The other morning I thought about Mable for the first time in a long time. I used to think about her every day, then I thought about her about twice a week, then once a month and then only every once in a while.
Mable and I had a history. She was black and I’m white. She was in the 11th grade and I was in the 10th when our schools integrated. We graduated from high school the same year, because she stayed out a year. She was an LPN and I’m an RN. We both worked at the same hospital. When I graduated from nursing school, she was working the 7-3 shift and I started working the 3-11 shift. But we ultimately wound up working together and I was her supervisor.
We had our moments when we disagreed, but we respected each other. We had some very deep and private conversations and she helped me understand, and I hope I helped her understand things about our particular races.
Between the two of us, we knew a lot of people. And if I couldn’t remember a particular black person that we went to school with, she could remind me and I could do the same for her. We just had a huge common bond and history that I didn’t have with anybody else.
She had a “heart attack” and had open heart surgery, of which she only really partially recovered because she wound up with polymyositis. She also had some bouts of tachycardia and was in our hospital several times after her surgery.
I remember that the last time she was in the hospital she knew that although I wasn’t her nurse, I was keeping a quiet watch over her while she slept. She opened her eyes to see me standing at her bedside and I mouthed the words to her “I love you.” And she whispered “I love you too.”
I really can’t remember if she came back to work after that, but what I remember is David having one of the deacons come and get me out of Sunday School to tell me that Mable was sick and in the ER. I remember driving to the ER thinking that she had had another spell with her heart racing and ticking off the things in my mind that we needed to do for her---maybe that her medicine should be changed, or maybe she should see her cardiologist sooner.
I was totally unprepared when I walked into the ER to find David and the nurses performing CPR on her. Normally I’m very cool in a crisis, but this time I freaked out and started yelling….have yawl given her ………..? Have yawl done this or that ……? David looked me straight in the eye and said; if you can’t be calm…….get out!
And so I did, I went in the room with the family and had a quiet breakdown. Mable was gone. There would never be anybody else with which I had that kind of history. One of my dearest friends was gone.
A soloist sang “Let My Work Speak For Me” at her funeral. I remember thinking about how appropriate that was.
She has been gone about 6 years now.
And that morning after I trudged up the hill from the parking lot and struggled up those steps at the front of the hospital that seem to get steeper each year, walked down that hall that I have walked down almost every day for the last 34 years (I’ve been a nurse since I was 19) opened my office door and looked toward the Nurses’ Station I was overwhelmed with the thought……..”Mable got it right.” She doesn’t have to do this every day, she is at peace. Oh I’m sure that she wouldn’t have chosen to die and leave her children, but she is in paradise and I’m still at the hospital.
I don’t feel so morose today, in fact today has been a good day and I’m almost always a happy and optimistic person, but the other day………Mable was in paradise and I was at the hospital.