Tag Archives: empathy

Death is imminent …

it is something that every one of us will, at some time, face.

I am saddened this night because someone dear to my heart passed away.

I have tried to rationalize it and understand it, but death is death.

My heart is heavy for many reasons.

I know, because of my own loss, what his wife is feeling right now.

She is devastated and reeling from the blow that she is now alone.

I don’t completely understand what his daughters are going through because God has performed miracle after miracle upon my own father, but my imagination runs wild.

I have, on many occasions, although it tears me into pieces, told my  mother that if she and Daddy couldn’t go at the same time, I would want  him to go first because the thought of dealing with him without her is beyond my comprehension.

I don’t want to lose either of them, but I, we, live in the real world where people die and are buried and life either ceases with their death, or we move on.

Life is what it is, when it is, as it is.

Walking on the mountain tops or soaring above them is a wondrous thing, but in reality, we are often in the foxholes, valleys and dark places.

How we deal with these times defines us.

Do we encourage or enable?

Are we a rock or shifting sand?

These are the moments that Jesus calls us to, the times that He relies on us to uphold His people.

I am unworthy on every level imaginable, but I know, without doubt or reservation, what it feels like to lose a husband.

And I know what it feels like to be comforted by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

I am, according to what is “out there”, the minority, but I don ‘t care.

I know what I know, feel what I feel, experience what I experience, learn as I go, live as it comes and believe on the fantastic.

Life is a gamble and nobody, but nobody will leave this world alive.

The photo of my late husband included in this post was taken two weeks to the day after he was buried.

An image in my head could be discounted, but a photograph is, as the saying goes, worth a thousand words.

Beyond the Grave

Beyond the Grave

fear and uncertainty …

filled his blue eyes, open wide and full of worry.  At first glance, from the hallway, the only visible things were a single foot protruding from beneath a blanket and a partially filled urinal on the tray table.

I wondered, before walking into the room to speak with him, what I would find.  I was already feeling badly for him simply knowing that a container holding his urine sat on a table where soon, his lunch would be placed.

I felt that surely, had there been family present, that would not have been the case and, not to my surprise, I found him alone.

He was worried.  It was evident in his sad, sad eyes.  They were wide open, showing the incredible blueness, wrinkled at the edges from a lifetime of emotion; laughter, tears, anger.

He was a widower.  He had children, but his voice betrayed his attempt at courage as he spoke of wishing to go home.  His blue eyes became even more sad as he spoke of a home that he knew, in his heart, he would not return to.

I felt a wave of righteous fury toward his children, none of whom had been to visit him during his week-long stay in the hospital, as he spoke of having nobody to care for him.

I thought of my own father.  Thought of his sadness were he to lose my mother and be left to live out his days without the woman that he loved more than life.

Many times, and to my mother I have said such, I have prayed that if my parents cannot die at the same time, I hope my dad goes first.  I cannot bear to even entertain the thought of him trying to cope without my mother.  He is strong in body and spirit, but would be lost without her.

She, on the other hand, is tough as nails.  A survivor full of beauty and strength and would, though with sadness and tears, move on and make the best of a seriously bad situation.

While her tears would cut me deeply, tears shed by my dad shatter me.  I would be of little use to him, not that he would last for long without her as he would soon die of sadness.  I know this as surely as I know the sun rises in the East.

But I digress.  I wasn’t speaking of my parents, but of poor, sad-eyed mister who lay in the hospital bed, dwarfed by the room, confused by the lingo, hurt by the antipathy of his children.

He wanted to go home and held, other than that wish, no other ambition or hope.

It would not come to pass.  He would not go home.  Not to the home where he lived for over fifty years with his wife before she died.  Not to the home where his children, who had now abandoned him, had been raised.

He would not go back to where the garden once thrived with vegetables and a myriad of flowers in the summertime, the trees bursting full and golden in Autumn.

He would not walk the familiar halls that had brought him comfort in his time of need.

He would not sleep in the bed that conformed to his body due to years of use.

He would be a stranger among strangers.

It took all of my strength and everything I could dig from the depths of myself to not burst into tears while speaking to him; seeing him old and broken and alone.

His wide eyes, full of worry, filled me with compassion and empathy.  I, in my mind and heart, brought him home with me.  Though there is an unwritten rule among nurses to not become too attached, he has been here, dancing on the edges of my thoughts, since the day I met him.

I have cried for him, prayed for him and inwardly cursed his children for their inattentiveness.   I want, in these last years of his life, happiness for him.

I try no to get too attached, but I am human and I fall in love with those the world has so blithely displaced.  He will remain in my prayers and though I will likely never see him again, his eyes will haunt me.

They haunt me now as do so many others; young, old, suffering, addicted, betrayed, sickened, world-weary souls who need, more than anything else, to be loved.

I have said it before and I reiterate it now … I am too softhearted to be a  nurse.  I always have been.


Leviticus 19:32  ~ Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord.

Life …

is a continuously unfolding journey.  For twenty five years, I have been working as a nurse.  It feels odd to say that as I don’t really feel old enough to have done anything for twenty-five years.  In the beginning, back in the day when nurses still wore hats, I already had a truckload of baggage to carry.  Painful and distressing things that, at times, threatened to destroy the very life I was trying to make for myself.  I had so little to offer the people that I came into contact with for I was so broken and so very vulnerable.  Vulnerability is a handicap.  I know that  it has its place in the perpetual turning of pages, but it makes it no less difficult.  As I sat and listened to the fears and sorrows of patients I came into contact with, I wanted to help them.  I wanted to reach out to them, to comfort them with gentleness and compassion; to tell them everything would be right with the world again.  My problem was that I didn’t believe it and when people have hit the bottom of the world as they know it, they can spot a fraud a mile away.  I wanted to believe it, but so did they and because of that, I could not help them.  I could not comfort them, I could not share any part of myself because I simply didn’t believe that, through my brokenness, I could make a difference in their lives.

