By Sister Peggy Coyne, OP
December 17, 2015, Adrian, Michigan – When I was a young nurse working in an ICU at a large teaching hospital in the Bronx, we were required to work every other holiday. I worked one Christmas Eve and had to double back on Christmas Day.
One of my patients, David, was a fairly young man who was quite ill – sick but stable. During the eight-hour shift, he talked of being a scientist. He loved astronomy and was fascinated by the universe. A little after 11:00 p.m., I said good bye to David and told him that I would see him in the morning. He said no, I would not see him, because he was going to die and a comet was coming for him. His face radiated peace as he said this.
I replied, “Comet?” He said, “Yes,” and we looked out the window where he pointed to a group of stars. In a rush to get home, I smiled and said, “I’ll see you later.”
During my drive home, I kept looking toward the sky for the comet David was sure would come for him. I saw stars and the moon, but nothing resembling a comet.
Well, in less than two hours, he was gone. When I came in at 7:00 a.m., his cubicle was indeed empty. His face and smile are with me still. Not a Christmas has passed that I do not think of David and the comet. I was gifted with his sense of internal peace. There was no struggle; he seemed to know that he would be in a safe place. The comet was his comfort.
When I hear the carol, “The First Noel,” I am struck by the words, “They looked up and saw a star.” I always say a prayer for David, who taught me to take time to look at the stars.