Article Content

In 1978, I entered the field of home healthcare as a registered nurse. I loved the patient care, the one-on-one connection home care afforded me, and I loved to teach. It was not unusual for me to travel more than 100 miles in a winter storm (once on the back of a tractor!!) to a rural farm, there to be greeted by a warm cup of cocoa and a seat by a roaring fire.


Over the years, my patients taught me far more than I taught them. From them I learned firsthand about compassion and commitment, loyalty, and devotion. I felt privileged because it was a true honor to be invited not only into their homes, but also into their lives and the lives of their families. I earned their trust and won their hearts. I witnessed and experienced the lives of so many remarkable people from all walks of life. Some were just like my family; others were so different that I went home thanking God for my blessings.


Gifts were unsolicited, yet those received meant so much because they were given with love and appreciation. Each one has so many memories attached. The most unusual was a gallon of moonshine I found in my car after I had arrived home!! The most everlasting gift I received was trees-a chestnut and a walnut sapling. The 3 bachelor sons of my 95-year-old patient planted the trees in our yard when my son and daughter were born.


At the graduation parties of my son and daughter, their memoirs and awards were displayed on top of my most cherished gift-2 beautifully crafted afghans. These were given to my children at their births by a very special blind patient and his wife.


One week after my daughter's graduation, a peer told me that she had recently seen this woman in a nursing home and she had asked about me. I sent her a picture of my daughter's graduation with that afghan, and I was told that although she remembered very little, she did remember that afghan. She died a week later with that picture on her bed stand. I hope she realized the subtle tribute made to her in that display.


Back then, computers, cell phones, and telemonitors were not the way of life. An "oasis" was any place that offered food or drink and a clean restroom; "485" was my weekly mileage; and a "lupa" was what you made at the end of a dirt road after having made another wrong turn!!


As home care nurses, we remember almost every patient. We collect memories and build our reputations on past experiences. And if we do forget anything, we have only to consult with our peers and then the stories start to roll. We laugh, cry, and pay tribute to those now gone. We gave so much to our patients [horizontal ellipsis] but we took so much more. We called upon our experiences and took what we needed to become the very best nurses we could be. We learned about dignity and how to handle adversity from the very best. These very experiences will benefit us not only as nurses, but as mothers and fathers and daughters and sons, and will be passed on to the next generation. And that is the best tribute we can give to those who taught us so well-our patients.