Dying Man Asks For A Kiss From His Nurse.
Story by Laura Hayes Lagana
Mr. Kenney returned to our unit of the hospital frequently. He was a retired executive, a widower, and cancer had taken took its toll over the last three years. The cancer had metastasized from his colon to all of his vital organs. This would probably be his last admission, and I believe he knew it.
Some patients are known to be “problems” because of behavior changes that often accompany major diseases. When people are suffering, they aren’t aware of what they say or do to people, and frequently they lash out at the first person that enters their room.
All things considered, every nurse is well aware of these circumstances. The more experienced nurses have acquired knowledge in how to handle such cases. Of course, this is where I come in — the “new kid” on the block, in a manner of speaking.
For days the other nurses would talk about Mr. Kenney at report, and there were special staff meetings to decide how to handle his outrageous behavior. Everyone tried to spend as little time as possible while in his room. Sometimes he threw things at the nurses and other staff members, if they so much as looked at him the wrong way.
One evening, while on a particularly busy shift, we had more than our share of emergency admissions on the already overcrowded medical-surgical unit. Mr. Kenney picked this same evening to refuse his medications and decided to throw every large object that was well within his reach, while cursing at the top of his lungs. I could hardly believe that a terminally ill man of eighty-one could reach that volume and cause so much damage.
While I cautiously entered his room, I started talking. “What can I do for you, Mr. Kenney? What seems to be the problem? There is such a ruckus in here that even the visitors are terrified. I don’t know what to think of it. The other patients are trying to get to sleep.”
An annoyed Mr. Kenney put down his next projectile (that seemed to be aimed at me!) and asked me to sit in the chair next to his bed for a minute. Knowing I didn’t really have the time, I still said, “Okay.”
As I sat on the edge of the chair, Mr. Kenney proceeded to share some of his life with me. He started by saying, “No one understands how hard it is. How long it has been since I felt well. It has been so long since… since… anyone has even taken the time to really look at me, to listen to me… and to care.”
A long silence followed, and I wondered if this wouldn’t be the best time to politely leave, but I didn’t have the heart. Something told me to stay with this man.
After what seemed like an hour, he finally said, “It has been so long since I have had my Rose with me. My lovely, sweet Rose. We would always kiss goodnight, and that made everything better. No matter what happened that day, Rose’s kisses always made everything better. Oh, God, how I would give anything for one more kiss from Rose.” Then Mr. Kenney started crying.
He held onto my hand and said, “I know you must think I’m crazy, but I know my life is almost over. I look forward to being with my Rose again. My life is hell this way! I really appreciate your taking the time to listen — to really listen to me. I know you are terribly busy. I know you care.”
“I don’t mind at all. While I prepare to give you your medication, is there anything else that I can do for you?”
“Please — call me Joseph,” he said as he rolled over very cooperatively. I gave him his injections, and he thought for a few moments before answering my question. As I was almost finished, he finally said, “There is one last favor you could do for me.”
“What is it, Joseph?” I asked.
Then he leaned over the side of the bed, and said in a hushed voice, “Could you just give me a goodnight kiss?” Rose’s kisses always made everything better. Could you just give me a kiss goodnight? Please? Oh, God, how I would give anything for one more kiss from Rose.”
So I did — I walked over and placed a huge kiss on his cheek. It felt right to kiss a dying man in the place of his “Rose!”
During report the next day, the nurses said Mr. Kenney had slipped peacefully away during the night. It is wonderful to know how strong true love can be — to be inseparable even after death. I was so honored that Mr. Kenney asked me to give him one more kiss from Rose.