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Nice to e-meet you! That's internet for Hello. And that's also about as far as I got in planning what to say in this thing...but as a lover of spontaneity and the inability to edit my own words because that would mean actually having an awareness as to the nothingingness that I am about to ramble on about for far too long...I'm just going to go ahead and keep typing. Apparently...

Baby, it's Cold Outside

Originally this was a diary entry that was to stay privately in my diary, but a friend encouraged me to post it so here is a very intimate story told from deep within my heart.

"How do I begin to write about the sadness I feel over a man that I barely even knew.


I don't know what it is about grumpy, unhappy old men but something in me is oh so fond of them. Perhaps it's the thought that I can bring them a little bit of peace that they seem to be missing and the hope that maybe I can show them that world really isn't as awful as it may seem.

Mr B. was just that man.

He was a bitter, frustrated, miserable, and depressed man. He was far from what the average nurse would call an 'ideal patient' but yet he put up with everything that we had put him thorough and believe it or not, he was truly a very kind and warm hearted man.

I immediately took a liking to Mr B. and him to me. I took time my with him and I was gentle. I sat next to him when he was angry and held his hand when he seemed upset.

He would never have said that he needed that, but not once did he pull away. And despite his stubbornness he told me that he only put up with all this medical stuff because I was the one delivering it, and not for a second would he accept any of it, he told me, had it been done by anyone else.

I took a great amount of joy in knowing that, but of course I never let him know it.

On Sunday he had asked me when I'd be back again, to which I told him 'I will be back again tomorrow, Mr B'. and without even making eye contact, he climbed underneath his covers and I could barely even make out under his mumbling, the simple remark 'good.' he said before dozing off.
The next day came and I knew that he was scheduled to go for surgery so I made sure to stop in to room 23 so that I could wish him well before going for his much anticipated operation. He never had any visitors so it was important to me to be there for him. Probably moreso than it was to him.

He looked crushed when he saw me enter the room that day and before I could even say hello he demanded to know where I had been. I told him that I was not assigned to be his nurse that day and I had my own patients to look after. He was not amused.

He said to me in a half joking half angry voice 'But didn't they get the letter I sent that you are to be the only person I ever want again as my nurse?'

I wanted to tell him right then 'you are the only person I want to be my patient'. But I didn't. Instead I made some witty remark, brushed it off, and moved on.

He began telling me that his surgery that was supposed to happen that day had been cancelled for various reasons (now for the second time) and he wouldn't be going now until tomorrow. He denied caring either way but I could tell that he was quite upset about it. In fact, he was more than upset with life at the moment.

I asked him if he was nervous or scared about the surgery at all to which he responded 'why would I be? It's not like its going to help anything anyways. They never do'. And he continued to tell me how he didn't think that he would ever leave that hospital alive, but it was okay, he said, because 'his wife no longer wanted him anyways' so he would have no place to go anyways. He never once said it with the hopes of gaining pity or sadness, it was just a fact and he had accepted that.

I tried reassuring him but I knew that thats what he truly believed. And a part of me really thinks that that really is what he wanted, to never have to face going home. To stop being a burden on people. He spent a lot of time watching and analyzing the other people in his room and secretly telling me which ones were never going to make it out. I think that being a witness of such poor and sickly people really took away any hope that he had at getting better himself.

On Monday he asked me for help dialing his cellphone as he was trying to get a hold of his wife and his shaking hands were a sign that he was clearly struggling with it. I offered to dial for him and as I sat with the phone pressed against my ear.
It absolutely devastated me when ring after ring after ring turned into an answering machine.
He asked 'is it still ringing?' I didn't have the heart to tell him otherwise, but he knew. I assured him that it was just the middle of the day and she had probably gone out for a bit. Maybe, I said, she was out buying him a present. He didn't say anything.

I was determined that she really was just out, and she would see the missed call and call back immediately. How could anyone not?? I went back a few hours later to see Mr Banks lying asleep with his phone next to his pillow. No new calls.

I asked if I could try calling again, as it was later now and she might be back. But again, it just rang.

He brushed it off casually and said quite matter a factly that his wife no longers wants him.

This time I think he really felt that. She no longer wanted to speak with him. For whatever reason, she had completely removed herself from his life and all that was happening. When he needed someone the most, no one was there.

They had been married over fifty years and after all of it, good or bad, she had abandoned him completely. For me, not being able to be that person to be there for him killed me. I could never offer him the support that comes from a loved one.
That night, as always he rang the call bell to have me fix up his blankets as he was always very fussy about having them just right. I don't know how he managed to do it, but every night he would twist himself in knots in those things and get all worked up about it. I would just laugh at him and shake my head. He loved the way I would take each flannel individually over him and tuck him in perfectly. And would always finish by saying 'thank you, love'.
And when he wasn't saying that, he was singing to me. I swear that anything I said to him would somehow turn into song and he would belt out into full lyric. The last night, as tucking him in I made note that it sure was cold that evening, to which he sang 'baby it's cold outside....'

