As is apt to happen with susceptible male patients, I fell in love with one of my nurses. She was a young woman from the Aran Islands named Susie. She was not married, but she had a brother who was visiting from Ireland, and I twitted her about taking time off to be with him every now and again when it was clearly her duty. I said, to stay and take care of me instead. She was slender and graceful with a face full of fun and freshness, and one day when she was performing for me a particularly squalid nursely task, I asked her why on earth a lovely young woman like her had ever taken on a job that involved so much that was unpleasant and demeaning.
Her answer didn’t sound like something she had learned in nursing school but like something that had come straight out of the truth of who she was, and it caught me completely off guard. She said she didn’t think of it as unpleasant and demeaning to clean people up after they had used the bedpan. She said as a nurse she was there to help people feel better and get better and that was just one of the ways she tried to do it.
That was the first time I had an inkling of what was going on in that hospital, and when I reaching the point of using crutches with Susie following close behind to catch me if I started to fall, I glimpsed again what she he become for me during those trying and terrorizing days, began to glimpse who it was I was walking with. Nor was she the only one.
The two disciples on their way to Emmaus recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, and looking back I think I can recognize him not just in Susie from the Aran Islands but in virtually every nurse and every doctor I had, not to mention all the others who came in to mop the floor or bring my tray or draw my blood. In more ways than just literally. I’m not sure I would ever really have walked again without them.
From “Walking in the World with a Fragile God” by Frederick Buechner