The little blue necklace
Updated: Sep 27, 2020
Before I became a hospice nurse and all through nursing school, I was a caregiver for a husband and wife who were in their 80’s. I took care of them for almost fours years. I spent 5 days a week with them. I made them meals, I helped bathe them, I did their laundry and made their bed, I took them to appointments, I sat next to them during the day and listened to their stories (which I could have done for hours and hours), I got addicted to their tv shows, I laughed and I cried with them, and I fell madly in love with them. They were my family, and their family was my family.
When I first met them, he decided my name was “Le-Le”, which I never understood, but soon grew very fond of. He was gruff and moody and yelled whatever it was he wanted to say, and if you were not listening, he yelled louder. He got angry easily, he complained often, and he was very one sided about most things. But he also had a very kind heart, he was generous to a fault, he was sweet, he was funny, and he became my friend. And when he died, a little piece of my heart went with him.
I remember walking into their home after I was called that he had died; I saw his body lying in the hospital bed and I fell to the floor and cried next to it, holding his wonderful chubby fingers in mine. Saying goodbye to him, still hurts. This was my first patient to pass away.
For about a year after that, I continued to care for his wife. She was strong, feisty and loved her family fiercely. She had certain things she enjoyed and followed her routine to a tee. During this time, I was nearing the end of nursing school and she was my biggest fan, always encouraging and supporting me and even helping me study. If I came to her the morning after a night that might have been difficult, I would sit on the floor next to her crying about a test I didn’t pass, or a moment that might have made me feel like I just couldn’t do it, and she would always tell me not to give up, to believe in myself. She never gave up on me.
One day we were cleaning out her drawers that were filled with 80 years of things she collected. She had bags of old costume jewelry that we cleaned and organized often. On this particular day, she asked me to take something from one of the bags. She let me pick any piece, which wasn’t easy as they were all so shiny and pretty. I found a little blue necklace; it was simple, it wasn’t fancy, but it spoke to me. She told me that whenever I felt lonely or afraid, I was to hold onto that necklace and remember that I would get through it and things would be okay.
I held the necklace the day I took my nursing exam, and despite my self-doubt, I passed. I couldn’t wait to tell her. She said it was because I was holding the necklace. We both giggled. Once I received my nursing license, the family knew it would be time for me to move on. This was a difficult choice for me to make and I am pretty sure I took it harder than they did. I visited her as often as I could, and I called to say hello in between. She passed away about a year later. I took the necklace when I went to her service, trying desperately to feel connected to her. My heart was very sad. This was a deep and personal loss for me. This was my second patient to pass away.
I kept the necklace close to me and would often carry it in my pocket when I started working as a nurse, and she was right… it always made me feel like everything was going to be okay. Weeks turned into months that turned into years and I stopped carrying the little blue necklace, and soon misplaced it. I was disappointed in myself and made numerous attempts to try and find it, to no avail.
I am currently in the process of packing my home to move, which has included letting go of some of my things because I will not have as much room. I have been going through every drawer, every closet, every box on every shelf deciding what gets to stay and what must go.
During this process, I came across a small jewelry bag that I sometimes used on vacations. I was pleased to find a few pairs of earrings I had completely forgotten about, and in that same bag, tucked deep in the corner was my little blue necklace. I sat down on the floor and I held it so tightly in my hand, apologizing over and over for not being more careful with it, hoping somehow it would forgive me… hoping she would too. And I cried.
This little blue necklace has absolutely no monetary value, but it is one of my most precious possessions because it came from someone who is very special to me. It also takes me back to a time when I first started to learn how to be a nurse, because they were my first patient’s. They believed in me, they inspired me, and they taught me some of my most important lessons, which I have carried with me all these years. Finding that necklace took me back to when I first started on this journey… I needed that reminder. I cried because I miss them, and I smiled because I am so thankful to have had that time with them. This moment reminded me why I do what I do… and I needed that.