I had a bit of a “moment” about midway through my shift the other day. I was walking down the hall and all of the sudden I felt that tickly feeling sneaking up behind my eyes. I blinked a few times and kept walking because there was just no time for that right now.
I had five sick patients waiting for me.
That tickly feeling kept building, though, no matter how much I blinked, no matter how fast I walked. It was coming – just like a speeding freight train. And there was absolutely no stopping it at this point.
Before I knew it, the stress of the shift … the stress of dealing with my own illness … the stress of my family’s last few months … it all just started spilling out of my eyes and rolling down my cheeks.
Right there at the nurses’ station.
I looked at my charge nurse and told her that I was just not okay at that moment.
She and the rest of my work family – they all know my struggles – they all stepped right up there with the best hugs and offers to help with my patients, even though they were crazy busy themselves.
This is how we do it in nursing, my friends … teamwork. It’s our most important survival skill.
So these sweet people gave me some time to go let out all that stress because apparently it was determined to come out, anyways. Even if I blinked really fast, and walked even faster. Even if there was just no time for it right now. It didn’t care. That stress was seriously going to come out. Right now.
Then, as I was finally able to pull myself together to finish out my shift, I remembered another meltdown that had happened in just about that same spot a few years ago. Except that time it wasn’t me, believe it or not. It was actually a patient of mine.
He was this big, strong middle-aged guy who I had been taking care of for the past few days. His two grown sons had been in the room with us much of the weekend, so I had gotten to know all of them pretty well, by this point.
Their dad had some weird, mysterious illness just hit him from out of nowhere. One day he worked as a contractor, the next his body started losing strength by the hour. None of our specialists had been able to figure out what was wrong with him, so he was being transferred to a research hospital that day for further testing. He was now lying on a stretcher in the hallway, all strapped in for transport.
We were talking as we waited for the elevator, and out of nowhere this big bear of a man absolutely fell apart crying. He was suddenly terrified of what may lie ahead for him. I’m sure the fear had been building for days, but suddenly he just couldn’t hold it in any longer.
So … out in the middle of the hallway … right in front of the nurses’ station … with his sons standing there watching in horror … this giant man completely crumbled.
I was so shocked – we all were. I didn’t know what to do – so I just asked if we could all take a moment and pray together. He reached up, grabbed both my hands, and just sobbed.
That was one of the most raw, authentic moments of prayer I have ever experienced as a Christian. This giant man – who could now only lie there basically helpless – was holding my hands as tightly as his weakness would allow, desperate for comfort … for answers … for healing.
It was all I could do to hold myself together as I lifted him up to Jesus.
And while I don’t know what ultimately happened with this patient, I do know that when those elevator doors closed, he seemed soothed with the peace of God’s presence. Quieted with the certainty that He was not alone. Softened in that sweet comfort of knowing he was being held. And he always would be. No matter what his future looked like.
At least for that moment I truly believe he felt this.
I pray that same assurance for all of us who bear those silent burdens – the ones that nag the back of our eyes sometimes. There are moments where we can keep them tucked in and muscle through life like everything is simply great, and moments when we just can’t. And that’s okay.
We have to let that be okay.
Even if it happens at the nurses’ station.
Or even if it’s somewhere worse.
It doesn’t matter.
I believe we have so much to learn through each other’s tears. Really, when we hide them, we’re actually not only isolating ourselves, we’re also robbing others of the experience of comforting.
I believe this is an art worth fostering in the harshness of our society. I think we work so hard to hide our struggles, that not only are we feeding the anxiety that’s plaguing our world, but we’re also losing the ability to empathize with others who hurt.
I see it all the time, inside the hospital and out. Many people will distance themselves from someone in pain simply because being near it makes them uncomfortable. It’s not contagious, you know.
This is so sad to me. Not only for the one suffering, but even more so for the one who is afraid of it. There is nothing to fear in pain, my friends. There is actually stunning beauty down in there, if you look for it.
Just lean in close, wrap that precious hurting one in a gentle hug, and lift them up high to Jesus. There is nothing more beautiful than that. For either of you.
Thanks for growing with me. ❤
“’Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God.” (Isaiah 40:1)