Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
The RN at the nursing home screwed up her face in disdain. He's so gross, she said. Can you imagine having to give him CPR? she asked. I'd vomit, she said. He's a monster, she said.
The person in question was a man named Larry. He was one of our youngest residents. He was probably 30-something. He had some kind of disease or disorder – I never knew what it was – that was increasingly debilitating. He had raised red birthmarks covering most of his face, in addition to large pustules, mostly on his face and back. He quite often asked us to scratch his back. I know he was uncomfortable, but I didn't see much being done to help him feel better.
Larry was also kind of annoying. No matter how many times we showed him the procedure for using the call light, he wouldn't do it. When he wanted something, he called out MA'AM MA'AM, over and over in his whiny nasal voice.
I think I was patient with Larry. I hope I was. He was one of the patients I put into bed first during the evening because I knew he was uncomfortable sitting up.
But I found the sight of his face disgusting. I saw a lot of nasty things in the nursing home, such as bedsores that went down to the bone, but it was Larry's face that bothered me.
Then on Christmas Eve I was working with my friend Lynn. We had always gotten along well.
Before Lynn left for the evening, she visited all of her patients, giving them a goodnight kiss and wishing them a Merry Christmas.
She did not skip Larry.
After that I noticed that every time she went off duty, Lynn kissed her patients goodnight. If Larry wasn't her patient, Lynn made a special visit to his room to say I love you before sealing it with a kiss.
Lynn never belittled a patient. She never said that Larry was gross and annoying. Her love was completely unconditional.
I was never able to kiss Larry, but I learned from Lynn's example. I tried to see Larry as a person, and not as a face at which I didn't want to look. I took more time to scratch his back and rub lotion on it.
Lynn, I don't know where you are now, but I'm still grateful for you. You set such a good example, without criticizing any of the rest of us.
Infinities of love,