How to Best Thank Those Who Offer Compassionate
Care During the Pandemic
When Rosie Eastman, RN joined last month’s CEOLP/IFC
monthly Zoom meeting, she spoke about her experience
working with COVID ICU patients. Another meeting
participant asked Rosie how best to thank those who serve
in this way, since most of us have no personal connection
with these hardworking healthcare workers.
Rosie’s response was simple. Here are some things that
would be very appreciated: a kind handwritten note or card
sent to a hospital’s COVID floor, a bouquet of flowers, gift
cards, or, where permitted, home-baked treats. Also, the
opportunity for time away to renew and refresh is
important. If you have a second home or Airbnb, you could
offer a stay at a discounted rate or without charge.
Simply taking a moment each day to consider those on the
frontlines of service and sending a warm wish for their
wellbeing can be a great gift.
A Beautiful Death
By Rosie Eastman
Note: Rosie is an RN at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
Joining a recent Crestone End of Life Project meeting via Zoom,
she talked about how even in the midst of a pandemic, there can
be what she called a “beautiful death.” This essay is her
response to someone else in the meeting wondering what might
constitute a beautiful death.
Dying in the hospital can happen slowly—hours, days,
weeks—when people are stuck in the middle, neither getting
better nor worse but slowly drifting toward the inevitable.
Sometimes we can buy time with machines and blood and drugs
and work, but sometimes these interventions only serve to
hasten the end. Dying in the hospital can happen slowly, until
the tipping point comes where time speeds up at an exponential
rate until it’s a blur that leaves only mourners behind.
My patient had been dying, glacially, for years. Time and money
and effort (so much effort) created a happy life for him. He
knew love and laughter and play and rest. When I met him, the
clock had already started. He was quiet save for each rasping
breath that told us about the fluid in his lungs and the strain on
his heart. Outside of his darkened room, a plague raged with
nurses and doctors and therapists scurrying frantically, trying to
place fingers in a dam that had sprung so many leaks.
My patient was unconscious, unaware of the chaos. We knew he
was dying. Years prior, his life had been abruptly knocked off
track by an accident—a tiny blood vessel in his brain had
swollen to bursting and rendered him unable to care for himself.
His sister stood at his bedside, holding his hand while I held the
other. I wish I could have held her hand, too.
His last breaths came slowly, spaced far enough apart that it felt
like he knew he had an audience. His sister and I spoke quietly
about his life, what he had been like, what had brought him joy.
He saw our distraction as his cue to exit, took one more inhale,
and then stilled.
I always ask those present if they would like to help me wash
their loved one and prepare them for their next journey. My
patient’s sister paused only briefly to consider before nodding
and pulling on a pair of gloves. We talked as we bathed him, not
about anything in particular but enough to keep a pleasant
To care for the dead is a holy privilege, done as much for the
living as for the dead themselves. The way we honor them is by
caring for them, and the way we care for them is together.
“If death practices reveal a culture’s values,” writes Maggie Jones, the author of today’s Sunday Read, “we choose convenience, outsourcing, an aversion to knowing or seeing too much.” Enter home-funeral guides, practitioners who believe families can benefit from tending to — and spending time with — the bodies of the deceased. On today’s Sunday Read, listen to Ms. Jones’s story about the home-funeral movement and the changing nature of America’s funeral practices. This story was written by Maggie Jones and recorded by Audm. To hear more audio stories from publishers like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.
How to be a Caregiver: https://www.nytimes.com/guides