The other day I was helping a patient. She looked at me and said "I remember you. You took care of my husband. He died, and you were wonderful with my family."
I was a little taken aback, to be honest. This lady was relaying one of the hugest moments in her life and I was racking my brain to remember it. She remembered me, even though we were both at an entirely different hospital than the one her husband died at. I would have expected "You look like the nurse that...." but no, she knew it was me, she didn't have a doubt. Yet, I couldn't place her face.
She told me "You said something to my daughter; who was angry when someone told her my husband was "in a better place", and I will never forget it. You said: 'A lot of people will come to you with cliches that you will hate to hear. Try to remember that these people don't understand that it's normal and natural for you to be angry, in pain and that you need to heal. Don't hate them for their words, love them for their effort to comfort you'."
I do remember saying those words, to an angry woman who was distraught that she lost her dad. In moments of grief and shock, I try hard to be real. I refuse to succumb to cliches, preferring silence if I have nothing to say. I felt honored that this woman remembered my words and that they helped her when she needed it.
That led me to thinking about our words, and the words of others. I thought about how words we speak and hear impact our lives and relationships. I thought about how we need to choose our words wisely and learn how important silence is, as well.
My mom's words, for example, are not words that I can rely on. I have accepted that fact, and from it I have learned that I will try to always stand behind the words I say to my children. My Grandpa's words were wise and while I didn't always agree with him, I honored him and find comfort in the memories I have of the things he said to me. My Dad struggles with words, so I treasure the ones that he offers in his uncomfortable, touching way. My husband has learned, I believe, how important his words are to me and because of that, makes an effort to say them when he would rather be silent, believing I already know them. My friend's words encourage, inspire, evoke laughter and passion and tears.
I think of the words of relative strangers that have impacted me. "You really aren't college material" led me to graduate in the top 10 in my nursing program. "You have a gift" makes me push through when I want to walk out the door of the hospital and never look back. "Your smile is beautiful" makes me put that smile on in moments that I want to wear a pout. "It's such a shame you've let yourself go." led to a moment of clarity and a promise to persevere and finally get healthy.
The words of loved ones are what ring in my ear when I am lonely, scared or unsure of myself. "You are my best friend and I want to spend the rest of my life with you" spurs me on when I am overwhelmed with the work and the bills and the responsibilities that come with "the rest of my life". "Be amazing" is what I say to my children when they are unsure of what lies next. I know they will be, because they are. "Be Here Now" takes me back to the moment, this moment, since I have a tendency to always be thinking of the future and what it needs to give me. "
Sometimes there are words that slip out of my mouth, that I meant to only think and not say. Often those are the words that result in laughter as well as mortification. I thank Nana for that, it seems that I inherited that trait from her. It's what helps make me, well, me and that's OK too. I love my words, I love the words of others and I hope I always grow older, wiser and more content by living with them.