Thursday, 11 October 2018

Tankard

I've always liked cleaning silver
There is something intensely satisfying in the transformation from tarnished to gleaming that pleases me greatly.
Last night I switched off the television and cleaned the silver whilst listening to music.


This little silver plated tankard was given to me in 1989..
It's sat on a shelf in every home Ive had since then
It was gift from the partner of a patient I nursed.
And it was a thank you for a kindness perceived
But it wasn't a kindness.
I'd been party of doing the right thing.

I don't remember the patient's name but I do remember that he had suffered a catastrophic series of  strokes at the relatively young age of 60. He had been placed in a side Ward on the busy medical ward I was allocated to and he was dying.
The man's sisters and their husbands were in attendance and it was a night shift, as I recall.
The dying man was gay, a fact that had come to light only to nursing staff during his admission when a closeted older partner had visited unbeknownst to any of the family members.
The nursing staff had managed to negotiate a tricky job of supporting both parties admirably but In the last new hours of the patient's life, his biological family, took over the vigil at the bedside with the " friend" having to take an aseptic role of visiting old friend.

Louise, the senior staff nurse in charge and I hatched a plan that night when the tearful partner turned up at the back corridor of the Ward after being informed his lover was now " being made comfortable"  The plan was simple enough. I pretended to find that the patient's catheter was blocked on my rounds and asked the family to leave the room so that I could change it. The proceedure, I told them, would take a little while. Louise marshalled the family and showed them to a " family" room away on another Ward which had suddenly been found free by the conspiratorial senior nurse officer on duty. They were then provided with tea and sandwiches
As the family were escorted out  by one of the auxiliary nurses, I ushered the partner into the side room via the nurses office.

All this perhaps sounds a bit larky, but the reality and pain of the situation became only too real to Louise and I when the visitor started to cry as he lay down next to his partner of God- so-many years. It was the first time I had seen a man kiss another man properly and with feeling on the lips, and the fact that both men were " elderly" seem to make the whole moment that much more poignant
The two men were together for over an hour, saying their goodbyes.

I left the Ward soon after and was tracked down by Louise when I was in nursing class a week or so after that. The nursing school was on the top floor of the Sheffield hospital only a floor away from the
Ward I worked on, and Louise was in full uniform when we caught up. She gave me the tankard which had been wrapped carefully in black tissue paper and ribbon and she was tearful.
It was a thank you gift from the partner of the patient who had died later that night . Louise and the conspiring auxiliary nurse had been given similar personal gifts for their roles in the deceit , gifts which she had accepted against hospital policy.

But gifts that were so gratefully given.


105 comments:

  1. Such a moving story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Made sadder by the partner who seemed resigned to his 2nd best role

      Delete
  2. Oh dear! Soft sod that I am - I had tears in my eyes by the time I finished reading this blogpost. It is easy to understand why you still cherish that tankard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I teared up too.

      Delete
    2. As I read it aloud to my husband I was sobbing too. Just SO sad to have to endure.

      Delete
  3. Touching story. I am always glad to hear of human decency in action. A nice reminder it is out there still in small actions we all do.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What a wonderful example of whole person nursing care, you guys did a wonderful thing that night.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What can one say but you did really good.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous12:15 pm

    Love flowing.
    Elsewhere from amsterdam

    the aseptic role... Ouch.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous12:18 pm

    You and all others involved did what has been lost so much these days - compassionate care. It all goes back to what I was taught as a child and have always tried to sustain throughout my life. 'Do as you would be done by'. I commend you all and hope that just a little of your care and compassion might rub off onto others (- no names mentioned). You are a good man John and that's what matters. May you continue to be richly rewarded by the love and support of others.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Beautiful story.
    p.s. I've always liked cleaning silver too.

    ReplyDelete
  9. And the family had no idea? I can't imagine what it would have been like for that man and his partner to have to keep the secret for so long. He must have been very grateful, indeed. -Jenn

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a different eorld for msny then

      Delete
  10. A beautiful act of compassion in a world that too often had none for gay couples.

    ReplyDelete
  11. The world needs you and many more like you. (And put in writing and talk with your family and friends what your end of life wishes arehttps://travelpenguin.blogspot.com/2018/10/it-is-your-life-and-death-failing-to.html )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Things were vert different thsen david .

      Delete
  12. Lovely, loving story . . .
    Thank you for keeping that ‘tankard’ shiny . . .

    ReplyDelete
  13. Cleaning the tankard is a way of keeping their memories alive. Well done John.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This one made me tear up.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Living to everyone else's expectations can be so hard, you are such a compassionate man, our world needs more people like you. The ones who judge are often lacking in compassion.

