"Thank you. I haven't seen her smile or laugh in months."
This is what a patient's family member told me today as she was leaving the hospital. While I considered this a huge compliment, I was immediately saddened that it had been months since this woman had any publicly-displayed joy. I also was confused, as my patient and I had had a fantastic day (minus a couple of intense "sundown" hours) in which we giggled and planned a trip to Paris.
She did her hair and I brought her a choice of gowns to wear. Her eyes lit up at the green gown with the blue pattern, and she caressed it like I imagined Marie Antoinette caressed a new silken fabric. We pretended that her bedroom slippers were pointy-toed satin pumps. I made a big show of tying the bow in the back of her gown, fussing about as if it was some slippery ribbon that needed to be bowed perfectly.
When her dinner came, I made much out of the plastic domed plate, whisking the dome away with a washcloth over my arm as if she was in an expensive French restaurant, being served escargot and fine wine. I poured water out of the pink plastic pitcher as if it were Dom Perignon of the finest quality. When she went to sleep, it was on the best linens, of pink silk spun from Brazilian caterpillars.
Now I sit here in my plaid pajamas, eating Nutella with a spoon, while my princess slumbers in fairyland. I laugh and cry at the same time, enjoying the memories of today, and hope with all my heart that she might have more times like this in the future.
Did it take effort? Not at all. Did it take anything away from my day? Absolutely not. My life was enhanced by knowing this woman for half a day. I became a Duchess, today. I was on a cruise to Thailand with my new friend. We flirted with handsome pilots (paramedics) and conspired with each other to buy the freshest produce on the island before any of the other tourists could. The purple orchid that came on her dinner plate was immediately traded between her hair and mine, until she said that I was prettier than the flower, and I could keep it as a memory of our trip.
So, my Countess, I hope you are having sweet dreams. I hope you are in far-off lands with some dashing prince from a small country who drapes you with emeralds. You are beautiful. Thank you.