52: Brittany

52: Brittany

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

Brittany

Children are God’s apostles sent forth day by day to preach of love, hope and peace.

~J.R. Lowell

I met Brittany during August at third grade registration. When she and her mother came into my office, Brittany had a scarf on her head and could barely keep her eyes open. I immediately assessed she would be too sick for school.

I explained to her mother that I would begin the paperwork for homebound care.

“She will NOT be homebound!” her mother declared.

Brittany’s mom explained her daughter’s very aggressive form of brain cancer. She admitted that Brittany was unable to do third grade work, but said she would spend time in the classroom just the same.

Fortunately, her compassionate teacher let Brittany do whatever work she could handle, and after a couple of hours she’d come to my clinic to rest. She would tell me stories about her three sisters and living in the country, and I’d tell her about my disobedient dog’s antics.

When she was able, I’d walk with her, though she was often unsteady. When I walked too fast, she’d pull my hand. “Slow down,” she’d giggle, making me laugh too. “Take your time,” she coaxed.

As the year went on, Brittany’s health deteriorated, but she continued to come to school. Some days she just slept in my clinic, where everyone fell in love with her. Staff members dropped by and sat with her during their breaks. Teachers bought her trinkets. The art teacher and Brittany swapped jokes. She became family.

The next year she came to school but she couldn’t walk and rarely went to class. Instead, she came to the clinic and stayed as long as her little body could tolerate. It was so difficult seeing her at this stage, but it also felt right having her at school. She always wanted to hear about my dog and she gave me advice on training him.

Our favorite conversations were about angels. Brittany was fascinated by them; her sunken face lit up when she shared stories from her imagination and declared her absolute belief in them.

In September Brittany fell into a coma. When I went to see her, I knew it would be the last time. I sat by her bedside and talked as if she were with me at school, regaling her with stories of my disobedient dog. She reached for my hand.

The next day Brittany awoke briefly and told her mother, “It’s time to go home. Two angels are waiting for me.”

Now I feel Brittany watching over me from heaven, giggling and telling me, “Slow down!” She’s still reminding me to take my time, for life is too precious to speed through.

~Nancy Mapes

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