Four years ago I was working as a nurse at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
My patients came to that hospital from all over the world because their cancer had progressed so far that they had nowhere else to turn and no other treatments offered to them. Many of them were young with children still at home that they were raising. They had a lot to live for.
On the afternoon of Thanksgiving Day, a young mother checked herself into the hospital because she "just had been feeling strange" that day and had a feeling that it was her time to go. She had been battling an aggressive cancer that had finally settled into her brain. After eating Thanksgiving dinner with her family, she left her two young children at her mother's house and her husband drove her to the ER.
By the time she got to our floor, she had experienced a few large seizures that left her barely conscious and unable to communicate. A few hours later dozens of family members came to see her and say their goodbyes.
I can't forget the image of her 4 year old daughter sobbing as she was being carried out of her mother's hospital room by her uncle who was reassuring her that he would help take care of her. Her husband soon followed carrying their 19 month old son. I could tell he had been crying but was trying to keep his emotions under control.
I clocked out a few hours later and went home to eat Thanksgiving leftovers and watch a movie with my husband. That night, I thanked my Heavenly Father for my health.
A few days ago I had a horrible day at work. I even stooped to declaring it on facebook, as if anything good would come from it. I was on the verge of tears all day long dealing with numerous stressful situations. I remember thinking to myself several times, "I wish I could just quit and never come back!"
Towards the end of the day, I was setting up some IV medications for a patient who had been recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of lung cancer. Having been formerly well-acquainted with all different types of chemotherapy, I asked her what treatments she has been on and how she had been feeling. I offered her a few tips that many of my MD Anderson patients gave me about how they dealt with the side effects of treatment. She asked me how I knew so much and I told her I had worked in a cancer hospital. "So you know a lot about this then," she said. "Did you know that with my cancer I have a 30% chance of living past 2 years?" She paused for awhile and I could see tears begin to well up in her eyes. "I wish that I had the faith to know that everything will be okay no matter happens, but I don't know that I do, and that scares me. I don't know what is going to happen to me."
I pulled up a chair and sat down next to her. I held her hand. I talked to her. I shared with her my testimony of eternal families. I shared with her my belief in a loving Heavenly Father who will support us when we are at our lowest. I told her that if her journey with cancer ended in death, I knew that she would be reunited with her family again. Getting to sit and share with her a piece of my testimony was the best 5 minutes of my day. And then the chaos began once more that didn't see me getting home until after 8:30.
That night I thanked my Heavenly Father for my health.
Over the past few days I have been thinking about how every holiday season since I've been a nurse I have witnessed a lot of suffering and sadness with my patients. In the past I have summed these experiences up to reminders of how much I have to be grateful for. I have my health, I am raising my children (who are both healthy) alongside my best friend and husband (who is also healthy). I'm not spending the holiday season making preparations for who will help raise my children when I'm gone or when my spouse is gone. I'm not experiencing or having to witness my loved one experience chronic illness that may take their lives.
So I have felt a lot of gratitude for the gifts of health and family.
But in the past few days, I have been thinking that these experiences should not only serve to humble me and remind me of my earthly blessings, but to strengthen my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to remind me of how grateful I am for Him, regardless of what is happening in my life. If the only things I'm truly being grateful for are my family and my health, than what will I have left if they are ever taken away?
Today I am so grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ. I am grateful to celebrate His birth because His earthly life and ministry have made it possible for me to be with my family forever. For all my patients who have suffered so much, their suffering will end and can result in a reunion with their family--one that will never have to end--all because of our Savior Jesus Christ.
I am so grateful for Him. I am grateful for the reminders in my life that his Atonement and Resurrection are the greatest gifts I have been given and the most important things to lean on in life's most difficult moments. And I am grateful for the brief moment I had to share that with someone else, which I guess kind of makes my "horrible day" a pretty good one after-all.
I am also grateful for the testimonies of others who can share this message in a much more eloquent way than I can. :)