It’s been a few years since I’ve seen her, but I’ll never forget “Grace”. I don’t remember what her diagnosis was, or even her real name. She had been in the hospital for a few days already when I heard of her.
It was the end of a tough week. The supervisor made her rounds, and stayed a bit longer than usual. She told me about this patient, an elderly lady, who I needed to visit. I’m a labor and delivery nurse. We didn’t make a habit of visiting patients; certainly not elderly patients on medical floors. The supervisor told me “Go, you’ll be glad”. So we went.
When we got to the room, there was a nurse just leaving. As she went out, we walked in. The woman was tiny, with thin white hair and an angelic smile. As I walked to the bed she lit up, and cried “Well hello dear! Don’t you look lovely. Have you lost weight? Surely you must have. You look so nice”.
I think she was as we say “pleasantly confused”. She was clearly delighted to see me, or whoever she thought I was. I had a lovely visit with her. She was so happy, and kind. My whole night improved, all from a few insincere but well intended compliments.
Over the next couple of weeks I went to visit her several times. She always seemed so happy to have a visit. She gave compliments and smiles to all who came by. She was very popular with the nurses. I’m not sure if she ever had a single visit from an actual relative. I’m very sure she had more visitors that the other patients. Especially at night.
Eventually, “Grace” was discharged. I really missed her. She gave me so many lovely moments, In addition to all the compliments, she gave me some important lessons. The value of a compliment. The power of a smile. The importance of aging with grace.