Todays daily prompt asks for my latest lie.
Well that I cannot give,
in case it is discovered!
But it does spark the memory,
of my biggest lie.
A lie which haunts me still.
Many years ago I was nursing.
On the ward was an elderly gentleman called “Jack”,
who stole all our hearts.
On admission he was a sprightly man,
who from the beginning had a bold streak.
There was a twinkle in his eye,
and he was a real charmer.
Every nurse who looked after him,
was charmed by him.
“Where would I be without you?”,
he would say,
or “You’re somethin else nurse,
don’t tell the rest of dem, but you’re me favourite!”.
In no time at all,
without needing to be told,
he knew it was he who was indeed our favourite.
Sadly he was a very sick gentleman,
and after surgery,
everything seemed to go wrong.
Nothing phased him however,
and every day he greeted us all,
with a big smile.
He became a long stay patient,
and the longer we knew him,
and watched his courage and stoicism,
in the face of never ending complications,
the more we grew to love him.
It was not uncommon for us,
to call into him last thing at night,
to say “Goodnight”.
Or to go to his bed first in the morning,
to say “Good morning”.
Throughout all this time,
his elderly wife was a constant by his side.
They had no family,
and had spent a lifetime together.
She would fluff his pillows,
and read to him,
as he would say to her,
“Have ye no home to go to woman?”.
Each day she would arrive early,
and not leave until very late.
Visiting hours did not apply to her,
as we looked the other way.
Just like her husband,
she too had become a favourite of ours.
One night I was nurse in charge.
I was only young at the time,
and had recently lost my Dad.
Jack was in great form,
although I could see,
he had weakened in the week I was off duty.
As I was doing my round,
settling everyone for the night,
I passed his bed.
His wife was saying the Rosary,
as she did each night.
Ignoring her prayers,
on seeing me he put out his arms and shouted,
“Ah me oul flower, you’re back”.
I too ignored his praying wife,
and went to him for a hug.
She smiled and stopped her prayers,
also offering me a hug of condolence.
There was a terrible storm forecast that night,
the rain was bucketing down,
and the wind was picking up,
I suggested to his wife,
that she might leave a bit early,
as it was to get worse.
She agreed, kissed and hugged Jack goodnight,
and off she went.
That was the last time she saw him alive.
At approximately 4am I passed Jack.
He was awake, and comfortable,
but said he could not sleep.
I offered him a cup of tea,
he refused and cheekily suggested a whiskey!
I held his hand for a bit,
and we chatted,
then I had to move on.
Shortly afterwards his wife rang.
She couldn’t sleep she said.
I reassured her that Jack was awake but comfortable.
A short time later,
I was in a room at the far end of the ward,
when Jack came to my mind.
I went back to check him,
to see had he managed to get to sleep.
As I approached his bed I knew,
without touching him,
he was gone.
My heart raced in my chest,
and tears quickly filled my eyes,
as I felt for a pulse.
Due to the level of his illness,
there was no question of resuscitation.
As I stood there disbelief gave way to reality.
He was gone.
Our Jack had died alone.
I quickly called one of the other nurses,
who rang for the doctor on call.
While she was gone I stayed with my old pal,
and said my goodbyes.
The doctor on call was a friend of mine,
and came quickly to confirm the obvious.
The sister in charge of the hospital arrived.
I asked her what to do about Jacks wife.
It was about 5am and the storm was raging.
Just then the phone rang.
“Hows my Jack?” I heard his wife say.
I couldn’t believe it.
How could I tell her?
How could I tell her he had died?
How could I tell her that no one had been with him?
Without a thought for the rights and wrongs of it,
I told her we were just about to ring her,
that Jack had disimproved,
He was unconscious.
Naturally she was upset.
She said she knew all night something was up,
as she had been unable to sleep.
She would be in as soon as possible.
Waiting for her to arrive was horrendous.
The ward was busy,
but my heart was breaking.
Eventually I could hear the lift coming.
I went to greet her.
She looked old,
and smaller than when I had last seen her.
My Doctor friend was with me,
and the hospital sister.
As soon as his wife saw me she knew.
She began to cry.
“Jack, Jack, my lovely Jack”.
She hurried to his room,
as we all followed behind,
and threw herself on him sobbing,
“Why didn’t you wait?”
It tore me apart listening to her.
There is something particularly heartbreaking,
about watching an elderly person,
say goodbye to their lifetime partner.
After a time she stopped and looked at me.
She was furious.
Why had I not phoned her?
How could I not have seen he was so sick?
Why did I insist she went home early?
In between her angry accusations,
she would quieten and look at “her” Jack.
She would lovingly rub his cheek,
hold his hand and stroke his hair.
Eventually it was time for her to leave.
The hospital sister took her away,
As she left she turned to me and said,
“I’ll never, ever forgive you”.
A few weeks later she returned to the ward.
She thanked all the nurses,
and left a card and chocolates.
As she saw me walking up the ward,
she came up to me,
looked me in the face,
and said “I will never forgive you”.
I never saw her again,
and she never did discover,
that I had lied to her.
As I remember that night,
I still think I did the right thing.
But it was the biggest lie I ever told,
and it haunts me still.