    ReplyDelete
  16. you are a lovely person xx

    ReplyDelete
  17. Islandmaid1:54 pm

    What a lovely story, thank you for sharing it

    ReplyDelete
  18. I should have known better than to read something like this first thing in the morning. Now my eyes will be swollen and red all day :)
    There is nothing more precious than kindness. The smallest kindness can make such a difference, one way or another. I can look back and remember so many .. how long the nurses let me stay with my husband, long after his heart had stopped beating .. living with someone for so many years, how can there be a quick goodby ??

    ReplyDelete
  19. Of all the books I read about AIDS, episodes like this really affected me. So many sons dying and families took revenge on the partners, barring them from hospital rooms, throwing them out of homes they shared and taking money and possesions.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I hate cleaning silver ! Nice story though.

    ReplyDelete
  21. oh John. how sad for the dying man and his love and how kind and heartfelt of you and the rest of the nursing staff. I doubt anything like that would have happened here where we are such stuck up and hateful prigs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As far as we knew the patient was totally unaware but you never know

      Delete
  22. As you said, John, it was the right thing to do. This was a beautiful story, and inspires kindness.

    ReplyDelete
  23. God that is heart breaking. At least they had a little time together. I do hope the world has changed for the better, Love should be celebrated in all its shapes and forms x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank god we have all come. A long way from that closeted existence

      Delete
  24. This bought tears to my eyes too. How kind you all were in such a difficult situation.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Barbara Anne2:59 pm

    May this poignant story resonate throughout the world. Creative caring and kindness should be hallmarks of all jobs the deal with others. You know that patient's partner remembered you and the rest of the people involved in this great gift of closure for the rest of his life. The tankard says so.

    See how very, very long you've been a deeply good person? That's true, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I took my lead from Louise that day

      Delete
  26. Replies
    1. Pull yourself up by your bra straps mave

      Delete
    2. There's so much sadness in the world and age is making me more susceptible to distress/injustice and the general malaise that is human nature. The world is a horrible place and I want to get off the ride.

      Plus my bra no longer fits dear.

      Delete
    3. There's still an awful lot of goodness in the world too Mavis. Oh, and my bra straps gave up the ghost ages ago - but at least I have warm knees. Anna

      Delete
  27. You've written a lot of moving posts John, but this is the first one I've cried at.
    Thank goodness for authentic compassion

    Sarah

    ReplyDelete
  28. Wonderful story, John. Hope you're doing ok. Invite's always open, though winter seems to be here, snow, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Wow, what a story. You've had some amazing experiences in your professional life!

    ReplyDelete
  30. We have come a long way, but I’m sure there are still families like that. That was only 29 years ago. My hope is that we continue to learn kindness and acceptance of those that are different from ourselves.
    My only exception would be for Trump and his cronies. They are a bunch of greedy bastards that don’t deserve to breathe.
    Any questions?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's pray that with the appointment of Kavanaugh things won't be taking a step backwards in the US!

      Delete
  31. That's both terribly sad and so uplifting equally.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I'm crying for both of them today. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Helen5:30 pm

    I agree that you are a kind and compassionate man John, however I wouldn't like to think that hospital staff could be lying to me about a loved one, even something like a blocked catheter. Hatching a plan, scheming, whatever words are used it was still a lie to the relatives. All done in compassion for another but still....
    Imagine how that family would feel if they'd found out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They didn't . If we did nothing..would not that have been worse?

      Delete
    2. Also should have added thepartner WAS family

      Delete
    3. Helen, what about compassion from the man's family toward the couple? The family failed to have compassion for their family member and his partner, not only in death but in life; the consequences of that should come back to them if to anyone.

      Delete
    4. Helen8:21 pm

      Jenny according to John's post the family did not know that the man was gay, their knowledge of the man visiting him was that he was a friend. So there was no failure of compassion for either their family member or his partner. Nowhere in his post has John said that the family excluded the "friend" from visiting. It would be normal for the family to be at the bedside to maintain a vigil and for the friend to just visit. Nobody knows what would have been the result if the man had chosen to tell his family he was gay and it is wrong to accuse them of being unkind.

      Delete
    5. The decision was damage limitation .
      At least the partner was there to share a physical goodbye. I wasn't there when the patient died I think it was sometime the following afternoon

      Delete
    6. You're a kind man John.

      Delete
    7. No Helen it was a weird situation which some of your comments outlined well...we just wanted to make the best out of the situation

      Delete
    8. Thank you for your comments

      Delete
    9. My apologies if I read lack of compassion into the fact that the patient and his "friend" had never made their relationship clear to the family.

      Delete
  34. (0)
    This story is pure y0u.

    ReplyDelete
  35. What a sad, sad story. What a good thing you and the other nurses did. <3

    ReplyDelete
  36. Your kind heart never ceases to amaze me.

