Today a letter was delivered to the nurses' station. It was addressed to "the nurses and aides" on our floor. The letter was a thank you note for the care we provided to a patient at the end of his life who passed away in the early morning. He had been sick for a long time and chose to be with us for his death, which he knew was coming.
It sounds like typical end of life fare, maybe. The kind of letter you might expect from a family member or close friend of the deceased after a long hospital or hospice stay. But it wasn't. It was from another patient. What is even more amazing is that the two men were randomly assigned roommates. But the second man immediately took to assisting the sicker patient and then at the end, keeping silent vigil at his bedside.
A third, younger homeless man had also been taking care of the man before he passed. The third man had met the older man when they were both patients. Once the younger man was discharged, he continued to call and visit daily until the end.
"It's not friendly anymore," the younger homeless man had once said to me. "It's hard on the streets. Mean. But you see the oldtimers and they're all family. Our generation doesn't have that."
But it seems like at least some of them do. And maybe, just maybe it's never too late to make a family.