Mr. Smith’s Deathbed Joke

I was telling this story last night and it’s just too good not to write up. I think it’s one of the very best penis-related stories I took away from my nursing career. You’re warned, so keep reading.

One fairly quiet evening on a orthopedic ward I entered another nurse’s patient’s room to request her help with my patient. Seeing that she was in the middle of bathing her patient, I stepped in to help her in the hopes she would then return the favor. She made it very clear she was very busy, probably too busy to help me afterward, so I just stayed to help her instead. Her patient was a very frail and dying elderly man, laying for the most part exposed for a bed bath. Right away I noticed there was a problem with his penis.

I won’t name names, because this nurse was someone I had gone to school with 7 years prior, but I immediately groaned, “Oh Angela! You need to pull down the curtains.”

She looked behind her at the bank of windows, which were in fact unshuttered, looking out from the 6th story of Good Samaritan Hospital into dark downtown Portland, and went to shut the curtains. With a gesture I redirected her attention to the patient’s penis. It was a sad, sad thing, made abstract by the huge 18 French catheter snaking out of it, and sorry by the fact that his foreskin was stuck retracted. Like a tourniquet it had caused all sorts of problems down below. Swelling, edema. Paper-thin translucent skin. I winced. Poor guy.

“The curtains. You need to pull down the curtains.”

“He’s circumcised.”

“Oh, Angela. You’ve got to be kidding me. You’ve been doing this how long? Fine, I’ll do it.”

I went to the sink and put on gloves, opened a foil pack of lube (a good nurse always has some in her pocket). I began to massage the poor dying man’s penis back into shape, and then showed Angela my handiwork.

“There, see?”

Angela rolled her eyes. I took off my gloves and we continued to bathe the dying man until we were disturbed by the doctor, who had come to check on him. The doctor asked how he was and we didn’t have much to tell her. He had been unresponsive, but breathing. Dying. She worked her way around to the side of the bed where Angela stood and began to talk loudly into the man’s ear,

“Mr. Smith? Mr. Smith, good evening Mr. Smith. Can you hear me? Mr. Smith?”

He began to rouse slightly.

“Mr. Smith, do you know who I am?”

He moved his lips slightly but no sound came out yet.

“Very good Mr. Smith. Can you say it again? Can you tell me who I am?”

Then he said it.

“My rabbi?”