Nurse’s Memories to Treasure…

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I walked down the hospital corridor. Why are they always horrible colors? I have been a nurse for many years and cannot figure out who designs and decorates these places. It is 3 a.m. and a fairly quiet night. The night nurses on this side of the world are probably making rounds just like me (yes, nurses still make rounds). Some of the patients sleep the sleep of the medicated. Certain ones sleep the sleep of relief and some toss restlessly about their beds trying to obtain the peace of sleep.
I turn the corner and that is when I hear the beautiful singing. I think it must be someone’s TV or a CD. In the room it is dark but for a sliver of yellow light from the cracked bathroom door. I am surprised to see a lovely elderly woman, her bed in the sitting position, singing. Wispy loosened silver hair straggle out of the bun at the nape of her neck. Her hooded eye lids cannot hide the shine of her chocolate brown eyes.

She is singing in Italian and I cannot understand a word but from the passion and inflections in her voice I can recognize “Joy”. There is a tear in her eye and one moving down her cheek and she is smiling. I am too stunned to move yet somehow I know without doubt her song will go on forever now…

what I couldn’t know…

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What I couldn’t know…when I was a nursing student my instructor gave me an assignment that I have carried with me for forty years. I will never forget it because I gave loving gentle care to Jesus that night.
Stay with me… to get the whole and the depth of this picture I must confess that at that time in my life I lived in a what I call ” a well-intentioned but misinformed idea of Grace.” In my childhood and early adolescence Grace was very “sanitary” , if you follow me. It followed a certain prayer, then Baptism, the cleaning up your behaviour issues (or at least hiding them), and then good works followed that. At age twenty I had long well-known I could not live up to these rules but continued to pretend that I was ok…
So this happened…
I stepped into the room of a woman very ill. She did not speak nor open her eyes. I could see she was weary and when I reached to touch the bed sheets she grimaced embracing herself for what I couldn’t know. I was about to begin my assessment when my instructor, God bless her, said “take care now…you will be touching Jesus.” Oh how I weep when I remember those words.
When I pulled back the sheets the little emaciated body of the still silent woman was covered in bed sores. Her body was filthy, her finger and toe nails grown long and brittle. The sore on her spine was through to the bone so that even the breeze of my moving the sheet caused her to stiffen in pain. I turned to my instructor with a face full of question and overwhelmed I whispered “what am I to do for her?” She responded by nodding to a bath basin and many towels and simply said “you want to be a nurse now here is your chance.”
It took me two hours to peel off her filthy clothes and wash the dirt from her body and to dress each wound. The woman never spoke and her eyes remained closed. I only spoke gently to explain each of my actions. It was tedious and repetitive work. After I had dressed each bedsore and put a clean gown on her and of course, clean sheets I turned to leave. Only then did the woman look at me briefly and simply said in voice so strained and broken, “Thank you so much.”
I turned my head and smiled at her but her eyes were already closed again. I whispered that she was welcome. I stepped out into the hallway and in my unprofessional youth I leaned against the wall and cried and trembled. I cried because something in my soul told me that night that Grace is personal and intimate and sometimes very painful. I leaned my forehead against the door of that hospital room and a still small voice that seem to come from her room said, “whatever you do to the least of these my daughter, you have done it unto me.”
What I couldn’t know or fully grasp that night is I had begun my journey toward developing gratitude…and so much more pain and joy echoed down the road of Grace…