The window curtains were wide open. I kneeled down beside her where she could hear me and I grasped her hand into mine. I closed my eyes and I began to pray for her.
The hall smelled of urine and that fecal odor that always permeates every breathable space in the facility. It was usual at this particular facility. There were loud TVs and call lights on above every other doorway. Through all this hallway madness my mind was on my time constrained day. It was filled with my usual patient load plus five. I had covered for a fellow co-worker who called in sick that morning. Up until that afternoon, my day had been filled with many hurries up and wait for situations but this next assignment would put time into perspective.
This particular room had two patients, both separated with a curtain. I came to her around the curtain in the second stall. My eyes fixed upon her and I instantly surmised that she didn't have much time.
I lay my backpack down at the foot of her bed. I reached to grasp her hand and could only feel cold. Her eyes were half open and her mouth was drawn open. I quickly felt her forehead and it felt hot. Raising my hands up I quickly said a prayer. My hand then caressed her face and went to work.
The wash basin, soap, and hot water were in hand as I began to look around more closely. There on the nightstand and dresser were religious deity pictures accompanied by small statues of the Mother Mary.
A thought quickly came to mind.
I instantly turned on the TV to the all Religious channel.
I knew she could hear even though she had labored breathing and half-closed eyes. I was on a mission. I had to get her comfortable and ready it seemed. I didn't stop but to only clean up from my procedures. Then I settled into bathing her. Methodically I began to clean her and I could tell as she seemed to become more relaxed as I progressed. Each part of the body received its individual care.
I would rinse ever so carefully and then dry. First her face, then hands, and thirdly her body. Just as I started to care for the lower half she moved her hand and pointed to the window. After a few attempts to understand her, she spoke in a very mumbled and slurred tone, "Open the window."
I dropped the towel and did as she told ending a prayer once more. She went back to her unconscious state of labored breathing and rest. I then was moved to comfort her. I wanted her to be calm and the best thing I could do was hum the hymn, How Great Thou Art.
Once again she seemed to not respond and didn't seem to mind that I was humming the most comforting music available to her. I soon finished up with the bath and dressed her in a gown trying to do so with little to no extra movement all the time humming to her.
My clean up took little to no time. I still felt compelled to comfort her more and more. Her breathing became more shallow. The time was coming close. I finished up and went to her side. I placed my hand into hers and I bowed my head. I began to pray to the Lord on her behalf. I felt better now that she was comfortable. I could read no pain in her face or body. I exited the room to start my "end of visit" paperwork and I returned no longer than five minutes later.
She had passed.
She was at peace.
Many days after I could only think about her and how God worked his perfect timing. Throughout my entire day with all of the schedule changes, hurries and stops I was in perfect timing to be present for her on her journey home that late afternoon.