Who Is on Your List?
Who is on your list?
Who are the people that have made the biggest impact on your life? For each of us that list is different. There will be the usual suspects like parents, teachers and coaches, but let us go a bit deeper. Who is really on that list of yours?
For me it was one of my first patients. She had bone cancer that began in her breast. Today, she may have been saved, but this was the 60’s. Her only solace was pain killers. She had such dignity and calmness. I have always remembered that. God bless her sweet soul. May she rest in peace. Her name was Jane.
You taught me how to live while dying, Jane. I was just too young to know it then.
The next one is a nurse’s aid I worked with named Betty. She was much younger than me and street smart, very kind and funny. We made an instant connection. She was the first black person I was close to. She was a single Mother and worked very hard at holding her family together. I admired Betty. She threw a baby shower for me when I was expecting our second child. Betty died too young of complications from the dreaded diabetes. I loved Betty. She held me in her arms as my Mom lay dying of a brain aneurysm. She wiped away my tears. I have never forgotten that moment. She was so fine. Thank you, Betty. I loved you.
Then there is Yvette. She too was a nurse’s aid and worked at the nursing home where my Dad was a resident. Dad was at the end of his life’s journey. I was at his side constantly. She knew I was deeply grieving, but I never told her what a comfort she was. She too was a black lady, and as she bathed my dying Dad, she began to sing the sweetest gospel song I have ever heard. It was so beautiful and serene it brought immediate beauty to the moment. She was so soft and gentle . . . her sweet words so comforting. Thank you, Yvette. You changed me. I have not been the same person since being in that room with you that miraculous day. I am sorry I never told you.
Father Steve. Yes, Father Steve, you are on my list. I would never thought it possible when first encountering you. You worked your slow magic on me and in the process changed my life. I always knew you were a holy man, but the big revelation came when you visited me in the hospital after my knee surgery. You came to see me twice and stayed both times over 30 minutes. You were so genuinely interested in my husband and I.
I can still picture you leaning against the wall, talking calmly as you were in no particular hurry. We talked about family, gardening, social events, St Charles. Always St. Charles. You described so many hopes and dreams for our church and school. You were very interested to learn I was in the very first second grade there. A lot of people found you stiff and unfriendly but from that day forward I knew different. You were a one-on-one guy! You gave me the courage to return to confession after a very long time. You had no judgment, you just “slowly brought me through it.” Thank you, Fr. Steve, for all you do for us and for giving me the courage to receive this beautiful sacrament once again. We are lucky to have Fr. Steve.
I will never forget Morris. He was a patient I cared for on my unit. He was desperately ill with end stage Aids. This was in the late eighties and long before the “aids cocktail” offered today. All we could do was treat his symptoms and make him as comfortable as possible. Morris was (to our knowledge) the first patient with aids at my hospital. When I received my list of patients for the day, Morris was on it. My first thought was of him, and how I wanted to comfort him and not make him feel uncomfortable in any way. Truthfully, I was afraid. I had never actually cared for a patient with aids and it was a little frightening. Upon entering his room, I saw a young man not much older than my own son. He was thin, weak, feverish, covered with sores and was very frightened. We hit it off immediately.
He began to talk and told me he had many friends but had been abandoned by his family years ago. He broke my heart. His partner never left his side. Their devotion and love for one another was deeply touching. I was to care for Morris many times over the next couple of weeks. When he went home to be with our Lord, with his partner at his side, the room was peaceful and serene. I remember thinking that he was no longer suffering and that his life had been all too short.
Thank you. Morris, for teaching me about love and that Aids is more than a disease. It is not “that patient” down the hall, nor does one’s disease define who we are.
He was God’s child; he was perfect, and beautiful.