She didn’t even know how she got on this nursing assignment. She hated doing working at night, especially at this place way out in the boonies. But the extra money would come in handy. It would help her pay down her student loans and give her the experience needed to work somewhere closer to home in a hospital with a set schedule and better pay.
She had been driving for at least an hour to get to this place. And when she finally arrived, she parked in the employee parking and got out of the car. She took a look around and could immediately tell this is where the wealthy send their loved ones when they no longer wanted to care for them in their mega mansions. The place was dripping with money. From the outside that boasted grand marble columns, to the massive double doors that led inside. The grounds were meticulously landscaped. Celeste could see the lake and the woods in the distance.
She looked at her car that looked so out of place here. She had her mom’s old beat-up Toyota Corolla that didn’t look nice but it was reliable. She shrugged her shoulders and walked to the double doors that was at least ten feet tall and six feet wide each. Martha at the nursing registry told her that the doors were locked after ten pm and there would be an intercom that she could buzz to be let in. She pressed the button and waited for someone to answer.
“Mahogany Manor Assisted Living, Eleanor speaking. How may I help you?” said a voice.
“Hi, my name is Celeste Emerson, from Smiling Nurses Registry,” Celeste spoke into the intercom.
The door buzzed and then started to open slowly on its own. Celeste walked into the lobby and looked around. It was the fanciest assisted living facility that she had ever been in. The furniture was worth more than her student loans she was sure of it. There was marble flooring and expensive oriental rugs on top of it. There was a baby grand piano and crystal chandelier. She heard footsteps in the distance and turned in the direction of the steps to see a woman in scrubs. She was stunning; she didn’t have a brunette hair out of place in her neat bun. Her scrubs were ironed to perfection. Celeste felt like her appearance was lacking in comparison. Her own blonde hair was pulled into a messy bun at the nape of her neck. Her scrubs were slightly wrinkled, and her lunch bag was old and had seen better days.
“Hello Celeste, I am Eleanor Hall, the night shift nursing manager for Mahogany Manor. Thank you for coming on such short notice. We are so shorthanded tonight. A few of our nurses called out tonight so we are happy that you are here,” she giggled. “Let me show you around and tell you your assignment for the night. It really is quite easy. You will be on the hospice wing. There are eleven patients, and some are a little further off then others. You will just have to make sure that they have they have their medicines at the correct times and make sure that they are comfortable. One gentleman Mr. Matto Bearpaw, likes to wander. We just have to make sure that he doesn’t get too far. You will have the help of three CNAs on the wing. Let me introduce you.”
Eleanor led Celeste to the Hospice Wing. Most of the facility looked like a fancy country club, but when they reached the wooden double doors of the Hospice Wing and walked in, it very much resembled a hospital intensive care unit. Celeste could hear the beeping of machines taking the vitals of each occupant in the room. There was the familiar smell of hospital grade disinfectant. Sitting around the nurses station was three women who were reading the charts of each patient. Eleanor walked to the counter and exchanged pleasantries with each one.
“Ladies, I want you to meet the charge nurse for the night Celeste Emerson, Celeste these are the best CNAs that the night shift have, Rebecca, Dawn and Tanya. Let me know if you need anything.” Eleanor told her before leaving.
“Hello Celeste, let’s get started. It’s the first round of medicine for some of them,” Dawn told her. She led Celeste to the medicine closet.
Celeste made her rounds to give pain medication to the patients so they would be comfortable enough to sleep through the night. When she got to the last room, Mr. Matto Bearpaw she noticed that the sliding door leading outside was slightly ajar. She walked to the door and saw the man sitting on a bench facing the lake.
“Mr. Bearpaw? Hi, my name is Celeste and I’m your nurse for the night. Would you like to come in and take your medication?” She walked to the bench and had a sit beside him.
“Hello Celeste, beautiful name. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he looked at her and smiled. Celeste noticed that he had the kindest eyes that she had ever seen in a person. It was like he was looking into her soul. Mr. Bearpaw was a handsome old man, with the nicest brown eyes that she had ever seen. He had beautiful red bronze skin and long gray hair that was braided into two braids. Celeste could tell that he was Native American.
“Pleasure to make yours Mr. Bearpaw. I hope that I am not being offensive but are you Native American?”
“You are not being offensive at all, yes I am.” He smiled at her and patted her hand.
