How do we measure the value of a life? Is it friendship? Or perhaps the people one touched? Is it the degree to which someone will be missed? Is it all of those or none of those? By any measure, the loss of my friend Kathy is devastating, a loss almost beyond words. And even the heavens are crying for though the earth here has been parched for weeks, yesterday the sky opened up and the rain, teardrops from heaven really, started to fall. Today, the air feels as deep and murky as our hearts, and though words can never capture Kathy’s essence, I’d like to try to share a bit of her spirit.
A Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist in the ED at Boston Medical Center for two decades, Kathy was the quintessential nurse. Efficient, pragmatic, calm, infinitely reliable, and never at a loss for words, Kathy worked tirelessly that last evening of her life. At the end of a twelve hour shift she went home, and died suddenly and without warning. The terrible news, so unexpected, was like a blow to the chest, and we were left feeling numb and disoriented. It was Kathy to whom our patients and the rest of us turned after suffering loss and she always knew what to do or say or what not to say. Over the years, she’s held more than a few – staff and patients alike – while they cried or screamed or fell to the floor after hearing the news that no one wants to hear – that a loved one has died. And she’s done it with an ease and practicality that few among us can emulate. But who is left to hold all of us, to offer words of comfort or hope, to tell us that this overwhelming sadness we feel will pass?
We will comfort each other but there is no one quite like Kathy.
Did we ever tell her that?
That just may be the saddest part of all.