The Actual Dance is the metaphor for the ritual of facing the prospect of being with the one you love most in the world as they take their last breath. In the play, The Actual Dance, I tend to focus on what I consider the “unique” point of view of the show – that of the person in a love relationship to someone who is facing a life threatening diagnosis. In the instance of the play it is about breast cancer and Susan, my wife, and her brush with advanced breast cancer.
Today though I want to focus on the other “players” in end-of-life rituals, many of whom were probably hard at work today, a National Holiday celebrating the economic contributions of workers to America’s strength and well-being.
These workers contribute not just economically. They contribute in so many different ways, but especially also from the heart. During the intensity of our own journey as a family care giver to someone we love it is easy to not see all the people who are there to help. Sometimes the only thing they can do is to make everyone comfortable as the inevitable happens, while always trying for the best.
Who are these people? They are those who staff the hospital on holidays. The nurses and administrators and the technicians and the cleaning crews. The Actual Dance as a story has a number of characters in it, particularly doctors. It does not mention though the “Seventh Floor Crew”—the nurses station on the “cancer floor” – who rooted for Susan all the way and who made sure I was comfortable when I was staying there in the room. Nor does it mention the cleaning crew nor the food workers – each of home worked to help make Susan better.
Yet these individuals and thousands like them work intimately with patients and families who are struggling. Their work is not only time and skill demanding, it is also demanding of their heart and soul. My own experience as I faced the loss of Susan was supported and embraced by everyone, not just the doctors, who helped at every stage of the process. In the consciousness of today, Labor Day, I am in awe of the special strength it takes to do this kind of “work.”
So today, on Labor Day 2015, I want to recognize, honor and celebrate all those people at work in hospitals, medical facilities and home-health care and their affiliated businesses all around the country —laboring – to make people – patients and their family -- better.