Christmas With a Stranger

What are your most treasured memories of Christmas at the bedside?

Working Christmas Eve stinks! But a change of perspective can make all the difference in the world.

Updated:   Published

What are your most treasured memories of Christmas at the bedside?

It was Christmas morning.

My kid would be waking up soon. She would be so excited about the traditional eggs, cinnamon rolls, and exorbitant amounts of stocking candy for breakfast. And then would come the reading of the Christmas story. And then, finally, the opening of the presents! It would all be so exciting!

I hope I can stay awake for it all.

And I hope I don’t miss too much fun when Daddy takes the kid to the park to ride her new bike while I stay home to take a much-needed nap.

Such is the life of a nightshift nurse!

Oh, well. I can’t complain too much. I would much rather work Christmas Eve than Christmas night.

But it still stinks!

All these thoughts trickled through my head as I tucked a patient back into bed after a trip to the bathroom.

I was already exhausted. I needed to finish charting. I did NOT want to stay late charting on Christmas morning!

I headed back down the hall towards the nurse’s station. A call bell started dinging overhead. The call light right beside me started flashing.

Heavy sigh. OK, fine! It's not my patient, but I’ll answer it. THEN, I’m going to go CHART!

“Good morning! What can I do for you?” I tried to put on my best smile and greeted the patient as cheerfully as possible.

The patient was leaning over the bedrail trying to open the drawer of the small dresser beside her bed.

I quickly nudged the little, elderly lady back into the bed, “Oh! Here, let me help you with that. You get back in bed. I’ll grab what you need.”

“Oh, thank you!” The patient’s unruly, white hair flopped around her face as she readjusted herself in the bed, “I’m trying to find the Bible in there! It’s Christmas morning and I want to read the Christmas story. Merry Christmas, by the way!”

“Well, Merry Christmas to you, too,” I answered, smiling. “Unfortunately, there is no Bible in this drawer. Maybe you put it somewhere else? Could it be with your other stuff on your table?”

I started looking over the stuff on the bedside table.

“Oh,” The patient was visibly disappointed, “I thought hospitals always kept Bibles in the dressers, like in hotels. I didn’t know I was going to be admitted, so I didn’t bring mine.”

She started to tear up.

“I’ll look around and see if I can find one for you,” It was the least I could do. It was Christmas, after all.

“Oh! Thank You!”

I went out to the nurse’s station and started scrounging around in all the drawers and cabinets. Some of the other nurses heard of my plight and started searching with me. Nothing. Not a Bible in sight. Well, I knew I had one in my locker. I went to the staff breakroom and retrieved the small Bible.

I took it into the patient’s room and handed it to her, “Here, you can borrow mine. I’ll come back and grab it before I go home this morning.”

“Oh! Thank you! I am so excited!” The patient gushed, “I have read the Christmas story every Christmas morning since I was a little girl, and I didn’t want to miss this one!”

She opened the Bible and her face fell, “I can’t read this. The letters are too small. Well, Thank you, anyway. I appreciate you trying so hard.”

I watched her carefully thumb the pages of the little Bible. I needed to chart. I didn’t want to stay late charting on Christmas morning! Charting is never done. No matter how much charting you get done there will always be more charting to be done.

Charting will always be there. Christmas, not so much.

I looked at my watch as I debated, “I’ll read it to you.”

“Really? That won’t put you behind?”

“Oh, not that much. Where do you want to start?”

I sat beside her bed and read the Christmas story to her. And then we sang some Christmas carols together. I found out she used to sing professionally. Huh! Who knew?

I couldn’t stay long. Morning meds, pain meds, and other necessary hospital things pulled on me that morning. But I have never been happier that I spent a little extra time with a patient.

Isn’t that the whole point of Christmas?

It's a time to slow down and remember what it’s all about. It’s a time to give what we can to others in need. I was going home to celebrate Christmas with my family, this patient was spending Christmas by herself in the hospital.  A few minutes of my time was the least I could do.

This happened several years ago, but I still view this as one of my most treasured memories of Christmas and my bedside career, in general. I don’t even remember that patient's name. But I remember how she made me feel. And I hope I made her feel the same way. 

I am so glad I slowed down and celebrated Christmas with a stranger.

I am an RN turned freelance medical writer and editor/proofreader. I especially enjoy and excel at writing articles that provide education for patients and their families.

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Guest 1152923

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Touching story, thank you for sharing:)  I think we should all challenge ourselves to extend this "peace on earth, goodwill toward men" sentiment to our lives all year, not just one day.  Sometimes, even a simple gesture like a smile, giving an unexpected compliment, or paying it forward, means more than we could ever know.


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You are exactly the kind of nurse I want when I'm a patient.  Well done.  It's for these moments I think hospitals need to slow staff down rather than increase their responsibilities and complexities.  Humans need patient, slow, kind humans when they're suffering.  Hope your kiddo learned a great lesson from you.