Working in a hospice must be one of the most rewarding jobs that there is. It undoubtedly has its challenges, too, however. After this nurse watched her patient die one morning, she had to get something off her chest. And the message that she delivered was truly moving.
Rebecca Grimes lives with her husband in Sylvania, Ohio. She trained to be a nurse at the Professional Skills Institute in Maumee, OH, and later secured a position at the Hospice of Northwest Ohio. She loved her job, but it certainly had its tough moments.
As a hospice nurse, it was Grimes’ duty to administer end-of-life care. This included monitoring conditions, administering medication and keeping family members updated about their loved ones. Since there was no possibility of saving her patients, all that she could do was make them comfortable. And for her the most important thing was enabling people to die with dignity.
It’s safe to say, then, that it takes a special person to do Grimes’ job. Hospice nurses must be caring and compassionate, but also strong enough to deal with the trauma of death. They have to be able to deal with high-pressure situations as well, while remaining calm and patient at all times.
Despite the emotional challenges that her role posed, Grimes was able to see some positives in her work. “I get to witness some of the most beautiful moments in life, which are around the time of death,” she revealed on her Facebook page in 2016.
It would be a lie to say working with dying people never affected Grimes emotionally, however. After one 13-hour shift in 2016, in fact, the nurse was so moved by what she’d witnessed that she decided to post about it on social media. And her message was very poignant indeed.
Grimes had been driving home from work when she suddenly decided to pull over to the side of the road. She had something important to say and, for her, it simply couldn’t wait until she arrived home. So, she turned a camera on herself and started to film an emotional message.
“I was driving home listening to my Christian music after 13 hours of running around, taking care of symptomatic patients and their families and it just hit me all of a sudden,” Grimes began. “I felt really compelled to pull over and say this message.”
“Life is so short,” she continued. “When you work with death and people that are dying every day, you kind of become immune to it. But there’s always a few patients that really, really get you.” And it turned out that Grimes had attended to one such patient earlier that day.
“I was with a man this morning, and his family, as he took his last breaths,” she explained. Rather than feeling upset by what had happened, however, Grimes appeared to be inspired. “It’s really, really a magical moment,” she said.
The nurse went on to explain how she had worked with all kinds of patients. These ranged from children to those who went in for minor surgeries only to be told by their doctors that they had just weeks to live. And seeing the indiscriminate nature of death had made Grimes realize a few things.
“If you have a family member who you’ve been fighting with, if you’re unhappy in your job… Life is so, so, short. You should live life to the fullest, maintain good relationships. Don’t stress about little things because life is too short,” Grimes pleaded with her viewers.
“It’s hard for me to think about that man laying there today, taking his last breaths and wondering if there was something he wishes he could have done differently,” she explained. “I look like crap and I’m posting a video on Facebook and I don’t care because maybe somebody needs to hear this today. Life is so short and just enjoy it.”
In her video, Grimes said that she didn’t know if any more than two people would listen to her message. But, at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter to her who saw it. The nurse had gotten something important off her chest, and she no doubt felt much better for it.
So, with that in mind, Grimes was shocked when her video started to take off online. Before long, in fact, 15 million people had tuned in to hear her moving appeal. And today that number is even higher.
In the days that followed her posting the video, Grimes was inundated with touching messages from friends and strangers alike. “Thank you for all you do to make people’s lives better as they pass,” one Facebook user commented. “You’re right, it is a blessing to witness.”
And it appeared that Grimes’ heartfelt message resonated with other healthcare workers in particular. “Couldn’t agree more,” wrote one. “I am so blessed to work in a field that reminds me to live and love as hard as possible. You are a blessing Becca! Thank you for all that you do for your patients and families.”
“I couldn’t have said it better and have been in your shoes,” wrote another hospice nurse. “I believe in living your life to the fullest. Enjoy each day the best you can and try to do what you love. Life is short. I had patients say they waited to do things that would have made them happy and then it was too late.”
Grimes’ words were far more impactful than she could ever have imagined. She subsequently told ABC that she’d received thousands of messages from viewers all over the world. Some of them revealed that people had built bridges with estranged family members after watching her video.
So, while it may seem that working in a hospice is all about death, it’s actually about life, too. Grimes’ job put her in a unique position from which she could see clearly what was truly important. And maybe we could all take a leaf out of her book by living each day to the maximum and holding those dear to us close to our hearts.