Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hospital Story of the Week


I had the honor of caring for an 85 year old Army two time war veteran this week.  He
was the sweetest, funniest patient I have had in a while and I found excuses to go into
his room all day.  I sat with him as he ate his lunch, listening to his stories about being
stationed in Germany during World War II and raising crops of corn while his small
children ran under their mother's skirt.  When he was done eating, I helped him stand
up from his chair and maneuver back into his bed.  He was very weak, his big
heart overworked and his body tired.  I wrapped my arms around his waist and held
him steady, our cheeks side by side as I encouraged him to take his time, reassuring him
that I was holding on tight.  
"It's like we're dancing", he said quietly, patting me softly on my back.
"We sure are.  Nurses love to dance, you know", I said with a wink.
After a few moments of swaying back and forth, catching his breathe and regaining
his balance, I got my sweet patient comfortably back in bed.  "I used to love to dance.  I
can't tell you how many nights I spent dancing with my wife: in the kitchen after supper,
out in our yard, at my daughter's wedding.  We used to love to dance.  It's one of the joys
I miss the most about being young and healthy, being able to move and tap my feet.  One
of the things I miss most about my wife, seeing her float across the floor".
I felt a lump in my throat, my heart swelling as I listened to him reminisce about one of
life's most simple pleasures.  I sat down next to him again, forgetting about the hundreds
of other tasks I needed to get to, and listened to him tell me about his wife of 50 years
and their many adventures together.  He told me about teaching his daughter to dance
before her first prom, showing his son the proper way to hold a woman during a waltz.
He proudly told of his wife's grace and charm and how she always insisted on leading,
causing him to occasionally step on her delicate feet.  I listened to his stories and saw his
pride beam brighter than the sun pouring through the window, remembering his body and
its abilities.
He eventually grew tired and drifted off to sleep.  I imagine he dreamed of floating
through the clouds with his lady, two stepping the day away.  As I left his room, I reflected
on my own love for dance and the many memories I already have of moving back and forth
to my favorite songs, the nights under the stars, in the kitchen, little girls standing on top
of their Daddy's feet.  After work that night, when Shawn and I had put the girls to bed
and the day's responsibilities were done, I reached for his hand and said,
"Dance with me".
"Right now?" he asked, most likely surprised that I even had any energy left after such
a long day.  
"Yes, right now".  As we floated in each other's arms across the kitchen floor, lazily swaying
to the beat of our favorite Black Keys song, I told him the story of my dancing patient.
I shared the inspiration this man had blessed me with, the simplicity of his
message resonating so deep inside my soul.  He held me close, listening intently, taking
in the moment.  And we danced, as we have done so many times in our years together.  
We danced.
 I learn so much from my patients, mostly about life and its fragility, how quickly it truly
does pass by.  From this particular patient, I took with me the reminder to enjoy the
simple pleasures.  To take my man by the hand as often as possible and sway and groove
and rock to the beat, to grab my little girls and swing them around in the moonlight.  I
took with me the advice to stop what you are doing when your favorite song comes on,
wrap your arms around the person you love, and dance.
For no other reason than because you can.

11 comments:

Kerry McCullough said...

Oh my gosh, that is so sweet and heartwarming. I love talking to elderly people- there is so much that our generation seems to have lost; things that they never took for granted. I'm glad you danced :)

Caitlin said...

What a heartwarming story. This made me think of my grandparents, who used to dance together on the "dance floor" (large area of linoleum that was added to their house for this purpose) long after the both of them were in a lot of pain. My grandmother even wrote a book (not published or anything) about their courtship and in it she wrote, "If you've ever danced with John, you know that heaven can wait."

They died within a year of each other and when my grandmother was on her deathbed she told the priest, "When I get to heaven I want to see John FIRST, and God SECOND." :)

Thanks for making me think of that this morning...it's an all-too-important reminder.

sarah beth said...

What a sweet story. I love listening to older people talk about their past. It's neat that you got to spend all that time with him. :) I love the dancing pictures! You two are very cute together! I hope I marry someone with some rhythm. ;)

arielle @ a beautiful journey. said...

oh my...what a sweet and precious story! what a blessing it must be to be a nurse and hear other's stories like this. what a light you get to be too! :) loved this...

Sarbear said...

This is such a sweet story. It's so nice to read of someone connecting with their patients and learning from them, rather than just caring for them. You are such an amazing lady.

Vic said...

beautiful! this story is just breathtaking! i love that y'all danced in the house, holding each other...love! it's grand!:) xo

Little Gray Pixel said...

Absolutely beautiful.

Chic Homeschool Mama said...

What an amazing story. I find that I can learn so much if I just stop & take few moments to learn about where someone else has been in their life.

sara sparkles said...

this is beautiful! my sister works as a nurse in a retirement home and she tells me stories like this every now and then. makes me wish my husband was home right now... I'm in the mood to dance!

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

What a heartbreaking and heartwarming post all in one...

Indi said...

Such a wonderful story!