When I heard the song “Last Time for Everything” by Brad Paisley on the radio, it brought me to tears because I clearly remember the last time that I spoke to my Dad on the morning that he passed away; I told him that I loved him, and he responded as he always did, “I love you more”. At the time, I had a strong feeling that it was the “last time” because he was so ill, but just two days before, when he was having a good day, we sat in the living room together and talked about the usual “stuff” and ate dinner together…I had no idea that it would be the “last time” we did those simple, everyday things. “Things” that later end up becoming cherished memories. The regret is that you wish you said more, stayed longer, and listened closer. The moment when I remember that I can’t pick up the phone to call my Dad to share some news, or talk to him about my day, ask his advice, or laugh about something funny… makes me miss him terribly. Those “last times” become exponentially important when they are no longer a possibility. That’s when it all becomes very sad…and very final.
Nurses are acutely aware of how, in the blink of an eye, a life can be taken, often without any warning. Terrible, tragic things happen all the time… being involved in a car accident on the way to work, enjoying an evening out at a Jason Aldean concert, dancing in a nightclub, even just walking around town… the world can be an unpredictable, unsafe place. Our country is experiencing trying times, and anyone who watches the evening news knows that no one is safe from the potential of harm. Life is cut short for those who are lost, but it is the survivors who have to learn to cope with a new reality and resulting pain. While it is difficult to overcome, it is also a sad fact of life. “No one gets out alive” has been quoted often. The meaning is that we all (eventually) die, and the advice shared is to “not sweat the small stuff”, or not to take things too seriously… which is really hard to do. There are those who are lucky (or maybe more enlightened people of faith?), who are able to not waste time or energy on the draining, exhausting act of worrying; I’m sure they are (much) less burdened with stress, negativity, and insomnia!
Nurses, in particular, are faced with the difficult task of providing comfort to those who have lost someone. They become the survivors…the obituary reads “he is survived by his wife of 55 years, his children, and grandchildren”. Nurses are at the front lines; they know the words to comfort and console. And sometimes there are just no words to be said, and a hug or a kind gesture are the only thing we are able to give to those whose lives are forever changed. What words can ease the pain of a parent who loses a child? There are none that exist. It is unspeakable; unimaginable. Nurses stay strong in times of pain and grief because they must; it is a part of the job. Our patients and families look to us for support and guidance to help them through the worst day of their lives.
If only there was a way of “knowing”. I think that there should be a text message notification from God giving us a heads-up to pay close attention and take it all in, because that’s all we will have left… memories. White Light Alert: “This will be your last day with your father; make it meaningful“. Most times we aren’t aware of the timing and significance of a moment that could be/is “the last time” for something….last time speaking to your loved one, last photo, last Christmas, last birthday, last time saying “I love you”… fill in the blank. There are so many “firsts” and “lasts” that we rarely recognize it until it’s too late. There are many “things” that Nursing has given me, but the most profound has been the gift of perspective. Whenever I have had a rough day, or feeling bad about something that hasn’t worked out the way that I wanted, I walk into my job on the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology/ Bone Marrow Transplant unit and I am suddenly reminded that my life really isn’t that bad afterall… my child (who is now an adult) is happy and healthy, I am physically and mentally able to care for those in need, I get to leave the hospital at the end of my shift, and I have a great job that constantly challenges and inspires me to come back for more the next day.
Paisley, B. (2017). “Last Time for Everything”. Retrieved from Youtube.com
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