Hospice nurses work like dogs. But then, this woman has never been a stranger to work.
She’s got strong eyes and wrinkles. Before she landed this gig, she was a hotel maid, raising two children. It was a tough life, but her kids ate.
Then her mother got sick.
“I sat with Mama every day at the end,” she said. “Our hospice nurse was off-the-chain awesome. If not for her, I don’t know how I woulda gotten through.”
Her mother died in the morning. It was raining. The world turns ugly when people die.
That afternoon, she sifted through her mother’s belongings. She found her mother’s framed high-school diploma. The glass was broken.
“That’s when it hit me,” she said. “Mama always wanted me to go to college. You know, have the opportunities she never had. Well hell, I never could. We’d always been so poor.”
Anyway, she hadn’t always been a hotel maid. At eighteen, she’d fallen into the role of a wife. He was a pipe-fitter. She gave him two kids and hamburger steaks over rice each night. Things weren’t great, but they were okay.
One day, he didn’t come home. He sent his girlfriend to collect his things. There was a fight. Cops were involved.
She moved in with her mother, she looked for jobs in the newspaper. After a few years of making hotel beds, they were almost a happy family. Almost.
Then her mother’s diagnosis.
“It felt like my life was over,” she said. “I was like, ‘God, how much more $%#* can you throw at me?'”
So she threw it right back where it came from.
She enrolled in community college. She applied for student aid. She worked full-time, studied. She managed to keep everyone fed.
Her seventeen-year-old son contributed toward rent, her thirteen-year-old daughter cooked. At night, she helped the kids do homework. And when she opened nursing textbooks, they helped with hers.
“Don’t think I realized how hard it was gonna be upfront,” she said. “And I’m glad I didn’t.”
Now, she helps folks who are near the end. It’s a heavy job, watching people die. But they say she has a gift for making it easier.
And she’s seen things. Unexplainable things. She remembers one of her first patients. He was on his way out. His eyes closed. He told everyone in the room he was floating above the house.
“Hey,” he said to her. “That must be your car, the green one.”
It startled her.
“I’d always parked at the end of the street,” she said. “There’s no way he could’ve known that.”
But he did. And it did something to her. In the moments before he left this world, after he’d said goodbye to family, she leaned close to tell him something:
“Please tell my mama we’re doing alright.”