Saying Goodbye to Patients and Friends


When you've been a pharmacist long enough, you will inevitably experience the pain of having to say goodbye to patients who reach the end of their lives.

When I get the call that a patient is being enrolled in hospice, it pains me. It means that it is only a matter of time until I lose another friend. Even though I have been practicing for 20 years, hearing the news of a patient’s death still hits me emotionally. Some in the profession might say this means I am doing it wrong, but if being affected by a patient’s death is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

For obvious reasons, the death that hit me hardest was my Dad’s. Watching him deteriorate over a 3-year stretch was horrible to watch. When he died, I could see that it was a total blessing, but I was also angry that he was gone. I realize that many people who were much younger went before Dad, but 67 still seemed too early to depart. Both his parents had lived into their 80s, so I figured Dad would make an easy run to 85. Damn.

I have heard people say they would take a deceased loved one back in the apex of their end-stage disease if that is what it took to get to see them again. I have never said that. When someone hits the point where they are a mere shell of what they once were, I believe it is wrong to have them still here just to give comfort to their loved ones.

I believe in some form of an afterlife. Nonbelievers say that no one has found Heaven, so it doesn’t exist. As a fan of space-time theories, I believe that Heaven occupies a different dimension in the universe that cannot be seen but where a person’s essence can still exist. I believe that when we go there, we get to meet the Creator. Some may think I’m deluded, but I’m sticking with this story.

I have gone to say goodbye to friends who have been given a very limited amount of time to live. But I never actually say the word “Goodbye,” because I don’t know how these friends feel about the ultimate end being so near. When I leave the room, I say, “Take care,” because this can be done in living and in dying. That feeling of knowing that I am not going to see someone who is important to me alive again makes me heavy-hearted, to say the least. I pretty much hate it.

When a patient passes, it is not the dead I mourn, but the living. I believe the dead are restored and move on to the next plane, but the people who love them the most are left behind to feel the void of their loss. I feel most for the spouse and, may Heaven ever forbid, the parents of the dead. No one loved the deceased more, and losing them is simply devastating. It may be a blessing, but those left behind are still hit with a palpable wave of hurt. Hopefully, they can take comfort in knowing that their loved one is at peace, can remember the good times, and can look forward to the time when they will see their loved one again. Peace.

Jay Sochoka, RPh, misses his absent friends.

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