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When I began working as a visiting nurse, one of my responsibilities was to take over a weekly blood pressure clinic at a senior housing development. It was open every Tuesday, from 10 to 12, and I organized my day around those 2 hours. At first, I figured it would be very easy. How hard could it be to take blood pressures for 2 hours?


After arriving the first day, I realized very quickly that I had to fill some pretty big shoes, as the nurse who was my predecessor, Carol, was well loved by all the residents at this site. I was seen as the one who took over for Carol, and the time was filled with "Where's Carol?" "When is Carol coming back; she knows me?" "Carol did it this way."


Disheartened, I went to my mentor at the agency, Christine, and asked her how I was going to do this every week. She said to me, "You need to be you. You'll win them over." Then she said, "Bring these pens next week, and give them out. You have to do something different, give them something they aren't used to. You'll win!!" And I did.


I began to love my Tuesdays with my "regulars" showing up for their blood pressure checks. Some had serious health problems. Others had minor issues or were using the time to socialize a bit and see a younger face, while they got their blood pressure checked.


Over the years, I developed wonderful relationships with many people there, but one in particular stood out. He was an older gentleman, Joe F, one of the few male residents at the facility. Joe never let me call him Mr. F. He was always "Joe" to me. Tall and fit, he was still handsome despite his years. He was friendly and charismatic, and he loved to joke around and call himself my boyfriend.


Every Tuesday, at 9:55 AM, Joe met me in the parking lot and helped me carry my big box of patient folders inside. After we chatted and joked, he and his wife were first in line to have their blood pressures checked. He always helped me get everything back into my car, and then said, "Goodbye until next week." Each December, Joe and his wife sent me a Christmas card, and I sent them one. I thought of them as friends.


When I left the agency in 1998 to teach, we continued to exchange Christmas cards. I always chuckled, as I pictured Joe's happy face, crew cut, and tinted glasses. A couple of years ago I sent my card, and did not get one back. I knew something had happened. Weeks later, long after Christmas, I got a note from Joe's niece, who had found my Christmas card in Joe's mail. She informed me that Mrs. F had passed away several months before, and that Joe had suffered a very bad stroke, but that he was stable and recuperating. So touched that I had sent them a card, she made sure Joe got it, and she wrote to update me on their situation. I was saddened at the news, but hopeful that Joe would pull through and live to send me a card the next year.


Months passed, and my family and I were staying at a little cabin on a lake in Massachusetts. My husband and kids were out, and I was relishing a moment of peace as I looked out over the icy water from the cozy living room. Suddenly, out of the blue, I thought of Joe. I remembered what a nice guy he was. I smiled at the memory of him meeting me outside, rain or shine. I also thought how wonderful his niece was to take the time to write to me back in December to tell me of their fate. I sat quietly and remembered.


When we returned to Connecticut several days later, I opened the paper and read Joe's obituary. He had died the very day I sat looking at the water and thinking about him. I was not shocked. Rather, I felt that Joe had passed through that day to let me know he was gone. To remind me of him, and to bring a smile to my face one last time. To say, "Goodbye, goodbye my friend."