Monday, November 9, 2009

Attending a Client's Funeral

From my seat in the back I had a good view of folks shuffling in and stopping at the casket. I had thought that I would maybe feel self conscious going to Ruth's funeral since I only knew one person there apart from her, but people weren't looking as far back as where I was sitting, but rather were focused on seeking Ruth's immediate family and folks they recognized. I saw people coming mostly as an outsider.

I had spoken with Ruth's brother when I came in and hugged him. It was the first time we met -- we had talked a couple of times before Ruth passed away when she had gone to the hospital.

While I sat in back of the room I thought, little do these folks know. Who I was for Ruth and who she was to me. She was the third client who was assigned to me. She had come through intake asking for rental assistance because she had lost her job due to a mysterious, almost constant pain. She soon found out she had terminal illness. We started working more and more intensively together, coming to the point where we talked nearly daily.

I didn't know Ruth when she was a child or in high school or when she partied or had children.
I only knew her during the time she was in great need. A woman I didn't get to say goodbye to, and deeply regretted it later. I want to describe who she was but don't want to capture her image solely as a person who was in pain. In some ways i don't think I could do her memory justice for knowing her for such a short time. I knew she played the guitar and once saw a photo of her looking very cool strumming on one with her eyes closed. I'm fairly certain pain changed the way she thought, the way she behaved. When I was at the service I felt a little exhausted, a little in shock, pained, and upset that all these people attending the service didn't help Ruth enough while she was alive the way they could have. Later I was able to think about the situation differently, but some things didn't change. I continued to carry her with me.

The funeral is our opportunity, us case managers at my agency, to give clients a last formal recognition and the most final goodbye we can give. I don't remember her as a woman in pain but I remember the connection we made.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, I'm sorry. That has to be pretty intense.