Till We Meet Again
As I was getting the linens ready and running some warm water in the sink while preparing to clean up the patient, I began humming a tune. I'm a singer in my out-of-the-hospital world, and I frequently get tunes in my head, which I sing or hum. As I came from the bathroom, the patient this night heard me humming...
It seemed like it was going to be just another usual Sunday night on our med/surg floor where I work as a tech prior to starting nursing school in the fall. A 3-11 shift doesn't include baths, but if the patient is incontinent of bowel, there's a good chance that a tech will change the sheets, bath the patient, provide a clean gown several times in the course of the night. This can be an unpleasant task; let's face it, being up to your elbows in someone else's bowel movement isn't very delightful, especially if it is the liquid, odiferous, potentially C-diff bearing stool that was the case with this particular patient on this particular night. However, I do my darndest not to shy away from these situations, as I can only imagine how difficult it is for the patient to be so limited and to need that sort of personal care repeatedly.
As I was getting the linens ready and running some warm water in the sink while preparing to clean up the patient, I began humming a tune. I'm a singer in my out-of-the-hospital world, and I frequently get tunes in my head, which I sing or hum. As I came from the bathroom, the patient this night heard me humming, and began to sing the words with me. I asked him if he knew the whole song, and he said he did, so we started off together at the beginning. He knew me only by my voice, as he was quite elderly and blind as well. We started talking about songs we knew and loved, and before I knew it, we started singing some of our favorite numbers from the musical "South Pacific." I was joking how, now that I was older, I was going to be too old to play Nellie Forbush, but instead would have to play Bloody Mary. That naturally led me into the song made famous by that character in the show, and we were laughing by the end of the bedding change.
He had no control over the illness that was ravishing his GI system, so I was in the room several times that night. We sang songs from "Carousel", from "Oklahoma", from "The Music Man", "The Sound of Music", all of those oldie-but-goodie Broadway shows. There was a 45 year age difference between us, but we both had loved all those songs and had them tucked away in our memories. What could have been a distasteful and smelly task instead became, for both of us, a delightful break in the monotony of the long shift.
When at shift's end I came to get his final set of vitals and to help him settle in for the night, I told him I'd thought of the perfect song to end the night's songfest, a lovely tune from the World War One era entitled "Till We Meet Again". Now, while the song's lyrics are written for sweethearts, and that wasn't our case, it was still a lovely thought to wish each other well, until we were to meet again. We sang it together, and I wished him a pleasant good evening.
Two days later, I had to come into the hospital for an educational meeting for techs. I wasn't scheduled to work again until the weekend, and I usually exit out the back door to the employee parking lot. As I was completing a cell phone call, I stayed on the main floor planning to exit using the door by the ICU (I never go out that door on a normal basis.) Glancing into the ICU waiting room, I saw his family, whom I'd met earlier that Sunday night when they came for a visit. Going to them, they told me how he'd slipped downhill rapidly on Monday, and things did not look good. I had their permission to visit their dad, so I went into his room. He was on a respirator, and was completely unresponsive. It was evident from looking at the vitals and other info on the machines at bedside that he was very critical. I held his hand, and quietly sang to him "Till We Meet Again" one last time, and left. It seemed a very fortuitous choice of exits to me; otherwise I'd never have known he was in the ICU.
The next day, his obituary notice appeared in our local paper. I cried a little, and yet, it was a comforting thought to know that on his last aware night of his 88+ years on this earth, he sang the old songs he loved so well, had talked about his beloved deceased wife of 60+ years, and knew that while he was in a difficult care situation with the diarrhea he was suffering, that he'd given ME the gift of his music as well.
Rest in peace, Mr. W.; until we meet again.Last edit by Joe V on Jun 16, '18
Apr 8, '08Absolutely beautiful.....Sometimes we touch others with our hearts as well as our hands. This elderly gentleman is probably humming along with you from heaven....Thank you for sharing these poignant moments, and as one who sang to my dad while he was dying, I know that music and memories can bring such peace to those at the end of their lives on earth......Apr 8, '08This is such a good story - have you considered sending it to a national nursing magazine for publication? So many people would enjoy it.Apr 10, '08What a wonderful connection you made with the patient! I'm sure he appreciated it. May he rest in peace.Apr 12, '08Thanks so much for sharing this. Even though I am crying my
eyes out reading it, my day has been enriched by reading this.Apr 14, '08What a wonderful gift you were able to give to him in his final days... You are a spectacular writer, as well as a caring, compassionate nurse. Thank you for sharing your story.Apr 14, '08Sweety you are a good nurse with good soul. God bless you! Is so easy to be closed to souls and hearts just to put your soul inside! You are GREAT! Thank you that you share your story with us and thank you that you are how you are. Could we clone some of you? LOOOOOOOL
Zuzi love also oldies but goodies and a lot of people do it! Muaaaaaaaaah with all my heart! Sing for all of us! Love honey! heartbeat:heartbeatApr 16, '08Thanks for your wonderful tear-jerking story. If we would just think of the terrible side of our work we will really end up thinking of our patients as burdens but then if we will look at the situation closely, it is a great opportunity to touch the lives of our patients and make them feel important and great especially on their last days, which is also fulfilling in our part as a care giver, the feeling that no money could replace.
We will all grow old and when that time comes, we also wanted to have someone beside us who will understand our situation and patiently take care of us and will make our feeling lighter despite our disease.
I hope that someday we could also find nurses like you who will take care of us and sing with us until our last days. God bless! may you continue to be a blessing to others.Apr 17, '08Your story touched my heart, it must have been hard for you though
thanks for sharing & may you never change your compassion for your
patients. they are lucky to have met you
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