Nina Solis on making peace with the Unknown. This article was first published in Literary Hub.
By Nina Solis
February 18, 2021
Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
– Mary Oliver, “Sometimes”
When I was a new-to-practice oncology nurse, I was a walking, talking ball of anxiety. There were endless tasks to perfect, like memorizing chemotherapy regimens, monitoring a patient during a stem cell infusion, and recognizing clinical emergencies like septic shock or hemorrhagic stroke before they progressed past the point of intervention. I quickly learned that working with cancer patients required a sharp attention to detail and an almost exhausting level of stoicism. But above all else, my greatest fear stemmed from knowing I’d eventually have a patient die under my care.
I was overwhelmed with uncertainty and dreaded the inevitable. One day, I’d have to coordinate hospice care, communicate with distraught family members, perform post-mortem tasks, and zip a body bag shut. During my three months of orientation, I asked every experienced nurse I knew to share insights and wisdom on death and dying. What if the person is suffering? How can I tell if someone is close to the end? What am I supposed to do once it’s over? In many cases, death is expected, and—from what I understood, reading from the tiny notepad I kept with my colleagues’ answers—my only real responsibility was to keep them comfortable while they are passing away.
However, sometimes death comes unexpectedly.
Read the full story at Literary Hub