The Angel in the Box

nurse angel

“Guess what is in the box?”

I love sitting in the lobby of hospitals, especially early in the morning. So many stories to be told. So many stories to be listened to.

“I don’t know. What is in the box?”

This veteran and I had been conversing for the past twenty minutes. He noticed my Boston accent immediately. And I noticed his Brooklyn. (We were neither in Boston nor Brooklyn).

“I have an angel in this box.”

He had told me about his branch. His service. His war. He said he loves the V.A. He said he loves seeing his brothers and sisters here. He said he misses his wife (who he had lost a few years back to cancer.)

“Why do you have an angel in a box?”

My new friend was quiet for a moment.

“I recently had surgery here.”

He proceeded to tell me the details. How he did not want the surgery. How cold the operating room was. How they had trouble waking him in recovery.

As he spoke the lobby became more and more busy.  I lean forward and continue to listen.

“I have seen a lot. I have done a lot. I don’t like to admit it, but I was really scared. Mary [his wife] was no longer here keeping me safe.”

He continued.

“And I kept having bad memories of losing my Mary.”

He began to weep.

“I am so sorry.”

We waited. The lobby became silent (at least to us) as our safe space was held. He took a deep breath. I noticed I was holding mine.

“Why do you have an angel in a box?”

More silence. More shared space holding.

“I was so scared. I want to be with Mary. I really do. I miss her so.”


“But I also know I have more to do here.”

I remember to breathe.

“When I awoke in recovery, as my eyes cleared and the world came back into focus, I saw her. And then I heard her. My nurse. Nurse Linda.”

More silence. More space.

“Master Sargent, Jim [name changed] … This is Linda. Your nurse. You are in recovery. You did great. Your surgery is done. You did so good. Jim … ”


“Tom, Linda held my hand. She leaned in. She spoke softly. She was so calming. She cared about me. … Just like my Mary.”

More silence.

“I felt safe.”

We each took a breath.

“Linda was my angel and I want her to know.”



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