A friend and new nurse texted me today, "Mind if I give you a call if you aren’t too busy?"’ ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!
The phone rings… ‘What’s up?’ I ask. “I just need an expert opinion." She says quietly, "Last night my patient died. It was my first death. I thought I was fine but as I get ready to go back to work, I keep thinking more and more about her, wondering if I should have done more.” My heart wants to burst. I hear her pain, the pain I know all Nurses feel when their patient dies, no matter if it’s their first or one hundredth. Witnessing death has a distinct feel; like a tightening wrench around your heart, a heavy rock in your throat, an acidic shudder in your belly, a dryness of mouth, a tremble in your lip, heavy eyes and a catch of breath.
I have come to learn that it is not the dark of death that reaches into us so deeply; instead, it is the moments of brilliant life we have shared. We bear witness to their beautiful life-spirit as they allow us to care for them in their hardest moments. And when we witness their very real physical struggle as they transcend to the grace of their spirit’s acceptance, they leave their mark on our heart. It is deeply personal.
There is nothing you ‘should’ have done sweet Nurse and friend. You did all you could and more with your innate, beautiful and authentic presence. You gave her love, kindness and an open and full heart. She believes this and if you think she doesn’t, then please, take a moment to tell her and you will come to understand your deep connection will heal your wounded heart. Your patient does not wish for you to ache, she only wishes for you be full and light, for others are waiting for you.