As years passed and God continued to refine my life with experiences that were so full of beauty and sorrow and disappointment and pain, something inside me began to change.  A new vision began to emerge.  With each life-changing moment that I encountered, I found that, once I came out the other side, there was both less and more of me.  I was still vulnerable, still insecure, but somewhere along the way, strength began to build inside me.  I began to relate to people on a more personal level, to be able to look them in the eye and try to comfort them with what was born in my heart from my own experiences and know, even as I was saying it, that I could trust it; that the patterns of my life had shifted yet again and an understanding that I simply couldn’t share before began to take shape.  I found that I no longer looked past their pain so I wouldn’t have to share mine, but faced it head on.  I held the hand of a woman who had lost her husband and two sons in a car crash and we cried together.  I hugged tightly the man who just found out his wife of thirty years was dying and he shared his sorrow with me.  I touched the face of a young man who had tried to take his own life and I felt as though I knew his thoughts, for in my own head, the same thoughts had circulated.   I’ve taken so many of them home with me.  I hear their sobbing, see the disillusionment on their face, feel their sorrow in my heart; I pray for them.

This time of year is difficult for so many people.  Those who dread the long days and empty nights, the thoughts and imaginings that seem to come unbidden even as they watch the celebrations going on around them.  They plant a smile on their face, a smile that never reaches their eyes, and try to be part of what is going on because the other choice is just too painful.  Sometimes it is easier to deny that we have pain in our heart than to share it with others.  It’s everywhere.  The worry, fear and anxiety that comes when the rest of the world is coming together in fellowship and joy, celebrating life and happiness.  It is so easy, at this time, to forget to be true to ourselves.  To let the memories flow, the sorrows burst through, the pain shatter again, even if only for a moment.  Without the purging there can never be healing.  And well, for those of us who are vulnerable and so easily hurt by words and actions, it is a bit more difficult.  But nothing lasts forever.  Not sorrow.  Not happiness.  Not youth.  Not life.

When all is said and done, this is the only life I have to live and while it may be imperfect in so many ways, there are moments that are so beautiful that they take my breath away.  It is these moments that I cling to when I feel that there is no one who understands me.  I remember the people I have cried with, the ones who have shared their burdens with me and it brings me comfort to know that even though I am vulnerable, I am not alone.  The world is full of us and sometimes, just having someone to listen and know, that as they listen, they understand, is as close to a miracle as we can get.  Let what you’ve done and what you’ve experienced help to define you in some way, but don’t let it consume you.  There are people who need to know that you have been there and that you can relate to them.  Our lives decorate the lives of those around us even as they decorate ours.  This year, during the “season of giving”, give what only you can; a little piece of yourself.

When you curse at your nurse …

be prepared for the consequences. This isn’t about photography or trail shoots, but about life and the small world of medicine that we live and work in.  It’s no secret who has the doc’s ear, who is able to plead the case of patients and try to maneuver things so that everybody wins.  It’s no secret who holds the keys to the daily schedule and can give the ok for an emergency overbooking or manipulation of said schedule to accommodate someone with a need.  It is also no secret that the doc will, most times, back up their nurse and take their side in the event of conflict.  That being said, there are few things that people should know:

The nurse sees you before the doctor so whatever you tell us, we will relay.  It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, the nurse is the go-between.  When someone calls into the office to speak directly with doctor, it is the nurse who talks to them and relays the information and works to see that all needs are met.  The nurses are the ones who work diligently to see that medications are approved by insurance, that specialist visits are scheduled, that vaccines are given and medications are refilled to the pharmacy.  It is the nurse who will call after a couple of days to make sure the problem is resolving and that no further action is required.  The nurse, again, who will help put folks at ease during procedures or counsel them on things that may otherwise be confusing or daunting.  (sometimes physicians speak a language that sounds very little like English and quite a bit  like Klingon)

The nurse will ensure that you get what you need from your visit and smile and make you feel as though you are the only patient on their agenda that day (at least a good nurse will).  They will go above and beyond to meet the needs of their patients and are willing to go an extra mile to make the patient feel as though their particular needs are important.  They give out stickers, suckers, school excuses, work excuses and a wide variety of things that are needed but things the physician knows nothing about because their job is to treat.  A nurses’ job is to nurture and show compassion, empathy, sympathy and love, to be a listening ear and a caring heart when one is needed.

Now that all of this information has been processed, there is one additional thing that needs to be taken into consideration.  If a patient mistreats by cursing, attempting to strike or being otherwise verbally abusive to their nurse, there is only one thing they need to remember; without the nurse to run interference, they are on their own.  If the nurse isn’t on their side, they don’t have a prayer because as the first paragraph of this blog says, the nurse has the doctor’s ear.  Might be good to remember that.   When someone is mean, hateful and abusive to their nurse to the point that the nurse cries, that someone is screwed.  So whatever it is that an abusive patient wants or needs,  they need not bother asking the nurse but instead, take it up with the doc and see, at that point, just how far they get.

I dedicate this post to nurses everywhere. Stay strong, keep your cool and be encouraged.  Don’t let the bad apples ruin your day because bad apples are as much a part of medicine as flu shots.  Today, for me, was full of bad apples but tomorrow is a brand new day and I plan on taking my apple corer with me in the future.