I remember her eyes. Two steelies set deep in swollen flesh – flashing left to right. Tears pooled in the corners before dripping down the white expanse of her bloated cheeks. She couldn’t speak, so deep was her agony. But her eyes told me everything.
I had been a nursing home social worker just under two months - long enough to accumulate a growing number of patients that outweighed my work week. Running from room to room, I often performed only visual checks on the people in my care. My dream of giving bedside counseling to the dying was a fantasy.
The facility employed Dr. Bennett along with a head nurse, some LPN’s and enough Aides to cover the entire building. I quickly learned that it was neither my place nor my right to bring patient concerns to either Dr. Bennett or his constant companion, Traci, the fiery head nurse. My role was to complete the mandatory paperwork, attend meetings and close up the files after a death.
“You have a new patient in 202.” My supervisor tossed the admission chart in front of me. I met with Mr. Johnson at his wife’s bedside later that day. Complaining only about the bother his wife had been to him for the past six months, he left before ten minutes passed.
“He’s a good husband. It’s been hard on him – with me being so sick and all.” Mrs. Johnson didn’t have long to live. Within days, her pain increased, robbing her of her ability to speak. I appealed to the front desk to order stronger pain meds.
My request was met with rolled eyes. Traci and Dr. Bennett laughed with each other as though sharing a private joke. “She’s getting what she needs – you’re neither a medical doctor nor a nurse. Just do your job.” My face burned with resentment.
When I slipped into 202 that next day, the acrid smell of death assaulted me. Mrs. Johnson’s eyes followed my movements as I drew near her bed. The aides were trying to keep her as comfortable as possible, but not enough to rid her of her haunted, help-me look. Never having been so close to death, I struggled with my emotions. What could I do to ease this woman’s suffering?
Sharing my personal beliefs with patients was frowned upon. But I soon realized the only Physician capable of helping Mrs. Johnson now was God. Her earthly doctor had depleted his medical knowledge. The overworked staff could do little to ease her growing fear.
I checked my watch – praying at the same time for courage. I was the only social worker left on duty. The nurses would be making their rounds soon. Pulling the privacy curtain around Mrs. Johnson’s bed, I was thankful her roommate was in the throes of Alzheimer’s.
“Mrs. Johnson.” I leaned over her chest forcing her to focus on me. She let out a feeble whimper reminding me of my old dog the day we found her swimming furiously in the neighbor’s in-ground swimming pool.
I wasn’t even sure if Mrs. Johnson could understand me but I took a chance. I found her hand. “Mrs. Johnson,” I whispered again. “I’ve been praying for you.” I felt her grip tighten.
Her eyes stilled their frantic search. “It isn’t too late to accept Jesus as your Savior.” I prayed she understood my words. I prayed my personal Physician was healing her soul as I prayed over her.
Then I saw the tears. I gave her hand a final squeeze and backed out of the room.
“You’re still here? Kind of late isn’t it?” Traci looked up from her charts.
“Just doing my job.” I pushed open the double doors.
The next morning – I hurried to make the 8:30 team meeting. “202- Expired last night. Close out the chart.” My supervisor moved down the list. I blinked back tears as I pulled Mrs. Johnson’s chart from the rack.
Dr. Bennett had noted the time of death as 7 PM – fifteen minutes after I left the building.
I wished I could add my own final note.
6:45PM - Mrs. Johnson was healed by the greatest Physician this world will ever know.
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