Today I am tired. After a four day stretch of 12 hour shifts your emotional and physical stores are virtually non-existent. They are worn thin at best. Working in the ICU is hard. It is draining in ways that I cannot fully explain. I have learned that because of my profession my life is different than most.
This week I had the privilege of taking care of arguably the sweetest and dearest people I have ever met. A husband who is dying and a wife who has a love for her husband unlike any other I have seen. Everyone who had contact with them instantly fell in love. I know I did.
I have sat here at my computer for an hour trying to put into words what it was like witnessing that kind of love between two people but I have failed. There was a sweetness to them… an aura of the deepest type of caring. In the way she would smile at him and kiss his forehead… the way he would reach for her hand. How she would lay her head at his bedside for days on end… supporting… hoping… caring.
In the way they both decided that now was the time. That this man had lived a life full of joy with his person at his side… the woman he knew he would marry the second he laid eyes on her. And that now it was time to let go. Time to make that transition that all of us will eventually have to make.
Every morning before I would leave work I would stop by their room to say goodbye… just in case. I would hug them both and tell them that I loved them and he would kiss me on the cheek and she would squeeze me tightly and walk me down the hall. And every morning she would burst into tears.
One morning she came down the hall… tears streaming down her cheeks.
“How will I know?” she said. “What do I look for? He isn’t really talking much.”
So we went into the room together and we talked… I told her that it wasn’t time yet.
And right then and there she fell into my arms.
“It’s like coming to the end of a jail sentence.” She said… the fear and pain was visible on her face.
Today Bethany and I went upstairs to the hospice unit to say hello and we talked… we looked at old photos of him in the service… of their life together. It was a perfect ending to a long week.
The first night I took care of him, when we decided it was time to stop heroic measures, he told me, “This is the best night I’ve had here yet… talking to you.”
I smiled and held his wife’s hand. And as I said goodbye that morning he grabbed my hand tightly and smiled, “ I hope you have a blessed life dear. A life full of love like I have.”
And as I walked out of the hospital that morning, exhausted and teary eyed… I knew that my life had been touched. And that I am truly, truly blessed.