A little while back, I had a really rough day at work. It made me think about a lot of things, and I thought I’d share some.
I work as a nurse on an oncology (cancer) floor. When people discover this, their first reaction is usually, “Oh, that must be so depressing.” And for a long time, I would brush it off, and respond with a “No, not really. Not all of our patients are dying.” But to be completely honest, for a while, work was pretty depressing.
There were three days in a row that I worked that really took their toll on my spirit. While not all of our patients are deathly ill, there are a good number who are. Those three days, I was assigned to patients that I was informed would probably not make it through my shift. I am not afraid of people who are ill; if I were, I would not be a nurse. However, I cannot stand to see people in pain and not be able to do ANYTHING at all to make them more comfortable. It hurts to see the families hurting, and it hurts to know that I am helpless to fix life.
The last of the three days was the one that kind of broke me. One of my patients was an elderly man, and the nurse the shift before me told me that there was no way that he was going to make it through my shift; he shouldn’t have lived through hers. At this point he was just on comfort measures, which means that we tried to make him as comfortable as possible while we waited for him to die.
Every time I went into his room to give him medicine or to check on him, I could hardly stand to be in the room for more than a minute or two because he sounded like he was drowning, which is not uncommon for patients who are dying. He was struggling to breathe, and with every breath, I could hear him gurgle. I asked the other nurses if there was absolutely anything else that I could do to make him feel better, and all of them would tell me that there wasn’t anything else to do. I gave him pain and anti-anxiety medicine, he had a medicine patch to try to get rid of some of the congestion, and I turned him every so often. And that was all I could do.
At one point, I went in the room and talked to him while I was giving him his medicine. He sounded so awful and was so restless that I just couldn’t take it, and tears started rolling down my cheeks despite my strongest efforts to refrain from crying. I left the room as soon as I could.
Once when I went into the room, there was a man and a little boy sitting on the couch. The man was my patient’s nephew, and the boy was his grandnephew. I was getting his medications ready, when the little boy, who was about 5 years old, asked me, “Are you gonna wake him up now?”
My heart broke. “No, I’m going to give him some medicine to make him more comfortable though.”
I continued taking care of my patient, and the little boy kept asking me questions that somehow always led back to his original question, “Are you gonna wake him up now?” I tried desperately to ask the boy questions to get him to think about something else, and every time he would ask me the dreaded question, I would reply that no, I couldn’t wake him up right now. I don’t think I’ve ever had a more painful encounter with any patient or patient’s family.
When I finally left the room, I was drained. I thought about the little boy’s question, and I saw a parallel between that little boy and myself. So often when things in life seem wrong to me and I don’t understand, I ask God the little boy’s question, though in different words. Because really what the boy was asking me was, “Are you going to fix things now?” He knew that his uncle should not be the way that he was, and he wanted me to wake him up, to make things right again.
When life seems broken and upside down, I often ask God, “Are you going to fix things now?”
And after my encounter with this small boy, I realized how painful that question must be for God. I wanted so badly to tell that boy that yes, I will wake him up now and he’ll be his usual happy self. I wanted to fix things for him, but I couldn’t. I think that in some ways, it’s similar with God.
Every time I plead with God to fix things because I know that all is not well in the world, I’m sure it breaks His heart to have to answer, “No, I can’t fix it just yet.” I know it must hurt God to have to see the ones that He loves hurting, and I’m sure that just like me, He wishes that He could wipe away all our tears and make things right.
Thankfully, one day God will make everything right again, and God will wipe away all our tears. We will be home with God, resting safe in His arms. And we’ll never have to ask the painful question, “Are you gonna wake him up now?” again.
"For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."