1. Anderson, Maryann RN

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Love Must Follow

"Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Elaine lay in a bed of pain. She weighed probably 60 lbs., illness having ravaged her body. In that bed she was my teacher. I think of her now as an angel of love.



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Elaine had been my patient during the year I spent as a visiting nurse, greeting me each morning with a smile. So I recognized her when she came to the convalescent home where I subsequently worked. I knew what a beautiful home she'd left behind, the pathway of flowers that led to her front door. Her husband of 50 years had been admitted to a neighboring facility. He wasn't ready for convalescent care, but he needed some supervision.


One afternoon, Elaine and I noticed that the bushes outside her window were shaking and shuddering. We watched as her husband appeared through the brush, clumsily trying to move the bushes so he could peer through her window. He didn't think about using the front door; he knew only that Elaine was behind that window.


"The ol' fool," she muttered, irritated. She waved a hand as if to shoo him away. Then she turned slowly to face him, talking to me as she looked at him.


"Oh, it was the hardest thing I ever had to do, leave my daughter in California," Elaine said. "She was grown. But I didn't want to go off and leave her." She paused to catch her breath. "But you have to," she said, looking at me, "you have to go where your husband goes."


Elaine died shortly thereafter. He followed.


Love's Arrival

"We become what we think about all day long." - Ralph Waldo Emerson


"Take that away! I will not take it!" Sara yelled.


She had the right to refuse. I dutifully circled the medication in the log, indicating it hadn't been given. I could have finished my rounds and offered the meds to her later, but something made me go back in-perhaps it was the thought of her sitting all alone in that darkened room.


Her eyes brimmed with tears as she sat on the edge of her bed in a rumpled nightgown, the same one she'd insisted on wearing to breakfast. She was a new patient to me; I didn't know her yet. I sat on a nearby chair and looked at her.


"I was happy here, once," she said. "When Sam was here. We did lots of things. We danced together at the Halloween dance. We held hands. We ran outside and hugged and laughed. And," she paused, eyeing me thoughtfully, "he used to sneak into my room at night. Once, I even fell out of bed! There I was, 75, and Sam a little older, and we fell in love. And then, without any warning, his family took him away." She dabbed at her eyes with a Kleenex.


"Have you tried to call him?" I asked.


"I have tried. I can't," she said. She patted the bed, asking me to sit beside her. I sat and embraced her. Then Sara dropped a little kernel of romantic hope in my heart. Later, I told my daughters what she said.


"I met my true love here when I was 75."


God's Kiss

"The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve." - Albert Schweitzer


My lady drooled. And her tongue stuck out thickly as she drooled. She was wearing a thin hospital gown with faded pink slippers and an old watch that didn't work. With gnarled hands she rolled her wheelchair closer to me. She was trying to talk to me, but I couldn't understand. "She had polio as a kid," said a young aide who tried to be her interpreter.


Suddenly, my lady reached up with those tortured hands and grabbed my lab coat, pulling me down to her face. She planted a huge, wet, slobbery kiss on my left cheek. I stood back and looked at her, repulsed and pleased at the same time.



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I wasn't a new nurse; far from it. I'd seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I'd been all that. I realized this woman needed love. "Ugh, remind me not to kiss you on that side," said my 14-year-old daughter, who'd been visiting me that day. I had meds to pass and charting to do, but I looked at my lady. I called all my ladies "lady." With arrogance and vanity and wishful thinking, I had pursued love all my life. And love was right in front of me. I reached down and gave my lady a hug.


I've always figured that God kissed me that day.