This week the 56-year-old brother of a dear friend of mine died, of Covid. We like to think it’s over, but it’s not. Perhaps the worst is behind us…a million people died of Covid in the US and millions more are grieving due to this incredibly tenacious virus. But people are still getting sick, and death continues to loom in the shadows.


This is where kindness comes in. And compassion. And the commitment to listening. When those things occur, change happens. Here are 3 small examples of how our words can impact others for the rest of their lives.


A nurse in my course Awaken To Your Purpose relayed a story of a hospitalized patient she was working with to help him arrange for discharge. He was discouraged and his symptoms were preventing him from going home when he hoped. She said, “I just kindly and told him I had high hopes for him to be going home the next day and that he should too, and I just encouraged him to stay positive”. The next day when she checked in, he indeed was going home and he said, “thanks to your kind words, I stopped worrying and felt much better, now I’m headed home!”


My best friend’s little granddaughter had seen many physicians for her unusual pain and lethargy and confusion following a bout with Covid. Her parents were often told by many physicians they were imagining things, or she was just going through a phase, or there was nothing anyone could do.  The parents didn’t feel heard and felt helpless. Until they ended up at Mayo Clinic where not only were they listened to, but their daughter was listened to as well. They now have a plan to move forward because they were heard.


My friend whose brother died recently said this: “My brother died last week.  He had COVID twice and never was the same.  His decline was sudden and unexpected.


Upon arrival at the ICU, I was taken aback that my brother was intubated, on a ventilator, with 5 IVs basically keeping him somewhat alive.  The nurse stated that he was on an “Allow Natural Death” protocol.  It became apparent that “Allow Natural Death” really meant “we will try to keep him alive” no matter what. 


When the nurse entered the room, he was factual and answered the questions put to him. He performed his role.  My nephew then turned to me and said, “Uncle, today is the worst day of my life, and to the nurse, it’s Wednesday”.  This statement sat with me, as it did with my nephew.


It was not until we pushed back on the (aggressive) “Allow Natural Death” protocol and insisted on a comfort/palliative care-only protocol, that my brother was able to die peacefully.


The next day, we gathered as a family to laugh, cry, and remember my brother. My nephew continued our discussion.  “Uncle, as part of my Law School training, I am doing public defender work.  I had my first case the day before dad died.  I walked into the holding room, sat down across from the defendant, and said, hello, how is your day going?”  The defendant said “Well, I am accused of murder, so not so good.”  Then my nephew reflected and said, “for this man, it was the worst day of his life, and for me, it was Wednesday.”


My friend asks of us:

  • “How do we demonstrate true empathy and awareness of situations? 
  • How can we be present as others need us to be present? 
  • We are all teachers in all we do and say, and our actions and words are observed in ways we might not be aware of
  • In health care, how can we embrace the responsibility to care in all its manifestations?
  • Owning and leaning into our role as teachers can be the catalyst for a life-changing presence that will be with those we interact for a very long time. Maybe forever.”

 “I grieve my brother’s loss.  I will live with this loss.  I will honor my brother’s memory and legacy, And I will work hard to make sure it is not ‘just a Wednesday’.”


Be kind, everyone has a story, and sometimes a kind word, a smile, or a small encouragement can change a life.


Love and Light


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