Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Love is the Bridge Between Us

 

As a public health nurse, I often work with refugees, dragging my nursing bag into their humble low-income housing. Years ago, I had a final visit with a family that I had worked with for many months and that experience was one that I will never forget. 

I remember shaking the snow off of my nursing clogs as I entered the very warm apartment. This family had come from a very warm country and had not yet acclimated to cold Iowa winters and they kept their apartment as a warm oasis from the winter’s cold bite. I felt the tension the moment that I walked in the door and noticed the sadness in the eyes of each of the family members who greeted the interpreter(there to bridge the communication divide) and I at the door. Emotions were high on this final visit, as the family had become very attached to me (and I to them). There is a bitter sweetness to final visits and we were all feeling that-- the joy of the family no longer needing a nurse and the sadness that our journey together had come to an end. We went through the familiar motions of our visit; weighing the baby and scheduling doctors’ visits and talking through any needed education so that the family can live their best life. And, too soon, the visit was over and our time together had come to an end.

As I stood to leave, the mother motioned for me to be silent. She said, through the interpreter, that she would like me to not say goodbye this time-- it was far too emotional for her and she would like to think that we would meet again. In fact, she was certain that we would be together again in the after life.

She motioned for me to come over and stand by her and then motioned for her children to encircle us. I could tell by the children’s immediate move into position and the confident smiles on their faces that this had been practiced before my visit. The children were so excited that they were teeming with energy, bounding on the balls of their feet as their mother chided them with a smile, asking them to stand still.

She took my hand in hers, her dark skin contrasting completely with my blindingly white skin, and told me that we were sisters now. She said that, in her former country, when someone helps your child that you are bonded to that person for life, that life could never separate you. At this point, she began to cry and, even though I was willing myself not to cry, I could feel the wetness on my cheeks that let me know that I was failing. She stepped away from me for a moment, attempting to wipe her cheeks surreptitiously, and came back with an intricate incense burner, which was reminiscent of the one that had been used in my childhood church.

Her children began to sing a song together-- the words in a language unknown to me, but somehow known to my heart. She smiled her gratitude to her children and brought her focus back to me. She began to swing the incense around me, enveloping me in a cloud of pungent sweetness. She began speaking quickly over me, the interpreter struggling to keep up with her words.

May you live a life of peace.
May your children and your children’s children live a life of peace.

May you live a healthy life.
May your children and your children’s children live a life of health.

May you live a life of abundance.
May your children and your children’s children live a life of abundance.

The words were spoken over and over again. Incense rising. Children’s voices singing sweetly. My client, the interpreter and I were wiping our leaking tears and smiling through them. I could feel the invisible strings that connected us all together in that precious moment. 



I felt the intention of each word spoken over me and felt the words fall around me, as heavy and comforting as a thick blanket on a cold night. I believed with every atom of my being that she wished so very much for these blessings to be true that they would be.  She had no way of making sure that these intentions which she spoke over me would come to fruition and, yet, the words were bursting with the power of dynamic, heartfelt yearning.

When she was done, I looked around the tiny, shabby apartment filled to the brim with children. It was so full of love that I wondered how it could be contained by these cracked walls. I knew in my heart that I had done many things for this family in the past year, much more than was in my job description. I knew solidly that they were in a much better place than when I met them. I also knew that they had taught me much more than I could have ever reciprocated.

I gathered my nursing bag and headed for the door, quietly putting my shoes on while continuing to wipe away tears. I would not say goodbye. I was certain that she was right and our paths would cross again, even if it was just in the memories passing through are minds. Goodbye was not a word that would suffice the end of the visit.

Instead I gathered every bit of intention within me and I said, as I was crossing the doorway echoed by the interpreter behind me-

May you live a life of peace.
May your children and your children’s children live a life of peace.

May you live a healthy life.
May your children and your children’s children live a life of health.

May you live a life of abundance.

May your children and your children’s children live a life of abundance.

34 comments:

  1. This is absolutely beautiful. How lucky you were to have such an emotionally rich experience with this family.
    Carol Cassara

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  2. So completely lovely. A mother's love is priceless!

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  3. I'm sure that family will never forget your involvement with them. Kudos to you!

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  4. Such a touching story!!! Bless you all <3

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  5. I am so glad to get a glimpse into your world and this apartment. Thank you.

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  6. Beautiful! It must be amazing to have a job where you get to touch people's lives with kindness and they touch yours as well. <3

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  7. A beautiful and uplifting story, thank you! We have so much to be grateful for.

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  8. Oh my gosh, Mandy, this is so beautiful and your words and description so eloquent! Very touching and brought tears to my eyes. Your career as a nurse shines in your compassionate spirit! Thank you for sharing this!

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  9. Such a wonderful story and so beautifully told.

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  10. That is so lovely. It must be a very rewarding job to do.

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  11. I've never done home health nursing Mandy, but you have brought it to life in this piece. What an impact you had on each others' lives. Lovely story.

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  12. I relate so much to this experience because I have been teaching ESL to immigrants--everyone from well-off professionals to penniless refugees--for 15 years and it is the most enriching experience. you very frequently receive so much more than you "give." And the biggest lesson you learn, as you have so beautifully shared here, is that love, kindness and gratitude have their own language, understood by the heart.

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    1. I'm so very grateful for my patients and the lessons they teach me.

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  13. What a beautiful expression of gratitude. A gift better than any others I can even imagine! Lovely story!

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  14. What a beautiful picture of how cultures can enrich each other instead of the images we have thrown at us by the media every day. Wouldn't it be amazing if all our interactions could be like this?

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  15. This was beautiful! I am sure that it helps you appreciate what you do as a public health nurse

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  16. This is beautiful. What a privilege to have such direct impact on their lives as they enter the country.

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    1. Thank you! It certainly is a privilege.

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  17. This is such a lovely post. It is so hard to find such genuine, loving people these days. I hope you all treasure that memory and I hope one day, somehow, you may see them again.

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