heart and soul while I practiced my everyday job. It is not a profession of just cleaning teeth. I have become a counselor, a shoulder to cry on, a student who learns a lot, a friend and a confidant. It has been one of the most enlightening experiences in my lifetime. I smile to myself while remembering these patients like I have a well kept secret. My career may be coming to an end in the next few years and it saddens me to think that I will not be seeing this family regularly.
For now I shall cherish the moments that we have as I continue to work. I wonder if I have touched my patients’ lives in the same manner that they have touched mine. After it is all said and done, hopefully in the future, we will bump into one another at a mall or restaurant. I look forward to the encounters so that we may catch up with our lives. I will miss the lack of frequency of our visits.
I am thankful for being able to share in my patients’ life experiences and from all of this I have learned that life can be unexpected, complicated and sometimes grand. Through these years I have learned that God has made his people kind, patient, resilient and good. My advice to others is to dearly appreciate all those that have entered your life, embrace the moments, and live and learn from the experiences you share with them.