'We Painted Together, Each on Different Parts of the Canvas'

Painting Together

Recently, we received a tender and powerful description from a coach working with a resident wanting to die. (The coach asked that s/he not be identified for this story.) The individual writes, "I am working with a resident who wanted nothing more than to die. She had been injured, losing mobility, losing friends, and in great pain. Although she had access to great medicine, she was unable to remove herself from the feeling that she would rather just have her life be over. She politely declined creating a Vitality Plan, and laughed at the idea of creating goals and action steps."

"However, she accepted my offer to check in on her from time to time, and just have a conversation. She really challenged me because of her expressions about wanting her life to be over, but, eventually I did get her to agree that, since she was still here, that there might be something we could come up with to make the time more tolerable."

"While she was in rehabilitation, I brought her some paints and a blank canvas. At first, I asked her to simply look at them and think about moving some color around on the canvas. The next time I visited we painted together, each on different parts of the canvas. After a while, we would trade sides and each be able to add to each other's work. During this time we had conversations about what she appreciated most about living in New York for so many years, and visiting the museums was paramount and something she dearly missed."

"Over time, I was able to get her to consider coming on a community-sponsored trip to one of our local museums, with an aide to push her in the wheelchair. This trip has not materialized yet I’m confident that with a little encouragement she will make one of these trips. I also noticed that her demeanor has changed. She is joking around with staff, getting back into the dining room for dinner, and visiting the salon again for her weekly appointments."

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