The Nurses

The Nurses

A Story by Pressed and Prim

A dying man remembers all the nurses he has encountered during the end of his life, while reflecting on how he has lead it.

He was dying. 

The end of his life had come upon him in a flourish of hospital beds, I.Vs and nurses. All those nurses.

He always tried to remember peoples' names, but there were too many nurses to remember.

There was Sherry, who was thin and seemed like work was getting to her. He wished he could give her some advice about not working too hard. That's what caused his arthritis. Too much work was never a good thing; but he knew how hard it was to understand when you probably had a baby and a mortgage to pay for.

Then there was Tina, who always wore a smile, here thin eyes crinkling even when she had to change his bed pans. She seemed eager to please, and he felt bad that he couldn't control his bladder as well anymore. He didn't want to burden people the way he was burdening his children now with hospital bills. But he couldn't tell Tina all those things. His voice had went out weeks ago.

Gina was a little short, but he knew she had skill. The doctors almost never had to tell her what to do, and he figured that's why she was the one they brought with them whenever they read his charts. He figured Gina was most likely studying to be a doctor herself. He wished he had been as determined as Gina, and maybe he would have been able to give a better life to his family, instead of working too hard and not earning enough.

Clarence must have been the prettiest nurse he'd seen. Her strawberry blonde hair probably fell in curls, though she always kept it in a pony tail. He saw that she wore a wedding ring, and he hoped dearly that her husband treated her right. If not, all her beauty would drain away, just like his wife's had. He had realized too late that it must have been because of him that her face looked 20 years older than she really was.

Alyssa was quiet. She almost never talked to him, but he didn't mind. She reminded him of his daughter, that never really talked to him; it was more like yelling. He yelled at her too, most of the time. It was only now that he could not speak anymore that he wished he could tell his daughter that she was smart, beautiful, and had the sweetest voice. He wondered if someone else had silenced Alyssa's voice.

Not all of them were female, of course. There was Brent, who carried the same name as his son. He had a hard time looking at Brent, who seemed like a fine and diligent young man. It hurt too much to see someone that could have been his son, that refused to see him in these last days out of spite, anger, sadness. He had not treated his Brent that well; he realized this now in his later life. Now he was terrified that Brent would end up like him - a life full of regrets. Brent the nurse seemed perfectly happy with his job and he found contentment in that.

And right now he was dying. 

There were many other nurses whose names he could not remember. All the nurses that he had went through during his treatment. Those that had talked to him, those that spared their words. But there was one, he will always remember. Everything except her name.

There was nothing that significant about her appearance really except she had so many freckles on her face. He had never caught her name for she had only been in his room once. But that one time had ended up making an impression on them both.

She must have been ending her shift, she had her phone on her and it seemed like she was rushing to leave. She was probably tasked by another nurse to check on him and she was too nice to refuse. She had been cheerful enough, going over the basics. Her phone rand and she asked permission from him, though he could barely speak anyway and didn't mind at all.

"Mom, I can't talk right now, I'm just heading out," she said in a rush.

Silence, as the other line spoke.

"What about dad?"

Another short silence.

"No. It can't be..." She was breaking out in tears. 

She stood there for a while with the phone to her ear until she said goodbye to her mother. She was still sobbing, and he felt moved to say something, though the cancer had made his throat so weak.

"Miss," he rasped. "Miss?"

"Oh, I'm sorry Mr. Grable. Do you need... Something?" She tried hard to keep her voice leveled. 

He motioned weakly for her hand. She offered it, and he held it. He motioned for her to lean in closer with his other hand.

When she was close enough, he asked very softly, "Did he love you?"

She couldn't quite understand. She leaned in closer and asked, "What was that, Mr. Grable?"

He tried clearing his throat to no avail. But he asked, "Do you feel that he loved you?"

She looked into his eyes. He could not count every freckle spread across her face. Tears welled. She closed her eyes and nodded. The tears streaked down her face.

"Then," he rasped, "he has no regrets."

She broke away from him and cried some more. But it wasn't long before she got herself together to leave. She stopped at the door to say, "Thank you, Mr. Grable. You must have been a great father."

He wanted to say that she was wrong, he wanted to ask her name. But he could not. He had no voice, and she had left. Instead, for the last time in his life, he wept.

He was dying. He could feel the last of the life he had lived draining out of him as the monitor beeped slower and slower. No one was around, and he had expected it. They would gather when he had gone, it would be easier that way. It had always been easier that way.

As he was lying, waiting for his heart to stop as it inevitably would, he found himself thinking of those nurses. They had all helped him, while he was simply a burden to them. It was their job. He meant nothing to them. All the people he was supposed to mean something to either hated him or could not bring themselves to do it. 

That was the life he had led. And now he was dying.

He hoped those nurses, those kind, diligent nurses, would lead a better life than he had.

His heart was at its weakest. The room was becoming fuzzy. The moment was soon.

Just then, someone came into the room and looked over him. It was the freckly nurse.

"Mr. Grable, do you remember me?"

He was able to muster the energy to nod. She smiled, and her freckles changed shape.

But he had to know. He had to know. So he uttered what would be one of his last words.


He hoped that she understood. By some miracle (a powerful force must have taken pity on him) she did.

"It's Alice, Mr. Grable. Alice Brown."

There was some completeness to what she said. He felt he could leave now.

Yet he had to do one good thing, before he went into the light that was crowding his vision. So he told her, "Thank you, Alice Brown."

And then he had stopped dying.

© 2013 Pressed and Prim

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Added on April 16, 2013
Last Updated on April 16, 2013
Tags: dying, life, lessons, nurses


Pressed and Prim
Pressed and Prim


I try to be out of the box. But I usually end up being a hopeless romantic. I write likeChuck PalahniukI Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing! more..