The Creepy Visitor

The Creepy Visitor

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

The Creepy Visitor

Judge not, that you be not judged.

Matthew 7:1

A chill ran up my spine as I sensed his presence. He was lurking in the shadows, near the medicine cart. In an instant, the giant of a man was looming over me.

Tattoos covered his shaved head. A skull inked on his skull had a snake slithering from the eye socket. Skeletons, swords, and scrolls covered every inch of his scalp. He wore a black T-shirt and jeans and boots draped in clanging chains. Fear gripped me as I realized I was alone, trapped inside the dimly lit nurses’ station.

In my best authoritarian voice I asked, “May I help you?”

The man straightened up and said, “Yes, Ma’am, I’m Billy. The hospital people said they sent my mother here. They said there is nothing else they can do for her. I know it’s late but I’ve got to see her.”

I hoped he didn’t notice the obvious relief on my face or my shaky hand as I pointed to his mother’s room.

The next night he was back, with a seven-year-old boy in tow. His son had a lightning bolt etched into his hair. The kid wore black clothes and combat boots with silver chains on them. Oh great, I thought, another generation of freaks.

The boy balked in the doorway and stared at all the medical equipment. He scrunched up his nose at the faint, but unmistakable, odor of death. The man gave his son a little nudge but the child hid behind his father and would not budge. The huge man stooped down to eye level and held the boy by the shoulders. “You’re not going to let a bunch of stupid wires and tubes scare you away from seeing your grandma, are you?” he challenged.

The little boy stood solemnly, then wiped his face on his sleeve, puffed out his chest, and strode across the threshold. His grandmother patted a spot next to her and he tentatively climbed up on her bed. Within seconds they were snuggling and giggling.

In the weeks that followed, the child became accustomed to being around sick people. His father reminded him to say “Excuse me,” whenever he walked in front of the other patient’s TV set. He showed him how to get ice for the grandmother. The kid loved the clatter of the ice going down the chute and refilled her cup every chance he got.

One day the boy passed the therapy room and wanted to know why they were making Grandma’s roommate work so hard. His father explained that P.T. (physical therapy) was like P.E. (physical education). The dad asked, “You know that it can be real hard, but it makes you stronger, right?”

“Right!” said the boy, flexing his imaginary muscles.

After that, whenever the patient’s roommate returned from therapy, the youngster said, “Good job!”

“How come old Miss Mary gets to go to P.T. and Grandma always has to take naps?” the boy asked his father. Billy couldn’t tell his son that Grandma, who was only in her late forties, was dying and that old Miss Mary was getting better.

Miss Mary, who had outlived her family and friends, began looking forward to their visits. She saved gelatin cups and graham crackers from her lunch tray for the little visitor.

Over the next six weeks, the strange appearance of the father and son faded from my mind. I only saw two people who we remaking two of my patients’ last days worth living.

Billy’s biggest fear was that his mother would die alone. He told me to call him when the end was near so he could be with her. I warned him, “Only God knows exactly when someone is going to die; we can’t always predict it.” But I promised to call immediately if I saw any indications.

The evening came when I had to make that call. His mother’s breathing had suddenly become labored. “I’m sorry, but it looks like the end is near,” I told him.

He choked out, “I’m coming. Tell her to hang on, I’m coming.”

When I returned to her room, she was fading much faster than expected.

“Billy is on his way. He is just down the street; he will be here in a few minutes. Hang on,” I pleaded.

Even though she had been comatose for days, I knew she heard me. Her furrowed brow softened and her ragged breathing eased.

Moments later, Billy ran down the hallway and into my waiting arms. I braced the pale, shaken, hulk of a man as we entered the room. He held one of her hands and I held the other. As we waited, he reached over and held my hand too. She stopped struggling for breath the moment he arrived. Her breathing simply became slower and slower . . . until it finally stopped altogether. Billy and I hugged each other. Then we quickly turned away so neither could see the other crying.

We never saw each other again.

Today I still occasionally judge a book by its cover, but now I keep on reading until I get to the heart of the story.

Joyce Seabolt

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