This is the story of my co-worker I will call Ryan.
As a nurse in an ambulatory surgical center, my co-workers are mostly other RN’s and several techs that assist us. We are all female except for Ryan. Ryan is a tech. The job of the tech is to help with transporting the patients to and from the operating room, get patient temperatures and blood pressures, and basically help the RN’s so that we can do the paperwork, pass meds, and tend to the IV’s.
Ryan is helpful to have around because, being a guy, he can help with moving the heavier patients. But Ryan can be a pain in the butt. He is a prankster and is always stealing my pen. He takes things and hides them or makes us beg for them to be handed back. He comes in in the mornings always yawning and tired and is the first to want to leave at the end of the day. He likes to grab a marker and put lines of ink on another tech’s arm. He will scribble on my schedule.
Ryan comes across to me like a teenager. Imagine my surprise when I found out he was thirty-two. I heard he had a son about sixteen years old and another child by his current girlfriend. Ryan also lives at home with his parents. Some days we get really frustrated with Ryan. The other co-workers would complain about him.
I decided last week to look at Ryan from another angle. I recognized that he was really good with the patients. Truly. So instead of complaining about Ryan, I decided to take him on in a different way. He was standing by my work area and I turned to him and said, “You know, Ryan, you are really good with the patients.” “Huh? Really?” he replied, “You’re not just being sarcastic are you?” “No,” I told him, “You do a very nice job of talking to them and making them feel comfortable. So maybe you could treat your co-workers the same way!” I added with a smile. “Really?” he asked me again with wide eyes. “You think I do a good job?” “I really do, Ryan. I think you need to believe in yourself because you are quite good at what you do. I’ve seen you interact with patients and they really like you” I told him sincerely. “Well, thank you,” Ryan replied to me. I think I surprised him. I think I may have boosted his otherwise sagging self-esteem. I just wanted him to see that he was good at his job and maybe boost his confidence.
Crazy Ryan. I must say that he keeps the work day lively.
I got a three day weekend with today, Monday, off from work. I was running errands when my phone rang. The caller ID showed my work number and I answered the call from the nurse in charge. “Laurel,” she said, “I know you will be at work tomorrow but I wanted to let you know today because the rest of us here already know – but Ryan is dead. He died in his sleep and they found him dead Sunday morning. They don’t know what happened but will be doing an autopsy.”
Oh my goodness. I started to cry. Not crazy, immature, lovable, fun Ryan? He had just purchased an engagement ring for his girlfriend. He was trying to get his act together. He was too young to have his life cut short like that.
And then I remembered my last conversation with him. I was so glad I made him feel good. It would have been horrible if our last exchange together had not been nice. I would have felt terrible.
It made me think 😉
You never know when you are talking to someone for the last time. Isn’t it better to part on encouraging words instead of on negative ones? What if I had said something sarcastic and teasing? If my last words had been bitter or mean, I would have regretted that tone of our last conversation before his passing. And if I look at things in reverse, what if I had passed instead? I would much rather be remembered as one who shared encouraging words.
I never imagined last weeks’ conversation with Ryan to be our last.
Be careful how you talk to people. What if yours is the last voice they hear? What if your words are the last you will speak?
Earlier last week, Ryan showed me a new necklace that he had just purchased. It was a gold chain with a crucifix on it. I scolded him because it cost him way too much money. He was very proud of it. I never had gotten a chance to talk about faith with him. He knew I sang at my church. I hope he wore a cross because he believed and had Christ in his heart.
Darn you Ryan for becoming my friend and then dying on us.
You can have my pen, Ryan. Keep it.
Ryan, if you can see my tears, I hope you know that they fall because you were fun and a good person and I cry because I will miss you. And because you were my friend.