Giáo trình

The Healing Tree


Chapter 20

Tác giả: unknown

I closed the pink journal and closed my eyes. Then I started to think about all the people I could pray for. I started with Robbie, and prayed that he would make a good doctor – and that he would never make a bet with the devil. Then I prayed for Maggie, that she was safely in heaven writing poems for the other angels and mermaids. Then I prayed for Mark. And I got stuck there. God was not going to come to me from out of the whirlwind, and God was not going to bring Mark back into my life.

That was my state of mind when the new nurse came in making the final rounds of the evening. Her name was Evelyn – I could see that from her nametag – but I didn’t recall having seen her before. She carried one of those blue plastic trays with the usual assortment of medications.

“Tough night?” She walked over and set the medication tray on the overbed table, then sat down on the edge of the bed. She pulled several Kleenex out of her pocket, used one to dry off my eyes, and placed the rest of them in my hand. I hadn’t even realized I’d been crying.

We sat like that for a few minutes before I finally said, “One of the hospital chaplains stopped by tonight. Andy… Andy...”

“Andy Brennan?”

“Yes. He was trying to be helpful, but I’m afraid I wasn’t very receptive. Or very appreciative. If you get a chance, could you thank him for me?”

“Sure, no problem. I’ll make a point of it.” She pulled a little pad out of her pocket and made a note. “How’s Robbie doing?”

“Uhm, he’s doing just fine. How do you know Robbie?”

Evelyn laughed. “Everyone around here has gotten to know Robbie. You don’t remember me, but I was one of your nurses when you were first admitted. I’ve been filling in on another unit for the past month or so. Robbie is quite an exceptional young man. I know this is hard on you both, but I don’t think you need to worry about your son.”

“I know,” I said, thankful for the handful of Kleenex.

Evelyn picked up the book I’d been reading from the overbed table. “Emily Dickinson. I’ve never read much poetry, but I do remember the one where she compared hope to a bird. Or something like that.”

I nodded at the book. “It’s one of the dog-eared pages.”

She thumbed through the pages and laughed. Almost every page had a bent-down corner. “Would you like me to read to you? A few of your favorites?”

Poems are meant to be heard, not just read. Maggie had told me that was why she always read her poems out loud before giving them to the recipient. I shook my head no. “That’s really nice of you to offer, Evelyn, but I know how busy you are. I don’t want to take too much of your time.”

Evelyn continued thumbing through the book. “Whenever I’m faced with competing demands on my time, I ask this question: What would Florence do? Florence Nightingale founded the profession of nursing. She’s my role model. And I think that tonight, Florence would have stopped to read Emily Dickinson for her patient.”

I nodded toward the blue plastic tray full of pills. “What about all your other patients?”

Evelyn laughed again. “They aren’t going anywhere, and frankly most of them will be perfectly happy to have an extra fifteen minutes before I shove pills down their throats.” She looked up at the clock – it was 7:15 – then back at me. “One of my professors at the nursing college shared a secret that has stood me very well: Slow down on the inside and you can speed up on the outside.”

“Sounds profound. What does it mean?”

“I think of it as the Principle of the Deep Breath. When I slow down and ask what Florence would do, it seems like I end up getting even more done. That’s because it helps me stay focused on what really matters, on what’s really important. Most of us have a lot more time than we’ll admit to, if we would just pay better attention to how we use it. That’s slowing down on the inside so you can speed up on the outside.”

“Maggie told me that having cancer had been a blessing because it forced her to slow down. She said that even though she’d have fewer minutes than she’d once hoped, she was able to stretch out the minutes she did have, and pack more into each one of them. I suppose that’s the same thing, isn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose that’s the same thing.” Evelyn was leafing through the Emily Dickinson book. “Now, here’s a good one: If I can ease one life the aching, or cool one pain, I shall not live in vain. That could be a nurse’s credo, couldn’t it?” She turned a few more pages, then said, “Wow! What do you suppose she means by this: A timid thing to drop a life into the purple well. Purple? Isn’t purple the color of depression? I wish I could get that one across to some of my patients, who seem to have given up on themselves, already dropped their lives into that purple well.”

Evelyn skimmed through the pages. “I’ve always thought poetry was, well, boring, you know, sort of priggish stuff. But this is pretty cool. Want me to read you a few?”

“Sure,” I replied, “that would be nice. But I don’t want you to get in trouble. I mean, reading poetry isn’t in the nurse’s job description, is it?”

Evelyn shrugged. “My philosophy has always been to proceed until apprehended.  I figure if you’re going fast enough, by the time they catch up, you’ve already done what you set out to do.” She turned a few more pages. “Here it is, the hope poem.” Marking her place with a Kleenex, she laid the book down on the overbed table. “Before I start, let’s give you a little something to help you sleep tonight, okay? Doctor’s orders.” She handed me a pill and a cup of water. I swallowed the pill, shuddered, and gave Evelyn back the empty cup. Then she started to read:

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all.

As I drifted off to sleep, Evelyn’s voice merged with Maggie’s voice. I somehow knew that Maggie had picked out the poems for Evelyn to read. And as hope flew be-feathered around my room, Maggie and her mermaid sisters smiled from the other side of the aquarium glass that holds back the universal sea.

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