It Only Takes a Smile.

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    Sometimes when we work in the hospital, where we are accustomed to patient's dying, we become a little desensitized, even if it is one of our own. Sometimes nurses are so focused on their patients that we forget to care about our cohorts, our coworkers, on whom we depend. It costs nothing to lift one's eyes up, and give a brief smile to say hello, and go back to our work, in general. Occasionally there are extraneous serious reasons why we cannot do this. I write this article about one of our own who passed suddenly.

    It Only Takes a Smile.

    Lessons in dying...........

    Two people I knew died this week. Two souls very different from each other. I knew one a long time ago and honestly did not have much of a relationship with him, like some of my other peers from the College of Marin Drama Department did, but I was still touched because of the intensity of his spirit, the memory of his engaging and powerful eyes that looked right through you. The other was a co-worker at the hospital where I work as an RN. She was, a humble spirit who I can thankfully say, I DID honor her while she was alive. She taught me to always smile at everyone, no matter how busy I was, and to say hello and ask :"How are you?" always.

    Whenever someone dies, we have an opportunity to learn so much from the way that person lived his or her lives. We take the Good only, and we usually remember the good. I can honestly say that Linda was a truly gracious spirit who embodied the Buddhist philosophy of honoring the spirit in all.

    I work at a hospital. I am a Registered Nurse and many times people are too caught up in the moment to say hello. Often times those moments are real and serious. Nurses are severely overworked with more and more added on to their already busy plates every single day.

    Often people have serious issues they have to think about and analyze. You can see it on their faces, as they stare at the computer, a little line furrowed between their brows as they try to asses lab work or a change in vital signs, to see if the trends are getting worse or better or to try and understand why their patient; the one they have been assigned to that day, the one whose life is in their hands is doing worse, or what is wrong with them in the first place. In these cases, I understand well that we must leave this furrowed brow intact. Interrupting this person's space is inappropriate, so I let it go, I let things be, and I hope there will be another opportunity to show my appreciation for their spirit by acknowledging them and asking them if they are OK that day.

    However, there are times when people are staring in to space, or they are just arriving from home and who knows what they have left behind, an argument with a spouse or partner, a crying child, an ailing parent, a sick child, a pet that they know will pine for them during their absence? Who knows? That is why I give people the benefit of the doubt, but my heart cannot help but sink a little, when people walk in, make eye contact, but are so absorbed in their own lives that they miss the opportunity to smile at me or anyone else. I will usually try to make eye contact and smile, many times it is not returned and the person or people will go about their task of getting ready to start work, or not, literally missing the opportunity to smile at another spirit releasing healthy endorphins to start their day.

    Linda ALWAYS smiled. I never saw her NOT smile when I walked by. Never did she miss an opportunity for her spirit to connect with another spirit on that fleeting, but oh so necessary plane of love that floats like a veil throughout our lives all day, each day, every day, if we could but see it. Linda was not a Registered Nurse, she was a nurse's aide - and some may say that her job involved less critical thinking than a nurse. Perhaps, but the truth was, she was just as busy. Nurse's aides usually have about 8 - 12 patients that they have to bathe, feed, walk, change bed linens on, answer call lights, transport from one room to another with or without belongings. They develop the closest relationships with patients, because their care is so intimate, continuous, and so necessary.

    People will remember THIS care. They will remember being bathed with care and attention to detail. They will remember if they have clean sheets, and fresh water. They will remember if their rooms are tidy. They will remember having their call light answered promptly. They will remember someone helping them to the bathroom preserving their dignity, preventing them from being incontinent and possibly lying in their own bodily fluids. They will remember someone sitting and holding their hand. Often a nursing assistant may be the last person they see before lights are out at night, and the first person they see in the morning when the smiling face comes in to take vital signs. Often a nursing assistant is the only person that can be with a patient, holding their hand as they take their last breath. If I had been a patient in the hospital, I would have looked forward to seeing Linda's smiling face first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

    As busy as Linda was, she never let on how much. She always had time to stop and say hello, and smile and ask you how you were like she really cared. Linda was hard of hearing, and for some reason she would not get a hearing aid. Maybe this helped her live in the moment, in her moment, in a world that SHE could control. However, it prevented her from hearing some requests. If she wasn't facing you she just plain didn't hear you. This was probably to her advantage in some ways. but not in others. She didn't hear me many times when I realized that she had smiled at me and asked me how I was, and perhaps I had said " Fine thank you, and returned the smile" but forgot to ask her to her face how she was, so I would turn around and say "How are YOU Linda?" However, she was already walking away to her next task and she didn't hear me? THAT makes me sad.

    Linda means 'Beautiful,' and she was. She was dark skinned and very slim, with crazy hair and fine features, but it was her smile I will never forget. It is not like she died, so suddenly I am thinking back to all of the wonderful things about her. I didn't know her in her private life. I knew that she was a Buddhist and I knew that she cared about people, EVERYONE. She never complained, as far as I know. However, I didn't know if she knew that I respected her, that I thought she was radiant. I didn't know if she knew that I truly wanted to know how her day was or how she was feeling that day. I do know that sometimes I was irritated in a minor way because she couldn't hear either my kind remarks, or my requests for specific tasks regarding a patient, so she inevitably did not do what I requested. However, in the big picture this is small potatoes.

    In this small world of ours, she WAS THE BIG PICTURE. She touched each of our lives in a positive way. Let's ask ourselves what Linda left us? I think we will be all surprised that she left us with a unique treasure, the gift of a smile and all the promises that brings, How a simple smile can touch most of us in the deepest way possible, and even if the moment is fleeting, help us forget for a second or two, or maybe more, what our troubles are.

    Let's remember Linda and do her memory justice by honoring the spirit in everyone the way she did. Remember to say hello to those you know and those you don't know. Remember to smile at them. You will feel better and so will they. Smiling releases endorphins - I already said that. Remember that when someone walks into a room, a part of the divine spirit has walked into your space, and it needs to be acknowledged with grace and gratitude. That is how we can do her memory justice. This is one way, that she can live on, through us, those who knew her less well than her family, and close friends. Linda's legacy is one of loving your fellow man. Let this be ours too.

    NAMASTE LINDA - I hope now you can hear the angels sing.............
    Last edit by Joe V on Nov 5, '13
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    About Charslight

    I am an RN in a busy critical care unit where I mostly do procedures and insert picc lines. However I have had experience in so many areas of nursing, from telemetry to oncology, med surg, recovery, rehab nursing and hospice

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