I recently took care of an elderly lady. She was sweet, kind, and had few requests. She would have rather been anywhere else, but her health had other ideas. Upon doing my head-to-toe assessment, I noticed a necklace around her neck and told her that it was pretty. It had an inscription on the back that I thought was sweet, “I love you now, I loved you then, and will always love you.” What brought us both to tears was the story behind it.
The necklace had come to her on a dark day while mourning her late husband; he had been dead for more than a year. She was at a point where she cried out to God and prayed for a sign from her husband. The next day, the necklace arrived in the mail from an unknown sender. The above inscription started with her name and ended with his and was a quote that he often said to her. She doesn’t know how or why or who got her that necklace, but she has not taken it off since. It has brought her much comfort over the last five or so years.
Taking the pause to read an inscription was one of the more impactful things that I have done as a nurse. Her story, though tragic, has a beautiful and mysterious surprise. I am glad that I was able to and took the time to spend that moment with her. This makes me reflect upon stories such as this that I have missed because I was not observant, I did not ask, the patient thought that I did not care, I was too busy, or refocused away from the story trying to be objective.
Simply taking the time to listen creates a bond that I cannot begin to explain. Every patient that I have connected to on this level I remember and think about still. The majority of who are no longer in this world, yet I remember their names and the conversations we had many years ago. As I am writing this, about twenty names, faces, and stories are circulating through my head; ones that I don’t think that I will ever forget. All of them were treasures found by taking the time to slow down.
Slowing down is not something that we are afforded often. I know what it is like to barely get a lunch and still be over the shift charting for an hour trying to accurately recall the last twelve. I know that these connections are rare and need to be created in the moment as they are not given freely without interruption. I, also, know that these moments and the connections made make nursing worth every hardship, every tired day, and every achy body. They are what keeps me coming back for more.
By Shannon Carpani RN.