We all have questions

We all ask the questions: When am I going to die? Why did God take them from me? How could this happen to an innocent human being? If we knew when, how, and why, then our bags would be packed and we’d be ready for Heaven.  But, unfortunately, that’s not the case.

As a nurse at AseraCare Hospice, it has taught me that we never know when a life’s journey will end, but we can give each patient the opportunity to live their remaining days, weeks, months with the dignity and respect they deserve, as well as give the family relief, peace of mind, and the ability to spend quality time together with their loved ones.

I would like to share a story about giving and receiving…

On a regular visit with my patient, Ms. Cunningham, she mentioned she had one last wish before passing.  That wish was to visit Lake Cunningham; which was named after her father who was an accomplished US Congressman.  In her heart, she felt this was a way that she could honor him.  While this seems like a simple task to most, it wasn’t for Ms. Cunningham because of her declining health.  With the help of our social worker, home health aide, one of our giving volunteers, a director of nursing, an executive director, and administrative director of nursing we were able to honor Ms. Cunningham’s last wish.

From the moment she was wheeled out of the van there was a light upon her face that told a story of its own.  She was wheeled down to a covered shelter at her father’s lake for her to enjoy the beautiful view.  As the social worker was educating her about the changes that had been made to the lake she stared upon the water, lost in time.  As we all gathered around Ms. Cunningham there was a long moment of silence for her to enjoy and relax at her father’s lake and remember his accomplishments. As the silence continued, she closed her eyes and let the water and the wind relax her.

When she opened her eyes, the volunteer handed her a lucky penny she found on the ground. I then found two more pennies for her and laid them on her lap. To no surprise Ms. Cunningham spoke up and said, “I don’t want those darn things.” We attempted to remove them but she insisted we not touch them. We all started sharing memories and again to our surprise, Ms. Cunningham asked us to all “shut up”.  We did just that. She then raised her hands in the air and said, “Thank you Lord for allowing all of us to have this moment to spend together on this day.”  We held back tears.

As the trip was nearing its end and it was time to head back to the facility, I felt truly blessed. What I didn’t know was that I was going to be blessed again later.  On our way back home, Ms. Cunningham took out her three pennies and put one in her money pouch that she carried around her neck, gave one to me, and one to her home health aide. We tried to return them to her and told her we found these for her to keep and remember this day. She looked up and said to us,

“I want you to carry this penny with you at all times. If you come across a day where you think something is impossible to reach, I want you to rub this penny and remember nothing is impossible. If you feel as if you can’t go on I want you to hold the penny and know that you can, and if you feel you are not important I want you to reach for the penny like you reached out for me.”

At this moment I never realized how much a penny meant in life. The total of one cent yes but the power behind the penny irreplaceable.  I learned that in life it is the little things that matter the most. The smallest gestures that give the most and the honor of leaving the patient with their dignity as I left this visit with my dignity.

Two months later I received the call from my office that God called Ms. Cunningham home. I crumbled for a moment in time and then reached for my penny in my pocket and remembered that this penny was given to me for strength. And it was that strength that allowed me to stand tall and know I could go on to touch another’s life as I had done in Ms. Cunningham’s life.  It was then that my life was changed forever. The ability to wake up and brush my own teeth was a blessing. The ability to get dressed was a blessing. It wasn’t the money, fame, or fortune that made this world go around. It was a smile, a tear, a child’s laughter that meant the most. It was seeing countless smiles on all my patients’ faces that made this world go around in my life.

As I tell this story I want to remind everyone that there is no I in TEAM.

This was a team effort. We at Aseracare Hospice in Omaha, NE stand firm, tall, and proud as a team. Every one of us made this happen simply by doing what we love to do every day.  Thank you, Aseracare Hospice, for this life-touching moment. Most of all thank you to all of our families that allow us to be part of their loved ones’ lives during their final days on this earth. We are truly blessed that we as a team have the opportunity to make a difference in at least one person’s life each and every day.