Jay and I topped off our nursing careers with eight years of team teaching. We had this extraordinary opportunity in large measure because of Sandra.
She was a very supportive boss, who saw the possibilities in teaming up two very different people and letting the good times roll.
We were excited when one day she told us her husband would be in our next class. Bill was not our ‘typical” student.
He was older than some of our post high school youngsters. And he was an active participant in every class.
Having a prepared lecture was of no use when Bill was in class. He questioned and commented on everything.
He dismantled many long standing nursing traditions with either a poignant “why” or a simple but firm statement of “that’s BS!”
Much to our dismay, Bill’s comments were often peppered with profanity. I thought I was fairly well educated in “four letter words,” but Bill expanded my vocabulary.
Often on class breaks he would buttonhole us outside where he was chain smoking and continue his commentary.
We quickly came to see that Bill sincerely wanted to understand and learn. And we and the other students began to learn from Bill. We looked closer at what we were doing and whether it really had meaning.
In fact, that was what Bill was all about. He wanted a life that had meaning and he genuinely wanted that for others too.
When we got to the clinical parts of class, we were a little nervous about going to the nursing home with Bill. We had become used to his off color jokes and raw comments, but we wondered if he was going to be able to rein it in outside the classroom.
We cautioned him about the need to be professional. He laughed it off, grabbed another cigarette, and packed up his stethoscope.
What happened within the walls of that nursing home was amazing. Bill was the most gentle, compassionate and skilled student we had. He connected with the residents on a whole different level.
He listened to their stories and asked them questions about their life. He helped them “mine the gold” from their memories. He left them knowing their lives had meaning.
Back at school, when I gushed over how well he had done, he said, “Hell, you didn’t think I was listening in class? I heard every damn word!”
Bill became our very dear friend in the time after class was over. He was deeply spiritual in a non-traditional way. He thought a lot about life on earth and life in heaven. He wanted to know and live The Truth about both.
Tragically Sandra became very ill. Bill messaged us from her bedside in the last days and told us he was putting his nursing skills to good use.
We all believed Sandra would recover. But instead she went on ahead to Heaven, still blazing the trail for Bill. He was devastated.
Sandra had been his compass, the steadying force and the answer to so many of his life questions.
He called us as soon as he returned from her funeral. We talked for almost an hour while he tried to contemplate life without her.
For all his bravado, Bill needed that steadying force. Fortunately he had a very supportive family, who loved him and did everything they could to help him heal.
But it is not totally true that “time heals all wounds.” Sometimes a heart can only be mended by being reconnected with all its parts.
Three years after Sandra’s promotion to Heaven, Bill became ill and followed her. Bill’s daughter posted “3 years ago today, when Sandra left this earth, his heart was shattered and now he is once again whole. 💔❤️. “
Tonight I remembered Bill all over again as I read his Facebook page.
Facebook is truly a living memorial. Among the jewels from Bill’s life was his loving condolence to us when Jay’s Dad died in 2014. Bill knew even then where he would go. This is what he said.
“May The Lord bless you and keep you, may The Lord be with you during your time of sorrow/rejoice.
He is with God, our Savior. Blessed be he with eternal life that he will welcome you two with open arms, eternal love to my two friends, mentors. The light has been shown, someday we shall see it also, prayers and tears, Bill and Sandra”
Not only did that reflect the real Bill, but also I laugh to re-read what Bill’s daughter quoted him as saying about any funeral plans for him.
‘Don’t have a damn funeral and call it a ‘celebration of life.’ Let whoever wants to know where and when and have a (expletive deleted) party. Call that a celebration of life if you have to. But, you have a (expletive deleted) party!” 😘