Leave the tender moment alone.
The way to use life is to do nothing through acting.
The way to use life is to do everything through being.
I had noticed her as I walked by the room on the way to see my patient. Jeans, sneakers and flannel shirt curled up on the bed cuddling against what I assume was her sick husband. Despite the tubes and lines, they made space to be near one another.
After awhile, I was out by the nurses station waiting for my primary nurse when she came down the corridor slowly, in a daze. “Are you a doctor?” she asked me. “No, I’m a nursing student…” She looked at me and gazed away, “I don’t know how you all do this every day.” Her lower chin quivered and her eyes grew wet. Perhaps it was something about how ill he was, how hard it was, how overwhelming, unrelenting, and lonely she was. And by extension how hard it must be for us too. I mumbled something about it being different when the patient is not a family member or loved one. She stood there. Here eyes were dark pools in a face that was bearing the sinking that comes with suffering. I felt like putting my arm around her and comforting her, but I did not, aware of my boundaries. I did not know her needs or her situation. Still, she stood there. As often happens in a moment where ‘doing something’ competes with the ‘practice of being’, a response came to me out of the space of that moment. I tapped my shoulder and upper arm, “Here. Lean here”, and she accepted my invitation and leant her shoulder against me as I stood there unknowing. We stood there for a moment side by side. Whatever she carried shifted weight, and she breathed out a sigh and took a deep breath, and stood on her own. She nodded her head and said “thank you.”, and sniffled. “Maybe some Kleenex would help” and I looked around for some for her to blow her nose or wipe her eyes. “Surely this place must have some Kleenex”, I said. But there was none to be seen anywhere.