A Nurse’s Encounter With The Unexplained
It was a very busy morning at the Nursing Home. The smell of coffee and eggs mingled with the smells of the aged. I was beginning my first day as a new Charge Nurse at the facility and had arrived to meet with the Nurse Manager to begin the routine orientation procedures. I always hated this part of the new hiring process as it was usually filled with mandatory , amature made company videos of safety procedures and OSHA regulations that I had seen a hundred times.
When I arrived, the Nurse Manager informed me that she had been summoned to an urgent staff meeting and that instead of doing the routine orientation, that she was going to assign me temporarily to assist the nurse assistants and orderlies with basic morning care until she returned. Which I gladly welcomed, as I would much rather have been on the floor working directly with patients than to be stuck in a freezing, cold office watching re-runs of safety videos.
The facility was rather large encompassing 650 beds and was laid out like a grid, in a series of squares that were connected from every direction. If you were to lose your way, you would eventually find it. The Nurse Manager stopped at the first nurse’s station we came to and introduced me to the Charge Nurse and explained to her about the meeting and what she wanted my assignment to be until she returned in about an hour or so.
The Charge Nurse walked with me to the linen closet and told me where the supplies were kept and told me that I could just pick a room and a patient, and take my time as I was an extra hand for the moment. She told me how much she appreciated that I was there, that every little help would be appreciated by her nurse assistants. I filled my arms with linens and supplies and headed down toward the last room on the right. I never start in the middle , it’s too confusing to remember what room you were in, if you should need to return to it. I felt drawn to start there for some unknown reason.
I entered a large room with high ceilings and soft green walls. The windows were large and the morning sunshine streamed in casting a bright warmth all around me. I was surprised at this burst of warmth, as my usual experience with nursing is either, a cold sterile room or a dark and sad one. It was a nice change. There were 4 beds in the room, 2 on each side. Only one of them was occupied.
An elderly gentleman occupied the bed and he looked up at me and smiled. His hair was thick and neatly trimmed and was the color of Colorado snow. His eyes were the most brilliant shade of blue, they almost took my breath away and I felt slightly embarrassed that they held my attention for so long. I had to force myself to look away from them.
He spoke in a strong but gentle voice, “Oh, you’ve finally come, good morning ! ”
I said “good morning” and began to apologize for his wait, but he shush -ed me with his hand and said, “no need to apologize, I knew what time you were coming and your right on time”
I smiled and felt myself relax a bit. But, before I could speak, he said ” I am Jonathan Peters , and you are my Nurse Angel, I have been expecting you. ” I felt my face blush, as it always, embarrassed me when my patients called me Angel, I never really felt comfortable being called Angel, I always felt like I did not deserve the respect that comes with the word. But, it was nice to see that this was going to be a pleasant experience and I graciously accepted it as a compliment.
So many times I had been greeted with scowling faces and cold and sometimes insulting comments from the sick and the old. I tried never to take it personally or let it hurt my feelings, I learned early on that a nurse has to be strong in that respect, if a nurse let’s insults and complaints hurt her feelings she will never survive it. I tried to put myself in my patients position when I was being verbally assaulted. I can only imagine how it must feel to be old and in pain both physically and mentally and often times spiritually. Some had been debilitated by dementia causing diseases and had no idea who they were or where they were or what they were even saying. Some suffered in pain and depression, feeling abandoned and useless. Sitting for hours in their shared spaces day after day, having lost everything they had worked their whole lives to build , only to die sick and alone in a cold facility ward. And some where just plain bitter about everything. They blamed everyone but themselves for their illness and their problems, sometimes including God,,.They were never satisfied with their families or their nursing care. Always ready to throw an insult or a complaint at you, no matter how much you tried to please them or help them.
They were the ones who challenged me the most and taught me the most about controlling my emotions and I would go out of my way to make this type person my “compassion priority”. It was a personal challenge to me to be able to eventually break through their hard shells and get them to open up to me. Being able to do this was my favorite accomplishment as a nurse. I saw so many people get better, once they shed their anger and their bitterness.
But sometimes, they also taxed me mentally and physically. It is an exhausting challenge that takes a strong commitment, that I have to admit, makes you question whether you have chosen the right profession. I had been asking myself this very question for about a month, and had even considered giving up nursing completely . But at this moment, Mr Peter’s had made me feel like there might be hope.
I smiled and said ” my name is Angela and I am here helping with morning care, it’s my first day here and I am just helping out until the Nurse Manager is free to work with me on orientation. I thought maybe you might like to bath and get some clean linen.”
He smiled and took my hand and said ” I’m glad you decided to come.” It was a very odd way, that he said it. It almost seemed, like he knew me and I was supposed to be there, and he knew why, but I didn’t. I shrugged it off in my head and proceeded to get set up for his bath.
When I touched his skin, it was very cold, I almost don’t know how to describe it, it was like, touching frozen ice that has been charged with electricity. It surprised me at first, I asked him if the water was to cold or if he needed me to turn on some heat , but he just chuckled and insisted that he was fine.
We talked some idle, “get to know you”, conversation as I bathed him. He told me that he had been a traveling minster when he was young and had never married. He had no children of his own, but that, he did not regret his choices in life. I listened, happy to give him a chance to just talk.
When I had finished and helped him into the chair, I brought a new basin of warm water, and asked him if he would like to soak his feet, while I changed the linens. He looked pleasantly surprised at the offer and accepted.
