Letter to a patient
The day I cared for you, the other nurses told me you were a hospice patient with little time left to live. They said you were being discharged to your home and that you didn't need anything except some space. As I walked to your room, I thought to myself, “She must be terrified and depressed. Of course she wants to be left alone.”
But that's not what you asked for when I offered to help you prepare for your husband's arrival to take you home. I was humbled to care for you that day. You let out the deepest sigh when I gave your tired body a bed bath and your achy muscles a gentle massage. As I dried you and rubbed some warm lotion on your back, you smiled and said, “I feel like a million bucks.” That made my day. The more time I spent with you, the more I realized I was wrong; you didn't seem depressed or frightened at all. You were exhausted yet at peace, and just wanted to spend your last days at home with your loved ones.
Dear patient in the quiet room down the hall, how did you do it? How did you find that inner strength and courage to leave this world when your time came? Was it the full life you probably had? Or the comforting thought that your physical pain will soon end? Or maybe you were a religious person ready to meet your Lord? I'm only a stranger who cared for you for a few hours. I didn't know you personally, but I still didn't want you to die. I'm the one who was terrified to meet a person with only a few more weeks to live. Your body was failing and your physical pain was only getting worse. Your spirit, however, was ready to move on, ready to be free.
Dear patient in the quiet room down the hall, you made me pause and reflect on my personal comfort with death. You made me wonder what I would like to accomplish before the day that I'm on my own deathbed. What will give me that inner peace you had? I still have many unanswered questions, but one thing's for sure: I'm blessed to be a member of this profession where I can be touched by a spirit like yours. I'm blessed to have touched you with a comforting hand. I believe this is what makes me feel fulfilled as I head home after each shift, carrying the pride and honor of being a nurse.