Return With Honor Scholarship Essay Contest

Rachel Bracha
Provo, UT

ROOM 302

Names have been changed to protect privacy.

No one liked him. His breath smelled of fermented grape juice that had been long forgotten in the darkest corner of the refrigerator. His eyes hid behind enormous reading-glasses that he refused to remove for the nurses to clean. His filthy hair was a combination of smoke and charcoal gray streaks that had not been washed in years. His teeth were yellow and in desperate need of a thorough and brave toothbrush. He wore the same torn and faded clothing everyday: the white button shirt, gray slacks, and sky-blue cardigan. He claimed that showering washes away the soul, so he refused to shower. No one liked him, not even his own kids. Everyone avoided room three hundred two.

Even though I should have been listening to the instructions, I was imagining the ways I was going to save lives. The head nurse was introducing all the residents to me via the charts they kept of them in the nurse’s office, “Room two hundred nine— she is diabetic with specific feeding times. Her family has asked that we…” I was not listening since I was far too excited to begin my first day as a real nurse.

“I saved this one for last. Room three hundred two is Mr. Smith. He is a special patient since he is noncompliant and very unhappy. Most, if not all, the nurses will not attempt to help him, so today, you get to try.” My face flushed.

I slowly made my way to room three hundred two. I knocked lightly on the door as I entered his room; he was reclined in a chair by the window staring at a bird. I smiled pleasantly and introduced myself. His reply came quickly, “Young lady— stop smiling, shut up, and get outta here.”

I was furious. I promised myself that no patient would ever speak to me this way again. I vowed to refuse any care of the man in room three hundred two. I saw him several times that day and paid him no attention.

I arrived early to work the next morning only to be given room three hundred two again. I again knocked lightly on the door as I walked in. Instead of the usual greeting he said nothing. I walked to where he was fully reclined in the same chair by the window. Laid on his chest was an open Book of Mormon that had been marked with a lacey page-marker. Written in bold calligraphy, the title read, “Live Your Life; Don’t Regret It.” There were regrets written in the margin that explained the reason for his unhappy life. I immediately returned the marker to its place since I expected him to wake at any second. I stood and waited for the verbal lashings to begin.

It soon became obvious to me that he would not wake since his vitals were failing. I checked for a pulse, nothing. I checked for breathing, none. I checked for temperature, cold. He had passed away all alone.

While looking at him I realized how short life is: every action being a factor in the mortal experience. I got on my knees and prayed for this man and many others whom live a life of unhappiness and regret. D&C 18:10 came to my mind during the prayer, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” I promised myself on that day that I would never again treat any patient, friend, coworker, or even acquaintance with the least degree of disrespect. If given a second chance, I would have given this man the respect he deserved.

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