Near 500 words: The nurse and Mr. Smith

Charlie had been a nurse for twenty years and had seen all kinds of patients. Few patients gave her the satisfaction she received from Mr. Smith. Though in a great deal of pain, he bore the pain like an old trooper.

She got the call from her service Tuesday morning three weeks earlier. “You’ll be with a Mr. Smith.”

Charlie almost laughed but she didn’t. Smith was quite a common name and she had served her share of Smiths. And Joneses as well. Little did she know this Mr. Smith was going to be different.

On her initial interview, she remembered Sarah, his daughter, telling her about her father. Tears filled Sarah’s eyes. Seems he had been in pain for much of his whole life. How he managed it Sarah wasn’t sure.

Charlie began her work, administering the drugs prescribed, adjusting his body in the bed, taking care of his bowel movements. As she moved through her work, Mr. Smith did not complain. Most of her patients did, but he did not.

As she watched Mr. Smith sleep, she saw his body struggle for the peace he deserved. When he was awake, he sometimes spoke through the pain. There was a peacefulness in his voice as he struggled through that pain. During these times, he told stories. His stories were funny and often dirty. She did not mind. His stories had a life in them that few writers had in their books.

One day Charlie got an idea. “Mr. Smith, can I record your stories?”

He smiled as his words struggled to get out. “If you would like.”

She turned on the recorder and he started a story. This one was about pirates.

Over the months, Charlie sometimes wondered if the old man’s stories were recollections of an earlier life. Or were they dreams or imagined?

After six months of attending Mr. Smith, he let go of life. Charlie had been reading Dickens to him that night. She went into the kitchen and made herself a cup of tea. When she returned, she looked over and realized her patient had left her.

She walked over and closed his eyes, then reverently kissed him on the forehead goodbye.

She left the room quietly, tears in her eyes. She called his daughter. “Sarah,” she said. “Your dad has left us.”

“I’ll be right over,” Sarah said.

Sarah came and she saw her father and she smiled. “He had a good death, didn’t he?”

“He did. I have something for you.” Then Charlie handed Sarah his stories. “These are for you.”

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5 thoughts on “Near 500 words: The nurse and Mr. Smith

  1. UB, for future reference, a private duty nurse would not read to a deceased person. Private duty nurses are usually highly skilled. She would have noticed right away that he had ceased breathing when she returned to his room with her tea, and checked his vital signs before she did anything else. As a lay person, at attendance when both my mother and my father died, I can tell you that the change is visible if you are observant, and noticeable even if you are not. The people who miss it are those that peak in to the room, and move on. ❤️

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