One of my hospice patients, C.,a 44-year-old, never-married cancer patient told me how difficult it was to be the recipient of so much assistance and care. His assigned nursing assistant today was a lovely young woman who happens to be visibly pregnant.
"She shouldn't be waiting on me. I should be the one doing for her." C. adjusted the orange stocking cap he wears over his chemo-bald head. "All my life, I've worked. What I wish more than anything is that I could go back to my job." He studied his hands. "I know that's not going to happen. When I leave this place, it won't be to go back to work."
I sat down beside him on the edge of his bed. "There's something I've wondered about. I'd like to hear what you think. When we get to heaven, you believe we'll have jobs to do?"
"I don't know."
"Me either." I reached up and adjusted C.'s nasal canula. Most of the time he's got it on sideways, blowing more O2 into his ears than his lungs. "But just say we do. What job would you pick? Would you want to polish the pearly gates? Sweep up those golden streets? Maybe play the harp?"
"Naw. Not play the harp. That would drive me crazy."
We both laughed. Then C. started to cough.
I poured a glass of water and held the straw steady to his lips. C. took a long draw, then I set the glass down.
Neither of us spoke for a long moment.
Finally C. raised his head. "You know, I'll tell you what job I'd take if they offered it to me," His eyes twinkled.
"Sounds kind of silly but when I get to heaven, I'd like to be Santa Claus. Hand out candy canes and presents. BB guns for the boys and Easy Bake ovens for the girls. Yep, that's the job I'll take. If they offer it to me, that is."
"That would be a great job," I agreed. "And don't you worry. They'll offer it to you. I'm sure of it."
"There's lots of kids up there. I figure they need somebody to be Santa Claus."
"I can't think of anybody better fit for the job. You'll be perfect."
"You think so?"
I stood to go. "As for me. I want to play the harp."
"When we get there, let's look each other up."
"Okay. You won't be hard to find."
"Neither will you."
C.'s head relaxed against his pillow. "Later."
"Yeah. Later, C." I patted his hand. "You need anything else?"
His eyes drooped. "Nah. I'm fine."