The morning light scattered through the white lace curtains, the only luxury in the sparsely furnished room. The bare turquoise walls feebly tried to lift the patients’ spirits. The hospice offered palliative care and death and despair were the side dishes on the day’s menu often. Maryam, in her decade as a nurse, had never failed to greet her patients with a smile. As she did the frail woman sitting up in bed, propped by pillows.
Mrs. White scowled at Maryam’s smiling visage.
“I hope the smile shows you’ve agreed to my request.”
“Let’s get you ready for the day first, beautiful,” Maryam replied as she went about her tasks with a practiced ease. She deftly emptied the catheter, brushed the lady’s teeth and changed her soiled nightgown. As she changed the old lady into a fresh dress, she ignored the silent tears that trickled down Mrs. White’s wrinkled cheeks.
“There! All ready,” exclaimed Maryam.
“At the cost of my self-respect and dignity,” muttered Mrs. White which Maryam pretended not to have heard.
Mrs. White hadn’t been admitted long and she wouldn’t be staying long. The uterine cancer had resurfaced after repeated rounds of therapy. Maryam had been a constant witness to her struggles. The smiling lady, who at her arrival had a kind word for everyone, had been replaced by a fearful, depressed woman as pain medications had become increasingly ineffective.
As Maryam transferred her chemotherapy shrunken frame to a wheelchair, she couldn’t help recalling the old lady’s request. She’d avoided thinking about it but watching Mrs. White writhing in pain had been a stark reminder everyday.
“Have you decided yet?” She asked Maryam after breakfast.
“It’s such a big thing you’re asking.” Maryam resisted.
“You’ve been a witness to my pain and suffering and this life sans dignity. I hardly sleep through the night. There is no one left to love me or mourn me. Please help me,” Mrs. White pleaded.
“No soul is burdened with a load heavier than what it can carry. Who am I to interfere with God’s will?” Maryam replied. “Besides, think of the burden you are laying on my soul by your request.”
“I’m only asking for kindness. I believe you, with your strong beautiful heart, can help end my suffering. When your time comes, won’t you want someone to show you the same kindness if you have been laid with such a burden as mine?”
Maryam found she had no words. Her next week was spent pondering over her dilemma as pain invaded the days and nights of Mrs. White. After she had spent six nights floundering like a fish out of water, Maryam made her decision.
It was the last night of her shift. She injected the fatal dose of morphine into the thin twisted veins and murmured, “God have mercy on me.”
Then she looked down at the beatific smile adorning the face relaxed in final slumber and knew that if not right, she had definitely done the kind thing.
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