The Smallest Gifts

Most moments in life end up being remembered and defined by the smallest gestures, moments and things.

18 years ago, in a hospital in Lafayette, Indiana, I awoke in a post surgical recovery room disoriented, confused, scared and alone. What had been scheduled as a minor out-patient procedure turned into a four-day hospital stay after a softball size benign tumor was discovered and removed from my right ovary.

I remember the friends who took turns camped out next to my hospital bed studying for finals as I drifted in and out of a drug induced sleep.

I remember my surgeon who spent an hour sitting next to my bed in silence to keep me company.

I remember my pre-op nurse who came to check on me and removed an angel pin from her scrubs and pinned it to my hospital gown and checked in with me daily.

I am fortunate that those friends who sat with me, keeping me company while balancing the demands of cramming for finals, remain fixtures in my life today. The impact of their kindness has stayed with me and has contributed to my perspective of the patient experience.  

I don’t remember the nurse’s name and vaguely recall what she looked like aside from her warm smile. Yet I’ve never forgotten her tiny gift. I have never forgotten her pinning the angel on my gown and never forgotten the time she spent checking in one me.

For 18 years I have carried her angel pin with me and am reminded of her gesture and her kindness routinely as it sits in my jewelry box. I imagine she wouldn’t expect I would have kept and carried her small gift of kindness with me all these years and I imagine that she may herself not remember the gesture.

This tiny angel signifies so many things. Namely, that yes, indeed, the little things in life really do matter. The little things really do make an impact and they do in-fact affect people and change them.

For me and in my experience the past five years with my piece of shit brain tumor, the smallest gestures have always had the greatest impact. The smallest things have cut through the vulnerability of being a patient and the weight and magnitude of our journey has been lightened through small acts of compassion and kindness.

Whatever the path we’re on and no matter the challenges we face, the smallest acts of kindness indeed make our journey along the way easier.  

Searching for an earring yesterday, my finger came upon the small angel. With the weight of my next MRI heavy on my shoulders, I picked her up and felt the smallest amount of weight lift away. This small angel and the impact it’s had for me isn’t about prayer or about faith but simply about the measure of a small act of kindness.

Passed onto me in a moment of need 18 years ago, this small gift is still rich with kindness as it continues to serve compassion to my heart and soul.      


Think on these things.

7 thoughts on “The Smallest Gifts

  1. “Passed onto me in a moment of need 18 years ago, this small gift is still rich with kindness as it continues to serve compassion to my heart and soul.” Your comment touched me because I recently had a similar experience on a Delta airline flight. This is breast cancer awareness month. Delta airlines is having a fund raiser for breast cancer research. The napkins used during distribution of drinks has a short saying about supporting breast cancer research. I am presently in treatment for breast cancer and became very emotional at this touch of support for breast cancer. The flight attendant stopped to talk to me when she noticed my tears. It turns out she also is a breast cancer survivor. Each time she went up and down the aisle, she stopped and always said, “You will be OK”. At the end of the flight when everyone is jumping up and getting their luggage down, she came through the crowd to hand me a pin. It is a pink ribbon with a dove on it. This small gift is rich with kindness and a huge support to the hope that I will definitely be OK. That pin will go with me to each of the 33 radiation therapy treatments I start on Monday. Thank you, Jen, for sharing your story. It really touched a personal side of me.

    • Marlene:

      Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your own experience. I wish you well as you venture through your treatment. Please stay in touch and let me know how you are doing and progressing through your treatment. Thinking of you and thank you again for commenting.

  2. Thank you sharing this special story. Selfishly, great timing for me to hear this story. Love you Jen! XOXO

    Always thinking when reading your superb entries.

  3. Seems like just yesterday that after receiving your post-op phone call with the startling news of your unexpected surgery I flew off to be with you and later drive you home to Connecticut for your recovery. How wonderful that you have kept that special pin all these years. Love, Mom

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