We were each assigned to an experienced volunteer. I was paired with a lovely Italian woman who didn’t speak English. Even with limited knowledge of each other’s native tongues, we still managed to laugh, cry and smile with each other. Our language barrier didn’t stop me from being able to comfort the pilgrims. When I had to wipe the chairs, she signed with her hand for me to wipe them. Whenever Italian families came in, she tried to help me understand what they were saying. Our moments together showed me that the language of love and kindness always shines through, even with a communication barrier. And that continued when an Italian family of three walked in later.
The mother was in a wheelchair accompanied by two of her children. The children wheeled their mom to the front, praying together in unison. Then, we did the water ritual. With families, we modify the ritual steps and ask them if they’d also feel comfortable washing each other’s faces, which makes the moment feel more intimate. This family gladly agreed. I poured the water into each of their hands. I couldn’t stop smiling as I watched how they affectionately splashed water onto each other’s cheeks. The son gazed up at his mom with watery eyes and a sincere smile. I’ll never forget the beauty of that moment.
After the ceremony, they expressed how at peace they felt and thanked us for our service. Later in my trip, I learned that the mother reported a potential miracle to Dr. Alessandro de Franciscis, leader of the Medical Bureau of the Sanctuary. She claimed that she felt some relief from the nerve damage in her hands after her experience in the baths. I saw how happy and hopeful she was after the moment in the baths.
I don’t know if it was the simultaneous background noise of people beautifully singing “Ave Maria” in unison or the news of her slight recovery, but I felt something new in my heart that day. My own faith felt strengthened, and I recognized how powerful a role love, kindness and spirituality can play in moments of caring for patients. Suddenly, these tasks felt much bigger than I’d thought.
Importance of Spiritual Care
A lot of times in nursing, we tend to leave the spiritual aspects of care to the religious leader on staff. But through this trip, I realized the importance of spiritual care – whether it be through praying, singing and reflection – and that as a future nurse, I could help support my patients emotionally and spiritually too, even if just through my presence.
A lot of the visitors who come to Lourdes come to be healed physically. Still, many find emotional and spiritual healing in the process, leaving with newfound hope and courage. After Lourdes, I hope to be able to bring this spiritual care to my future patients.
The moments on this trip will help shape me into the best nurse I can be. It was truly an unforgettable experience – one I’ll forever be thankful for.