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As a nurse I had the strongest conviction that no one should die alone. In my career I sat at the bedside of many who were dying and stroked their brow or sang softly in their ear while they passed on.

The last sense to leave humans is our sense of hearing. I always talked to my patients, letting them know who I was and that I was there to comfort them and take care of them.

I want to share a story I recently remembered from my days as an ICU nurse. I took care of a patient who was an old farmer. He had a wife 30 years his junior and a ten year old son.

The farmer came to my unit because he had been using a chemical to spray his fields, and subsequently developed bruises all over his body. He was eventually diagnosed with a rare leukemia, a result of the chemicals.

There was no hope for him and within less than a week he lapsed into a coma. His wife and brothers told me he would be busy on the farm harvesting his crops about that time of year and they somehow felt he was holding on due to the need to get 'his chores done.'

One day his wife Mary came to me and she told me her brothers and his brothers had harvested the crops. She also gave me of a list of details which had been taken care of. She wanted me to tell her husband that she and the family were ready to let him go.

Mary and I went into her husband's room together. She sat on one side of his bed holding his hand, while I stood at the head of his bed and stroked his brow. I spoke softly into his ear, and let him know Mary was there and he was loved.

I let him know his brothers and family had helped Mary with the harvesting of the crops. I told him his son was doing fine and I let him know all the details that Mary had given me. I assured him that everything had been taken care of and I let him know that it was okay to let go and be at peace. He died within five minutes.

Approximately one month later, Mary came to visit me. She presented me with a tiny lapel pin, a simple little gold plated cross. She sheepishly placed the pin inside my hand, as if she were embarrassed that it was such a small token.

She looked me in the eye and added that it may not seem like much, but it was a pin her husband had given her when they were dating. She said he gave it to her during a time when many were warning her not to marry a man so much older than herself.

She told me how she adored him and how over the years he had treated her like a queen and how he made her feel so loved. She told me how the cross had given her such comfort over the years and how she felt compelled to give it to me.

Before I could respond, she went on to say how she knew her husband would want me to have it. I graciously accepted her token of appreciation, we cried and hugged, but not tears of sadness. They were tears of resolution and a closure of sorts.

I still have that simple cross, as well as many tokens of appreciation given to me by patients and families. I collected and saved these dear treasures in a box and when I feel down or sad I get that box and look through all the items I received over the years.

I go over each item and I remember the patients, the families, think back to those times and the act of recalling those memories never fails to uplift me and make me feel better.

I feel that I am blessed to have encountered the people I have in my career. I have learned so much from these fellow human beings as they shared their suffering with me, allowed me into the most intimate and deeply vulnerable moments of their lives.

I was present and shared in events when people overcame their tragedies. I watched as families grew stronger as a unit, as well as stronger in their faith as individuals. I have seen great courage and I have participated in miracles.

I have learned that people are amazing creatures, and all of us are faced daily with opportunities to share, learn and grow.

Each of us is continuing on our journey in spite of the obstacles or because of them. I feel I am a better person for having experienced these events and I thank you for the opportunity to share my memories.


(c) March 2003 ~Pak~


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