Angie had a dream. All her life, she wanted to act, to shine as the star upon the stage. Far from a desire of her ego to grab the spotlight, this was rather an expression of Angie’s natural, irrepressible spirit.
She was one of those rare people who beamed love to the world, all the more as she could so easily put herself aside and deeply care for those around her.
Her constant encouragement supported patients and staff alike. Not a person left her room without the blessing of her gratitude, not a soul could remain sour in her company. Which was more than wonderful, for Angie was facing a very aggressive cancer. She knew that while it could take her life, it would not take her joy. She actually used the disease to amplify her love and engage all the more deeply with the weeks that stretched out before her – more than enough moments to shine, but not enough to fulfill her dream.
She had come close. Angie had been an extra in almost 100 commercials, TV shows and movies. Always a figure in the background, it nonetheless provided great fun and a change to flirt with fame. Occasionally, a larger role would come along, but never that elusive moment when she could truly shine.
And then the QEII Foundation gave a call to the floor, seeking a particular kind of person to participate in a project that was all about shining in the darkest moments. Might the hematology unit have a patient like that, one who would like to appear in a music video profiling patient care? Did they ever!
Angie was overjoyed. Her eyes went wide with excitement. And, her instinct as an actor inspired her role. With a friend at her side, and a flower in her hair, she sat with me and shone with love while the camera rolled. We talked of this brief journey of life. We talked of the inevitable ups and downs, and Angie spoke with overflowing gratitude for it all. And here, near the end, she got to play the most important role in all her film career – as herself. Hearts welled up as heads bowed down for a prayer, the camera silently capturing the connection from above.
We know we’re here to care for the sick and the suffering. We’re here to give of our hearts and minds, of our expertise and our experience. But there’s something we get in return that’s far greater: lesson in life, in love, in living it to the core. If adversity does, indeed, introduce a person to themself, as Einstein said, then not only did Angie meet the best part of herself, she enabled us to meet the best within ourselves. Angie, along with all patients we serve, inspire us to bring everything we have to the table – to meet illness with expertise, suffering with compassion, and mortality with love.
While many see the hospital as a profoundly difficult place to work, we know this is where the most beautiful flowers bloom. We saw the hero in her, and she brought out the heroic in us.
Question: How can you bring the best of self to the worst of life?
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