    ReplyDelete
  37. A beautiful story John. Perhaps one for that book I am sure you will write one day.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Anonymous6:32 pm

    Every time you feel that you are not as good as someone may tell you are, do not say anything. Just remember how you managed to give a moment of happiness in a world of pain to two people, and that will with or without the gift tell you the truth. Allegra

    Allegra

    ReplyDelete
  39. Haven't most of us LGBT people been designated '2nd best role' at some point in our lives. I know I have and continue to be by people. I think we become numb to it over time.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Moving story John.I get tearful when I think of Alan Turing and what he suffered.but I know there must be so many similar experiences to the one you have illustrated with not such a caring nursing staff.I just hope we are not experiencing a move to a less liberal world.

    ReplyDelete
  41. What a touching story. I love the way you hatched up this little scheme to allow the partner to say a proper goodbye and avoid the family distaste.

    ReplyDelete
  42. How very sad on so many levels. Thank goodness Louise was understanding of the situation. Bless you both and I pray for the world to change.

    ReplyDelete
  43. You're a good man John!

    ReplyDelete
  44. A job well done, John. xx

    ReplyDelete
  45. Lovely story. I was given a lovely wooden icon by an elderly nun I looked after. It's tiny and sits on my mantlepiece. Makes a change from Ferro Rocher which I loathe.

    ReplyDelete
  46. Bittersweet on so many levels. You are a special man John.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know many such dramas organised by hundreds of nurses

      Delete
  47. Well, now I'm crying.
    xo

    ReplyDelete
  48. Beautiful.

    As a parent to a 14 and 16 year old, it is very different world today and that is good. They are at peace with all sexualities and it is interesting to see them all and their friends 'finding their own way'. Some as you would expect, completely know themselves but others will take a lot longer to find the path they were destined for.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Absolutely wonderful ♥️ The tankard is a lovely reminder and it deserves to shine and be brought back to it's full glory regularly.

    The lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes stop me from saying anything more. Xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Louise was given a lovely Art Deco lady as I recall

      Delete
  50. A wonderful act of compassion and kindness from all involved.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Very touching. Puts me in mind of my husband who, when his mother lay dying, was not allowed to see her or say goodbye because he was a child and the hospital had a "no children in patient rooms" policy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How cruel. Thank god times have changed.

      Delete
  52. Stories like this always make me wonder if I would be able to think of a plan in the same situation. So many times I am dying to help someone but fail to know how to do it.....

    hooray for your team

    ReplyDelete
  53. What a compassionate thing to do...very moving.

    Jo in Auckland

    ReplyDelete
  54. If or when you write your book, I will be lovingly gifting many copies!

    ReplyDelete
  55. Anonymous12:25 am

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John has been super dignified about Chris, I think!

      Delete
  56. And this makes my heart feel better in all ways.
    John Gray, you are a good man and a fine nurse.

    ReplyDelete
  57. I cared for many gay men in the late eighties. I worked on a pulmonary unit and they mostly had PCP pneumonia. They all died. This was the days before good treatment for AIDS. I don't remember any difficulties between families and partners for which I was always thankful but if there had been I would have done the same for my patient. You did a great kindness for two men.

    ReplyDelete
  58. I do understand all the reasons why your and other staff members actions could be problematic, but — nobody got hurt in this scenario. In fact, I think it’s quite likely unmeasurable joy may have been given to the patient and his partner. What a wonderful gift treating the whole person. Sometimes rules are rigid and common sense judgement should prevail.

    ReplyDelete
  59. What a touching story John thanks for sharing your a compassionate man and you did good !!!

    ReplyDelete
  60. Anonymous6:19 am

    I had a friend who had a heart attack and died shortly thereafter in the hospital. Her mother, upon hearing, also had a heart attach and both were in the hospital. The mother, a devout Catholic, wanted her priest to give last rights. The daughter, a Jehova's Witness, was being closely watched by fellow Witnesses, aware of the mother's wishes. Somehow, the priest was allowed to remain after visiting hours were over, the deed was done, and a mother's grief was lessened.

    ReplyDelete
  61. You and your nursing colleagues did a wonderful thing.

    ReplyDelete
  62. Love is love is love is love...

    That's all.

    ReplyDelete
  63. If that were part of a movie, there wouldn't be a dry eye in the house.

    ReplyDelete
  64. The things you do for love.

    ReplyDelete
  65. What amazingly powerful experiences you’ve had in your life. I’d polish that tankard forever n

    ReplyDelete
  66. How kind of you. I hope that had I experienced this situation I would be as inventive and gracious as you.
    Ruth in Oxnard CA USA

    ReplyDelete
  67. How wonderful of you and your staff. A memory and a tankard worth keeping polished.

    ReplyDelete
  68. I’m touched. And dang it...I’m elderly now! 😢

    ReplyDelete
  69. Beautiful experience. Much to learn from it. You're wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No rachel was her name I ve just remembered was Rachel Bain

      Delete
  70. Rosie i8:44 pm

    Proper nursing.

    ReplyDelete

I love all comments Except abusive ones from arseholes