I assisted him in putting his feet in the basin to soak. “Oh, that feels wonderful” he said with a smile. Having the time to give a foot soak and have your feet rubbed with lotion, was a luxury I intended to make time for, since I was in no particular hurry to move on. I was enjoying being able to spend some time with a patient one on one. Most of my regular duties as a Charge Nurse did not involve such personal time at the bedside. My days were usually hurried and chaotic trying to handle medication and wound orders, doctors rounds, and dealing with delegating care to the nurse assistance in my charge. Making sure that orders were carried out and documentation was complete. Often times for as many as sixty-five patients per shift, I often times felt over extended and overwhelmed with legalities and family concerns. I rarely had the time to spend one on one with a patient getting to know them personally verses medically. This was an opportunity to do that.
When I had finished changing the bed linens, I gathered some clean towels and got down on my knees at Mr. Peters feet. He looked down at me and tears began to well up in his eyes, as I took his foot and wrapped it gently, in a towel. I asked him, if I had hurt him and he looked down at me, and said ” No, my dear, I am not in pain. It has just been, a long time since anyone has washed my feet. I am overcome with gratitude.” I had not expected this reaction and was unsure how to respond. I said ” I’m happy to have the opportunity to do it, it is not something, that I normally get the chance to do for my patients. ”
He then began to tell me a story from the Bible about how (in John chapter 7 ) A sinful woman of low esteem had knelt before Jesus and washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed his feet with her perfume. That the disciples had ridiculed her to Jesus, not understanding, why? he would let her touch him with her unclean hands. But Jesus rebuked them and made a lesson of them, that she had shown humility, compassion, and kindness in doing so, which none of them had done or offered to do. And he had forgiven her, of her sin, because of her faith and her willingness to serve him. Mr Peters then said ” did you know that Jesus washed his own disciples feet at the last supper? ”
I guess I must have looked at him with a confused look, because then, Mr Peters put his hand on my shoulder. He surprised me when he said ” this day, you have shown the same humility in your heart ,and your actions. This is why, you were chosen to be a nurse.
And this is, you should always remember. We were put on this earth to help each other and to love each other. Every, small thing, that you do for someone else, whether it is a kind gesture or in making sure that they are cared for properly, is your responsibility regardless of your profession. How you do it, and with what motive, is what matters to God. Not giving up, when you are needed, is the true test. We have to rely on God for our strength. He has a purpose for us all, it is up to you to complete the task. In spite of, what you may think, the little things that you do, are appreciated. Even if, the person you did them for, never acknowledges you for them.
There are many, who will never forget ,that one-act of kindness, that you show, and that one-act of kindness, could change that persons path, or way of looking at life. You are God’s servant and he is pleased with the job you are doing.”
I was taken back by his words and his sincerity, and I was not really sure, how to respond.
I said ” Thank you Mr Peter’s that means allot to me.” But I didn’t know at the time what an impact his statements would have on me in the future.
I stood from my position at his feet and assisted him back into his bed. He was very unsteady when walking and unable to transfer alone. He held my hand very firmly and he looked me in the eye, and he said ” Angel, I am glad you came and I know that you won’t give up on what you have been placed here to do”
I squeezed his hand back and said ” No worries Mr Peters, I’m to stubborn to give up that easy ” We both chuckled and then I gathered up my linens and walked toward the door. I told him it had been a pleasure meeting him and he thanked me again for everything. We smiled at each other and then I headed out the door back up to the nurses station.
I saw the Charge Nurse sitting at the desk and I said , ” I finished with Mr Peters bath and he is ready for his medicine, whenever you are.”
She looked up at me with a confused look on her face and she said who? I said Mr Peters in the last room on the right, I just finished his bath and he’s ready for his meds.”
She said “there is no Mr Peters on this hall, This is a woman’s ward and there is not supposed to be anyone in that room, those beds are unassigned.” I was shocked but I said “well, I just spent an hour in there with a man, who said his name was Jonathan Peters and he was definitely not a woman.
She rose from behind the desk and said “come with me, maybe he has wandered from another ward and gotten into the wrong bed by mistake” . We walked to the end of the hallway and when we entered the room, the blinds were drawn and the room was dark and dreary and all the beds were empty and made to perfection. There was no one there. No trace that anyone ever had been.
She said “are you sure, this is the room?” I said “yes, I was just in here a moment ago, but the room as bright and the blinds were up and he was in this bed. I touched him and spoke with him and he was very real”
We searched every room on the hallway and he was not to be found. We went to the computer and looked at the facility roster and there was no one by the name of Jonathan Peters listed as a patient there. I really was in shock, but I also felt very foolish and not really sure what to say. The Charge Nurse just shook her head and said, ” I don’t know what to tell you, there is no one here by that name and I’ve never heard anyone report vagrants entering the building or anything like that. I don’t know how he would have gotten out of there so quick, he would have had to have come past us at the desk in order to leave the unit. Well, just get on with someone else, we have baths to finish up”
I continued out the day with other duties, but Mr Peters was in my mind through most of it. For the rest of my time at this facility I would look for him every chance I got, but I never saw him again. His words to me are forever, etched in my heart .
I can still see his face and his bright blue eyes, just like he was standing here now. I’m not sure who he was, where he came from, or where he went, but I am inclined to think, that maybe, he was a Guardian Angel or a Spirit Messenger of some kind.
He had appeared in my life at a time when I was questioning myself and my purpose of being. He encouraged me, to continue my profession, to not give up on the hardships I would face. And to remember, to keep myself humbled and compassionate.
Whomever he was, an angel, a ghost or a mystical messenger. My life was forever, touched by him and I will never forget his words to me. I am grateful, to have had the experience. Even if, I have no explanation, as to, how it happened. I take comfort in knowing why.
I have no doubt in my mind, that this was a paranormal experience meant for me personally . I will always be grateful to Jonathan Peters for the lessons he taught me and the impact he has had on my life. Whom ever or what ever, he is, or was, I hope that someday, we will have the chance to meet again.
Copyright Angela L Burke 2009 Posted with permission by msspidarkpens.