Warning: this post is heavy. My heart is heavy and the subject matter is a reality in my life. It may not be in yours, so please take caution when reading.
You can’t really prepare for the first time you have someone die right in front of you. It’s one thing to know a patient is gone before he actually takes his last mechanically-assisted breath, but when you don’t expect it, you can’t prepare. It’s just that, completely unexpected and all you can do is react in shock. It’s morbidly ironic that my good friend and I were talking about this very situation the day before. “I don’t know how what I’ll do when I kid I don’t expect to die actually does.” Well, I guess now I do.
There is a unique peace that comes with knowing a child is being called up into heaven when his body is done here on earth. When it stops responding the way it is supposed to and when you know their spirit is already sitting on Jesus’ lap. Please don’t get me wrong, our hearts still mourn for that baby, that son or that daughter. Parents are still forced to go home with empty arms and the grief is overwhelming. I am simply talking about how it affects my heart as a care-giver, as someone who enters that family’s life for a matter of moments. I have to sometimes build a fence of protection around my baby-loving heart otherwise I would not be able to do what I do.
It’s a survival mechanism to begin to prepare for the death of a patient who is brain-dead or whose heart just does not function on it’s own anymore. I have to believe that better things lie in store for that baby on the other side of this life. I don’t have any resources against the sudden, instant, one second we’re talking and the next she is gone kind of death.
Did I cause this? Did I make a mistake? Fear, doubt and hurt fill my heart. I am reassured by the most skilled professionals that no, it was simply her time to go. Not my mistake. Her body was broken, it just didn’t look as broken as it was. I didn’t know she was so fragile. No one did.
I begin to doubt the care I gave her. I know I provided for her medically as best I could, but was I kind enough? Did I smile warm enough? Did she feel welcome/safe/special? Was I compassionate? I don’t know. Those questions and doubts weight heavy on my mind. Not being able to communicate with her frightened mom breaks my heart. I couldn’t communicate with her because of a significant language barrier and because I couldn’t take my attention off of trying to save her daughter. How scared she must have been. I can’t even let myself think about that, it’s too much.
I knew this would happen. I didn’t think so many would happen in one short time, but they say that’s how it goes. Feast or famine. I’d sure like a famine right about now.
As difficult as it is to process the terrible events that sometimes happen, I know this is where I am supposed to be. I don’t know why I am called to do this, but I have been called. I cannot say I have done a “good” job with any of the passings I have been involved with, but I know I was put in each one for a reason not determined by me. Sometimes I am reminded that my job is about so much more than being a nurse. It is so much bigger than providing care to my patients and their families. I am truly called to be His hands extended to people who are hurting. To patients who are sick and parents who are scared. I must be honest and say that I do not always remember the weight of that most important part of my job. Sometimes I get irritated with particular patients and short with their parents. Sometimes life’s annoyances get in the way of the work I am supposed to do. Ha. Go figure. It’s amazing how easy it is for the satan to cloud our sight of God’s purpose in our life.
I don’t know if I’ll ever forget her face or the empty feeling of shock and sadness. I do know however, that there is a purpose behind it and I was placed there for a reason bigger than me. I also know I’ll take lessons away from that terrible moment. My hands – His hands – are softer now, more prepared now, better now because of that tragic moment.
Lord Jesus, please help me to remember Your purpose behind my work. Please help me to love my patients with the same passion You have for them. Please help me to see the important things that need to be seen and help me to know when to act. Please work through me. Make my hands an extension of Yours. Please make my life bigger than me. I need you Jesus and Your strength, I am so weak on my own. I am incapable without You. Your are my portion and Your grace is sufficient for me. Please be with me, always. Thank You for loving me. I love You. Amen.