It's all the hands....
As a nurse I've been present at the passing of many, many patients. Sometimes we knew it was coming, sometimes it was quick and tragic but none of them were lost on me. There are too many to remember all of their names and I don't even remember all of their faces at this point, but they have all left an impression on my soul.
Many people don't like to think about the nitty-gritty details of nursing because they can be unpleasant. But the way I feel about it is.... how humbling and sacred those moments are. It's easy to forget about it in the moment, but truly, what a blessing it is to be able to care for someone during the most intimate moments of their lives. We see the real moments. The births, the sick, the bleeding. We hear medicated confessions to sins a person would normally never admit to and we help a person who is weak clean themselves after going to the bathroom. And we are there when people die. It doesn't get more intimate than that. That's hallowed ground. As a nurse, I get to be present at the most vulnerable moments of a patient's life. I don't take that for granted.
Over the years, the faces and incidents tend to blend together, but there are some things that I never forget. Such as the time I cleaned up my first dead body to get ready for the family to come in and view. I know that sounds morbid, but it didn't affect me because it was a horrible experience, it affected me because I remember her hands. As I was washing her and cleaning her, I remember that I was speaking to her (sometimes out loud and sometimes in my mind). I was wishing her well and hoping that she knew Jesus. I was thanking her for letting me have the privilege of taking care of her.
Then I got to her hands. Sometimes in life, you know when you're in the presence of a true God-lesson because it's something that to the outside world might seem simple, but it's something that resonates so deeply in your soul that it never leaves you.
I was so struck by her hands. Within a second, my heart felt her lifetime. I held her hand and I just looked at it. I turned it over and I looked at her palms, her fingertips. Then it hit me. God used this one single moment to teach me the eternal lesson of the humanity of my patients. They are not just "old people." She was a woman. In her old, wrinkled, now deceased hands I saw the lifespan of a woman. Images shot through my mind's eye of those hands as a chubby, tiny baby. Then a young woman reaching out to grab her diploma. Of a shaking hand held out to have a wedding ring placed on it. Hands holding her husband as they made love, then embracing her child. These were not just the feeble hands of an old woman, they were the hands that had seen her lifetime. Every moment of her life were summed up in the wrinkles and lines of those hands and her aged skin.
That moment changed who I am as a person, a woman and especially as a nurse. From that moment on, I saw every patient differently. Every old man who has trouble holding his bladder or walks unsteadily with his walker.... what was he like as a younger man? Young and independent. Proud. Would he ever imagine himself in such a vulnerable position? From that moment on, I began to see nursing as a ministry. It was now my job to minister to these people. I was not above them. No, it was my job to wash their feet. That's what the Lord spoke to my heart. Wash their feet. Humble yourself and love them as I would love them. Give them back whatever small amount of respect you are able to give them. They are human and you should have seen the life they've lived. Serve them. Love them.
And I got all that from her hands. It's all in the hands.
Happy Nurses Week
lurve you, xoxo v.