I worked as a nurse for many years. I saw death and grief up close. I always shared grief on some level.
But I have found that now that I am retired, I feel the grief of others even more intently. It is as if I “gunny sacked” some of that grief while I was in the midst of it.
When you are a health care worker trying to save lives, you cannot take the time to fully feel. You have to stay focused. You have to be there for others. You have to be calm, at least on the outside.
One of the dangers of not fully feeling is that it becomes habitual. As patients, we have seen many nurses and doctors who were so emotionally distant we felt we were being cared for by robots.
When I supervised nurses and later taught nursing, I always told them that after taking care of patients, it was essential they take a break.
They needed to feel the enormity of their tasks … their privilege to be a part of it … and also the necessity of releasing their feelings of powerlessness in not being able to control every outcome.
I told them that after every death, they needed to take a few moments and realize they had been at the climax of a life lived on earth. Even if we did not know the patient well, there had been others who did know them and love them.
Today we learned of the death of a 20 year old exercise rider, who fell off a horse at Keeneland.
I did not know her, but as I read the news, I realized there were those who were caught up in grief … trying to process the unthinkable … trying to release hopes and dreams for the future without her.
I was talking to Jay about the tragedy when we went to the lake at Lexington Green. We always enjoy saying hello to the swans, geese and ducks. This time of year is always exciting as new babies are being born.
But tonight was different. As we passed through the parking lot, we saw a duck repeatedly pulling at something. Being curious, we circled around and then got closer.
And there was the continuation of the grief story. The duck’s mate lay obviously dead on the payment. And he was frantically trying to revive her.
He pulled at her over and over again. He put beak to beak as if attempting to give her CPR or gather up all the kisses he would not have in the future.
My heart broke for him. How does one comfort a duck … or a person? Nearby stood another duck, present, but not intruding … being there with his friend and just allowing him to have these final moments of intimacy.
We watched and prayed for them. It is what Jesus asked of His Friends when He was in sorrow in The Garden of Gethsemane.
As the tears came later at home, I realized I was crying for all who grieve tonight. I feel it. I share the burden. I care. I am praying for you.
And I am praying for a little duck who has lost his mate. Jesus said,
“… two little sparrows … not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s leave (consent) and notice.”
I am sure it is true for ducks and people too.