This was written in response to Daily prompt. Pants on fire.
What was the last lie you told? Why did you tell it?
This is a true story but Jack is a fictional name.
photo credit: Gufoblu via photopin cc
photo credit: Jonathan Kos-Read via photopin
photo credit: RaeBerlin via photopin
32 thoughts on “The lie that haunts me.”
You were right in what you did.
Thank you. I think I was but as I say it actually does still haunt me.
what a heartbreaking story. Some lies are justified, when we are genuinely trying to ease someone else’s pain.
Thanks. I hope so. I don’t mind that she was so angry afterwards, he was after all her whole world, but I shudder to think what she would have thought if she knew the truth. In Dublin we would say “She’d have burst me!” We were all so very fond of them both though.and even after so many years I do sometimes thing of “our jack”.
I know why you lied. And it gives me comfort that you cared enough to try and ease her pain.
Thank you. This was a man I had such affection for. I was twenty one and it was my first night back after burying my Dad less than a week before. I think that had a lot to do with how much I identified with her loss and why I lied.
The moment of his passing occurred without her there, and whether she had left early or not he passed later than when she would have normally stayed. I believe he let go when she wasn’t there, maybe to protect her? Like you tried to do.
Thanks. I think you are right. Well I hope so anyway. He was a gem.
that is so sad …
Yes it was a hard night. I was very young and he had a special place in my heart. I knew how much he meant to his wife and I was so sad she had not been with him. I actually still think of him and remember what a divil he was. He always made me smile. Yet when I remember him I remember this lie also.
It was as it should be.
Thank you. It is hard to know sometimes if it was a cowardly decision or an act of kindness. I am still not sure.
While I didn’t tell a white lie, I ad a similar experience. A mother and daughter came into the hospital and they were very close. The mother was in he 80’s and daughter 50-60. They lived together. The older lady was completely stable, so encouraged the daughter to leave. Her mother died in her sleep that night. I also got the look of death when the daughter came in. She would rock he mother and continue to ask why I made her leave!!!! Heart wrenching! It’s etched in my brain……we are so much alike. Lol.
Yes we are indeed. It is not easy to forget a decision we make in good faith which was the wrong one. This particular night I saw nothing to make me think “Jack” was unstable. Even chatting to him he had no complaints and I had not noticed any difference in his breathing. To find he had died alone was so sad, especially only a few days after my own Dad. My grief was so raw, that I grieved again through him, and hugely empathize with his wife’s feelings of loss. Yes as I relive it I can still agree with my title that this haunts me.
Did he really die alone? I doubt it, his Florence Nightingale was close by.
Aw that’s lovely C.J. Thank you.:)
I cannot blame the old lady’s reaction, it was grief speaking. You did what was best in that situation, so don’t blame yourself. Hugs
Thanks for the hugs. I suppose I have learned to accept what I did and do not feel I made the wrong decision. I just tend to remember the moment and the split second decision to lie or not lie and it still makes me sweat. As for “jack” I agree. When I spoke with him he was okay but he was getting weary with life, maybe he did decide to bow out unnoticed. It was sad though.
i think that you did what you thought was the humane and right thing to do, without any intention of harm or malice. he did not die alone at all, he had all of you, his wife included, so loving and giving, around him, in all of the days leading up to his passing. this is the love he carried with him when he left, not who was or wasn’t physically in the room with him at the exact moment.
I would like to think so. I always hoped he just died in his sleep. You are so right he was very loved by his wife and many of us who worked on the ward looking after him.I am sure he felt it too.
Very touching story indeed. I am not sure how I could have handled it. I am positive that I would have don the same as you did. And I am sure Jack’s wife would have done the same too, had she been in your situation. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks. I never actually wondered what his wife would have done. It is comforting to imagine she might have done the same.
tric, I bet she would have done the same. It’s disturbing to realize that she did not make any attempt to understand your side, and left you with the harsh comment while bidding farewell (instead of thanking you for the love and care that you extended.) It wasn’t your fault. So please be assured that in God’s eyes you are the blameless one, and hence no forgiving should be needed. Best Regards!
I read this on my phone and didn’t have time to comment at the time so am back. This really resonated with me, what a tough night for a young nurse.
Thanks Lorna, it was very tough and even after so many years it is still a sad night in my memory.
Ouch. I’m sorry you had to experience that. I’m currently doing hospice care for an elderly woman. She’s got a pressure sore on her backside, but her daughter doesn’t want to hear about it.
Because I’m doing private contract work, there’s no one for me to report to, which is a sad thing. Today I’m going to pull up some pix of what can result if we don’t get it tended to. That ought to shock her into action.
Poor thing is dead tired. Her dad passed away a couple of years ago, and she’s been caring for her mom alone since then. In her exhaustion, she’s not making the best choices.
I don’t want to be present when this lady expires. I have a feeling I’ll be in your shoes if I am. 😦
Yikes it sounds that way. In my own family when my Dad was sick we all coped differently. I can remember in the days before he died telling my brother how sick he was. His response was to say I was just being dramatic. I knew he saw what I did but chose not to.
Those sores get out of hand so quickly. Good luck.