My Brother, The Nurse


Today my brother received a Daisy Award, given to nurses who meet their hospital’s mission and values and display extraordinary care and compassion. He, like so many other nurses, would say that he did nothing special. He was simply doing his job. But, these same nurses do special things not out of a job requirement, but out of an abundance of their heart.

They do special things because they are special people.

Thankful for someone who captured him receiving his award with fellow nurses and health professionals gathered at his side, I listened to the words expressed by the daughter-in-law of one of his patients – the matriarch of a large, loving family. While the patient had sadly passed, my brother’s care for her in her final weeks stayed with her family.

The daughter spoke about remembering the extra steps my brother took in communicating with their family so that they had the opportunity to interact with and be a part of her care. She spoke about him sharing not just what was happening in medical terms, but also on the terms in which she was still living life. She spoke about looking forward to his shifts, which meant looking forward to her mother-in-law being under his care. She spoke about how he cared for her as a patient, but also as extended family – joking with her when she needed to smile and holding her hand when she cried. She spoke about how he listened, shared, and understood. And more important than ever, she spoke about how he was able to paint the picture that they could not physically be a part of.

A nurse herself for nearly 30 years, she said, “He wore his love of the profession on his sleeve and showed us every day what kindness or compassion looked or sounded like.”

With an expecting wife and a young daughter at home; with the world carrying on the way it did in 2020 and so much to pull him elsewhere, he was able to be there. She wrote about his ability to be present and to provide care within each moment.

On November 14th at 8:51, the mother, grandmother, and friend to many crossed over that rainbow bridge in the sky. But in her final days, those focused moments, I think that my brother was dedicated to her through the memory of our own grandparents.

Because as coincidence would have it, while my brother was receiving this deserving award, our own grandpa’s ashes were finally being laid to rest. Passing away in February of last year, our grandpa luckily missed all that COVID brought into and took away from our lives. But my brother wasn’t able to say goodbye. He wasn’t able to stay at his side the way he was for our grandma and so many others under his care. He wasn’t able to tell our grandpa that it was okay – that he would be okay – that it was okay to let go. And I think in many ways when he holds his patient’s hands, he is also holding my grandpa’s.

What the woman who spoke about and nominated him doesn’t know about my brother is that it has been a long road to the scrubs and PPE gear he wears today. It took him longer than many to find his footing in the world. It took him failure and learning and more failure and growing and the pain of all that to be able to understand and give from a heart that, though broken in places, is big and worth sharing with others.

Perhaps it has taken a global pandemic for nurses to be seen for the sacrifices they make for others and their willingness to open their hearts to strangers. Perhaps nurse was once seen as a female’s job and mocking titles like “murse” were created to make men feel less than in a society that needs them to understand what it’s like to serve at the bedside of others. Perhaps appreciation for nurses should not be designated to a week when they are deserving of it each day. Perhaps all nurses aren’t created equal and their level of impact is different, but still of value in a world that focuses so much on Me and I over We and Us.

Perhaps it is through the imperfect people that we find the light we have been searching for.

Perhaps it is through people like my brother.

My brother, the middle child. My brother, the class clown.My brother, the skeptic. My brother, the ridiculous. My brother, the comedian.

My brother, the nurse.

Matt Cox, Daisy Award Honoree
Photo credit: Baptist Health Floyd