Do You Hear the Bells?

Do You Hear the Bells?

From Chicken Soup for the Nurse's Soul Second Dose

Do You Hear the Bells?

Where words fail, music speaks.

Hans Christian Andersen

It was a cold December night. I was working the 3–11 shift and we only had five patients on the pediatric ward.

As I took report, I learned that Kelly was back. Kelly, a beautiful five-year-old with leukemia and sparkling blue eyes, lost her blond ringlets after her last round of chemo. But tonight the sparkle was gone as she struggled to deal with the pain of the disease.

I volunteered to care for her. She and I were good friends and had a special relationship. When her mom was at work, I often read to her or played games when the evenings grew long and lonely.

But tonight her mom was with her too, and we both knew she was failing fast.

As I entered the room, her mother was singing softly, “Away in a Manger,” and rocking Kelly. Kelly looked up, smiled weakly, and leaned into her mother’s chest.

I spoke softly. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m really tired . . . but I’m waiting for Christmas,” she answered just as softly.

“For Christmas?”

“Yes, I want to put the bells on the tree.”

Her mother explained as she rocked, “Her uncle sent a set of bells all the way from Bethlehem and Kelly is so excited to have a gift from the birthplace of Jesus.”

“Well, we will have to get you feeling better so you can get home for Christmas,” I replied. I left the room quietly and went to the desk.

Kelly’s chart was opened with a note from the doctor. “Pain meds per protocol for comfort. No code.”

I sighed as the realization hit me that Kelly would not see Christmas.

I held back the tears as her call light came on. I entered the room to check on her and she looked at me and said, “Do you hear that noise?”

Her mother shook her head no and asked for pain medicine.

I returned quickly to the med room to draw up the dose of morphine. When I returned, Kelly was sitting up with her finger on her pursed lips.

Shhhhhh. Do you hear the bells? It’s the bells my uncle Ben sent me. Do you hear them?”

I nodded my head as I pushed the pain med. She settled back again to snuggle against her mother’s chest.

“What do I do?” her mother asked.

I just shook my head, and whispered a prayer with her. As I left, Kelly was resting quietly.

When I returned later, Kelly was awake and smiled as I entered the room.

“The bells are calling me,” she said. “I’m going . . . I’m going to be with Jesus’s, bells.” With that, she took a deep breath—and was gone.

Her mother and I were crying softly together when suddenly, out of the dark night, the sound of tiny bells pierced the silence.

“She did hear the bells,” her mother sighed, “and she’s home for Christmas.”

Judy Whorton

“I would have been here sooner,
if not for a wonderful caring nurse in the hospital.”

Reprinted by permission of Aaron Bacall. © 2007 Aaron Bacall.

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