Working as a CNA in a nursing home, I have the opportunity to meet all kinds of people and experience things most people never have the chance to. Every day I learn new things and improve my relationships with my co workers and residents, but one day I had an experience unlike any other. The summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school, one of my teachers was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the liver and esophagus. This shocked the entire school because this man was only in his sixties and seemed to be in perfect health. After a few months of struggling with the cancer, his family decided to send him to the nursing home I work at to be put on hospice.
I was worried about seeing my teacher in such a fragile, dependent position. Watching someone so influential to me sit on his deathbed was exorbitantly difficult. I normally could not wait to go to work and make a difference in the lives of the residents, but during this month I absolutely dreaded it. I hated having to watch this man, who seemed totally in control and invincible pre-cancer, walk down the long road of sickness from which I knew he would never return.
One night, I was working from 2:30 to 11:00, and at about 10:55, the nurse asked me and another aide to check on and reposition my teacher, so we did. This particular night was not one of his better ones, and his wife and daughter had been with him all day. After the other CNA and I got up to change him, the nurse came in to take his vital signs. The numbers on the oxygen reader and blood pressure machine were too low, much too low for his body to continue functioning for an extended period of time. He started to cough up brown, thick blood, and we all knew something was wrong. The nurse asked me to run out and get her replacement, who was supposed to come in at eleven. As I did that, I also went into the dimly lit hallway and asked his family if they wanted to come in. To this day, I still do not know why I asked them to come into the room, but I am glad that I did. They immediately entered, and after about forty-five seconds, he passed away. Everybody was crying and distressed, even the other workers who only knew this man from his short time in the facility. This was the hardest day of my life because, as he was dying, I thought I had failed him; I thought medicine had failed him, and most of all, I thought God had failed him.
After my teacher passed away, the first thing his wife said was, “Praise the Lord.” She was thinking about how her husband was rejoicing with the Lord painfree. She took only the positives out of every situation, and I will never forget to do that now. This situation was something that could have been devastating to the family, and probably was, but they handled it with such courage and faith. She reminded me that God had not failed, but only continued in His plan for my teacher.
I walked out of the nursing home that night, crying and giving a hug to my fellow CNA, and she mentioned that she had never seen something like this before in the two years that she had worked there. I clocked out and went to my car and just sat. Not sure if my emotional state would allow me to be discerning in the drive home, I waited for a few minutes before actually leaving.
As I was driving home, uplifting music started to play from Life 96.5. This was a song that was special to me because I had just learned how to play it on the piano. “Blessings,” by Laura Story, talked about how, even in the hard times, we need to praise God. I thought about how my teacher’s wife had done just that. Then, immediately after that song was over, the other song I had just learned how to play, “City on Our Knees,” by TobyMac, came on. If I had to choose any two songs in the entire world to have played as I left that night, it would have been these two songs, and the fact that they played right after each other was a sign that God was using this situation and radio station to expand His kingdom.
This experience required an immense amount of courage, because without courage I would never have been able to return to work for fear of this happening again. I worked the next day, as well, and one of the nurses said to me as I walked in, “I never thought you would be able to come back today.” When she said that, I thought of how difficult it would be to walk past his room and see an empty bed, his family come and clean out all of his things, and think about how my school would never be the same without him, but I also thought to myself, “There is no way I would be able to give up on the rest of my residents just because of one traumatic experience.” This was my moment of courage, because even though I knew there would be days where I would walk past that same room and break down, I owed it to everybody else to stay.
Although this was the hardest day of my life, it was also the day where I learned and saw God the most. I will never forget the words uttered by my teacher’s wife after he died, and everyday I try to live by those words. I would never give this experience back for anything, and I know that God wanted me to be a part of it.

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