" And what do you do for a living?"
I'm on the train to London and the question came from a woman sitting opposite me half an hour ago.
She is middle aged and is dressed well. She is going to visit her son who lives in Chiswick .
I already know that his name is Harry, that he is a successful urban landscaper and that he has a partner called Luis.
She's a chatter, so I am now pretending to work on my tablet. We have already covered a great deal of mutual information swapping and we are only at Crewe!
" I'm a retired nurse" I told her, and the phrase suddenly felt rather odd being spoken out loud.
My companion wanted to hear some nursing stories and I was happy to oblige her.
I, as you know, love an audience.
I told her about Finlay pulling a patient's tracheostomy tube out. The amusing tale of how we nurses used to take our spinal injury patients out to the pub in their wheelchairs to get pissed and the story of how an elderly senile patient died on a minibus outing to Delamere forest without any of us noticing.
Stock stories all well rehearsed .
She then asked me what my saddest memory of nursing was and this brief memory popped into my head out of the blue.
I shared it as we drank our coffee.
My father died in 1990, just as I was in the middle of my accident and emergency placement as a post registered student nurse. He had a sudden heart attack, so when I returned to work after his funeral I was rostered to work in the minor injuries department as it was thought that " majors" was a little too stressful.
One morning a junior sister from majors rang down to see if there was a nurse free to help her with a job and so I volunteered myself to go. The job, as it tuned out was the "laying out" of an elderly lady who had been brought in dead after collapsing in the city centre whilst out shopping.
I remember that the sister had an incredibly strong Scottish accent.
Anyhow, Our job was to tidy her up before her husband arrived from home.
The husband, who was in his eighties duly arrived and I left the sister to take him behind the curtains to see his wife.
I had only been gone fifteen minutes or so, before the Scottish sister sought me out again.She looked upset but was composed. " I need you to help me ! The husband wants us to do something for him!"
She explained the husband's request and asked if I was up to it.
We returned to the cubical where the man sat quietly with his wife.
He was dressed neatly in a shirt, tie and pullover I remember
I stood on one side of the bed and the Scottish sister stood on the other and after a nod, the old man climbed awkwardly onto the bed and lay almost on top of his wife, with his head over her shoulder.
The sister motioned to me and we each took one of the woman's arms and gently wrapped them around the man's back as he started to cry.
He had asked us to help him have a last moment in his wife's arms