I came onto night shift Monday evening to hear from the day nurses that yet again, Mr B. had a rough day. I made mental note to go spend some time with him before he went to sleep.

In nursing report, we talked quite a bit about how this man has been through so much and I found myself not being able to stop talking about him. The other nurses caught on that I had apparently made quite a bond with him. But for once I was actually glad to not be assigned to him that night. I just had a sense that he was going to have a bad night and it would be emotionally upsetting for me. Instead, I liked the idea of being able to just stop in and talk to him without having to actually be his nurse.

After report, I checked my patients and started doing the necessary things before I could go say hello when a fellow nursing student came into my room and said that they needed help because they couldn't seem to wake Mr B.

My heart sank.
I dropped everything in that second and ran into his room. I gave a sigh of relief to when i saw him visibly still breathing. I called his name as I grabbed his arm and gently stroked him to wake up. I knew it was stupid but I thought that maybe, just maybe there was a small touch of a chance that if he heard my voice he would magically wake up and be okay. I knew it was crazy but I just wasn't ready to accept any other option than wake up and be okay.

I shook him harder. It caused me great anguish to try the pain tactics for getting a response out of someone as the last thing I ever wanted was to cause him more pain. But I did it because at this point waking him up was the only thing on my mind.

Far too quickly for what I was prepared for, the nurse resigned that there was nothing more that they could do. Right in front of him she said that someone should call his family to come say goodbye as he was clearly dying.
How could they say that!? He wasn't dying yet! I've seen people dying, I've been there as people pass away. This wasn't how it happened. It takes a long time and people go through stages. There breathing deteriorates and the patterns change. They hold on until people have had a chance to say goodbye. Mr B. was only just fine less than an hour ago, he still had time, perhaps even days.

The nurses stepped out and I stayed behind.

I grabbed his hand, it was cold. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. I don't do this. Mr B. Don't make me do this. You stubborn old man, stop it!

I looked at his face which was now pale and his kind eyes closed. His lips were blue.

I should have accepted it right then but I was still sure that he had more time. And I knew if I stayed there was nothing I could do and I didn't want to be seen upset.

I went back to my own patients, struggling to do anything. Dropping things and getting mixed up.

I somehow managed to give out some medications and settle my patients to bed when I heard news, less than 30minutes later, that Mr B had passed. I think that the look on my face upon hearing this startled the nurse a little, obviously not being away of my connection to him.

I dropped what I was doing, still thinking it was a mistake, and went to his bedside where they were already cleaning his body as you would to someone who was deceased.

This time his chest was no longer rising and falling and his blue lips no longer grasping for air. He was simply still.

I put my hand on his leg which was still warm but cooling by the minute.

I am good at holding back tears and emotion in times of sadness, but I was dying inside.

I helped to prepare his body for his family to come and say goodbye, still feeling sick and in shock at the whole situation, only to learn that his wife did not want to come say goodbye.

At this point I could no longer hold back actual tears in my eyes and therefore walked away as to go unnoticed. I walked over to the window where my other favorite 'grumpy old man' was sitting on his bedside, obviously not able to sleep with the commotion beside him. He looked at me and asked what had happened to his neighbor (whom he had also become close with, having been in beds side by side for quite some time). I couldn't answer his question. I just looked at him and he said 'he has passed then?' I nodded. The tears in my eyes got bigger. Instead of me being there for this patient who could have easily been traumatized for having been lying down beside a man who has just died, he spoke instead to me with wise words and comfort. He told me strictly not to cry, so I did everything I could not to let the tears fall from my eyes.

I was beyond grateful for him at that moment.

I came back to the room to see Mr B's body fully bagged and I escorted him down to the morgue.

Only for you, you stubborn old man would I voluntarily go into a Morgue.

Goodbye, love. "

8 Responses so far.

  1. So, you totally made me cry at work.

    I hope you're happy.


    I like grumpy old men too.

  2. Ditto!
    Great story B and so beautifully written.

  3. Danielle says:

    There is one grumpy old man who we buy buttons from, and when he calls, I am the only person he will talk to. With everyone else his is mean and grumpy, but with me he is very sweet. He always ends our chats 'You're the Best!' or 'Thanks Sweety'. It melts my heart. Mr. B makes me think of him.

    That was a beautiful story <3

  4. Melinda says:

    That was such a beautiful story. Sorry about your loss. It's people like you who keep people like him hanging on as long as they do though, I'm convinced of it. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. I couldn't read the whole story, but it's written so deeply. I give you my kudos.

  6. "M" says:

    this is beautifully heart-breaking. well done.

  7. these styles on your post are totally my favorite,xoxo

  8. TbR says:

    Well, that was an emotional read!

    I'm glad you like grumpy old men - I'm growing older by the day and each moment that passes makes me considerably grumpier.

    I'm also jealous of your ability to keep how you feel inside - I suppose you need that in your job? I'm completely useless at that.

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