One of the things I love about nursing is taking care of our servicemen and woman from various campaigns throughout American history. I always feel a sense of gratitude for their sacrifice whether willing or unwilling (in the case of being drafted into the armed forces). I feel shame as well, because it is not a sacrifice I am willingly capable of making.
Several months ago I took care of a Vietnam veteran. I don’t remember the diagnosis, but I remember him, his wife, and the conversations we discussed. Maybe it’s my beard, but taboo subjects like religion, politics, war and race are all in play (once we’ve closed the room door). Perhaps it is because of HIPAA that they know I cannot identify them and/or their diagnosis, but I find many of my patients want to discuss things society says we shouldn’t talk about.
I am not a religious man, but I enjoy talking about religion. The teachings are amazing, especially when they are brought to life through someone passionate about their beliefs. I often ask our veterans, “What kept you going? How did you make sense of all the horrific experiences you saw?” The answer, almost universally, is their religion, or faith.
After my last shift with this patient, I thanked him for letting me take care of him and wished him well. Unfortunately I did not get to discharge him and having several days off he was gone when I returned. One of my supervisors handed me an envelope upon my return, “From room # X.” Inside I found a necklace with a small pendant. I knew, based on our discussions, this was a patron saint. However, I did not know which one. Several Google searches later…
Enter Archangel Michael: Kicker of Asses. Saint Michael was an Archangel and he had four main roles (Catholic version):
- Leader of the Army of God, heaven’s forces, against Satan’s army.
- The Angel of Death, carrying souls to heaven and offering them redemption at their hour of death
- The weigher of souls (balancer of scales)
- Guardian of the Church
Due to these roles he is often referred to as the patron of military. Also, he is said to have a role as an angel of healing. As a minor healer, I identify with Saint Michael. I am reminded of my time in long term care, shepherding people from this life to the next with dignity and comfort. I am not a religious man, but Archangel Michael guards my locker at work. Since I need all the help I can get, there he will remain.