“Your name is beautiful. How about you come in and take your medicine.” Celeste stood up and extended her hand. Mr. Bearpaw put his hand into hers and she helped him back to his room. “I’ve been told to keep an eye out for you. That you like to wander.”
“I don’t wander. I prefer to be outside and be in nature. A person isn’t meant to stay indoors all day. Doesn’t matter if you are coming to the end of your life.”
Once they reached inside Celeste helped him back to bed and gave him his pain medication. She told him that she would be back to check on him in a bit. She went back to the nursing station to chart. Once she was finished, she went to check on each patient and again Mr. Bearpaw was outside. She walked up to him sitting on the bench.
“What am I going to do with you Mr. Bearpaw? You should be inside,” Celeste sat next to him and looked out at the moon’s reflection on the lake. “It is beautiful out; I see why you don’t want to be inside. “
“You remind me of my late wife. She was a nature lover too. She looked like you. But with black hair. We were married for 62 years before she passed away three months ago. I miss her terribly. But we had a good marriage and a good family. Do you have a husband Celeste?”
“Oh no. I just finished nursing school and I’m so busy trying to get a full-time job. I don’t have time.” She laughed softly.
“One day you will meet a guy that will knock you off of your feet.” He laughed before turning to look back over the lake.
Celeste let the quiet wash over the moment. It was nice being in such peaceful surroundings. She got to hear things that she normally wouldn’t in the city. She could hear the crickets and the frogs that were down by the lake. She couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw a barn owl fly and land in front of them.
“Hello there Mr. Owl,” Celeste whispered to him. “You’re gorgeous. I have never seen an owl up close before. It’s so close I can see its eyes.”
“This owl has been visiting me for the last couple of nights. In my culture an owl coming is a sign that death is near.”
“That’s so sad,” Celeste looked at him.
“For the ones left behind. For the person crossing over it means that your ancestors are near to help you cross over. Would you like to go in now? I have seen my friend.” He stood up and held out his hand for her. Celeste put her hand in his and stood up. Mr. Bearpaw put her arm through his and they slowly walked back to his room.
“My grandson will be here in a few hours. You should get a coffee with him. Tell him that his grandparents love him and he will be a great lawyer.”
“You can tell him yourself,” Celeste helped him back in bed.
“You are right. Can you please hand me that notebook and a pen?”
Celeste handed him the notebook and told him that she would be back to check on him in a few hours. After leaving him the night got busy. There was the admittance of a new patient and getting them comfortable and supplying another round of medicines.
By the time Celeste got to Mr. Bearpaw’s room he was sound asleep with the neatly on his lap. Celeste measured out his medicine and walked over to him.
“Mr. Bearpaw,” she gently shook him. She touched his hand and he was cold to the touched. Slightly panicking but trying to remember her training she pressed the button to alert everyone to the code.
The room became a flurry of activity. She started CPR and other nurses came into the room. The in-house doctor. In her heart she knew that it was too late, but she didn’t stop working until the doctor called his time of death.
Celeste had been around death before during nursing school when they were required to be student nurses in the hospital, but this was the first time that she had witness it when she was the nurse in charge. Eleanor reassured her that there was nothing that she could have done differently and informed her that she was going to go and call the family.
For the rest of her shift, Celeste felt like she had failed. Mr. Bearpaw was a sweet man and she felt like she should’ve been watching him better. She was glad that it was getting close to the end of her shift and that she could go home and take a shower. She finished her charting and started to collect her things. As she walked past Mr. Bearpaw’s room she saw that his body was still in the bed and his family was there. She wanted to give her condolences to the family, so she knocked on the door.
“Hello, my name is Celeste and I was the nurse on duty. I just wanted to share my condolences and say that he was a lovely man. I’m sorry for your lost.”
“Celeste, my grandfather left a note with your name in it. He told us to ask you to tell him who visited last night?” A young man said who looked like a younger version to Mr. Bearpaw.
“Visited last night? No one visited last night,” she shook her head right before she remembered. “Oh, the barn owl that landed by us while we were on the bench by the lake. Right, he told me it had been visiting for a few nights. It was a the most beautiful owl, with brown and white feathers and it looked right at him like they were really friends. It was a stunning bird.”
“My grandmother must have come to take him to the other side,” he held up a picture of Mr. Bearpaw and a woman with brown and graying hair hugging and laughing. Her eyes were the same hazel as the owl’s.