Haunted by a shadow

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    Spirituality transcends race & religion. It is creatively expressed in many events. As nurses, we are faced with personal encounters of man's mortality. These events may challenge and nourish our spirituality. Our practice is a venue for the diversity of human faith. The lives that occupies the hospital beds could affect us profoundly, personally & spiritually.

    Haunted by a shadow

    I became a nurse because I wanted to remember my mother's battle with stomach cancer. I was 15 when she succumbed to her illness- after months of being bedridden. Her cries of pain wakes me in the middle of the night, her moans of struggle would linger with me as I attended my high school classes. I can vividly smell her 'sick environment'; a heavy mix of medications, vomits, gastric wastes & local herbs. Sterile and putrid.

    Her death became my impetus for doing nursing. It defined my spirituality. In the years that followed, I re-lived these scenes and scents in the patients that I have taken care of.

    How many deaths have I witnessed?

    How much pain did I share? How many families & relatives have I talked to?

    How many shaky hands have I touched?

    It was countless, immeasurable & un-definable. All I know, the spirit that moved me to pursue nursing - also survived me through the bleak, scary, difficult, helpless & confusing shifts of my practice.

    Death has impacted my faith more than anything else in my life. Death has embroidered a tapestry of faces & events in my memory. Let me recall some.

    A child comatose from meningitis with a rosary placed near his head.

    The infant, whose mother unplugged him because of bloated hospital bills.

    A 16- year old girl with pseudomonas infection asking for a coffee candy on the day she died.

    A ten-year old boy who was ran over by a truck and whose mother is working overseas caring for somebody else's child.

    A 41- year old woman, bleeding heavily from aborting her 9th pregnancy with a straightened metal hanger.

    These hospital scenes hardly describe my daily dose of challenging instances. I have learned to trust my clinical judgment. I relied on my experiences for the sensitivity and the caring attitude. I stayed faithful to the movement of the spirit to breeze me through the diverse & unique encounters with patients and their cases.

    Nursing taught me to learn from the patients who were my teachers. The hospital became a field of opportunities for my critical learning. It sustained my spirituality. It sustained my career. It nourished me.

    Death is a shadow that empowers me to keep my faith in humanity. Death keeps me grounded on my real motivation for doing nursing- which is caring. Death moves us to get out of our orthodox world. It moves us, nurses, to be unconventional.
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 13, '15
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    About squid

    I have been a nurse-instructor for 8 years & recently an international health worker.

    Joined: Jun '06; Posts: 2; Likes: 8

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  3. by   Esme12
    Beautifully said....

    Death has taught me to live life to it's fullest. To remember that my day really isn't so bad. It has taught me to never go to bed angry, never forget to say I'm sorry, and always say how much I love you. Death has taught me to say you're forgiven. It has taught me to be ever mindful of what I say because you never know if they are going to be your last words.

    Thank you for reminding me.
  4. by   subee
    Esme 12: You express so much better than I (attempted to do on another thread) how religiosity and spirituality are different at the core. The fear of death is the source of so much pain. Personal peace can be attained when we come to grips that we are born to die and, we have to choose how to spend that short space granted to us. When I worked the floors, my most rewarding experience was sitting with dying patients for their last breath. I felt honored.
  5. by   ZenLover
    Your article brings to point my current feelings and state of mind after interaction with my own family. I feel that if you truly want to honor those that have passed, you must care for and love those that are still here. I have recently run into those that chose to visit graves every year versus calling up someone who lives and telling them they are loved and cared for while they still can. Very sad really I think.

    I am starting an accelerated nursing program soon and feel much the same motivation as you do I think. I don't know that I will be able to touch, heal or care for enough lives to feed my personal hunger and reasons to do so...but I am going to give it my best try.
  6. by   leslie :-D
    squid, beautifully written...although admittedly, i am not understanding your usage of "haunted".
    to me, i read your story as someone who has been inspired by a shadow...
    and that you continue in being nourished and motivated. :redpinkhe

    nurses can learn more in caring for a dying person, than they can learn anywhere else.
    there are so many varied facets involved...
    physiological, biological, emotional, cognitive, spiritual, social...it really is an experience in totality, that transcends all others.
    it sounds like you have embraced it all.


  7. by   laughing weasel
    As a nurse no matter how horrid my day is going odds are it is much worse for some one else. It kind of puts things in perspective huh!! I really do enjoy it and feel like I am doing good every day. I agree that this job has taught me that things change so fast and that you need to hold tight to your loved ones. We are all only here for a short while.
  8. by   squid
    I agree with you. We should care enough not to intentionally hurt someone. Saying kind words to a person especially to a family member is therapeutic & liberating. When I get angry, I try to be still & embrace my emotions, consciously avoiding a confrontation. Lest I forget that I am human, I sometime fail.

    Life teaches us a lot of things. Vital is our capacity to love.

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