She took his hand and looked him square in the eyes as he lay there in the hospital bed, in pain, worried and frustrated. His thoughts and words were clouded under the mask of painkillers, and it was her job to check his vitals, help manage his pain and answer his family's questions about what was going on in our dad's body.
Seeing him in that hospital bed, the man who was in his wool cap and on a horse just days before, laying there so vulnerable and sick brought back too many memories of that long January night just three years ago when his heart tore and we nearly lost him.
Could we be there again? How much agony should we put into this moment that turned into a week of waiting in that hospital room with him? Because worrying and calling the nurse is all a person can do in moments of helplessness.
I'm not sure I've said it out loud before, but I'll say it here: I think I might believe in angels.
Maybe not in the literal sense, where they swoop down from heaven with outstretched wings - I don't think it's as theatrical as that.
But I think I've seen them inhabit the shape of things here, if only for the moments in which we need them - the body of a good dog, a well-timed breeze, an outstretched hand - all small things with the capacity to restore, if only briefly, a worn-out faith in this place.
I'll confess these days my faith has been waning. With this world growing smaller, and so many words thrown out and scattered recklessly, it's hard to escape the cruelty that humans choose to inflict on one another. It's wearing me out and making me sad and scared.
I've seen the price people pay for anger and hatred; we've all seen it reported to us, seemingly, hour by hour. But that morning that nurse looked into my dad's eyes and rubbed his arm in a genuine attempt to bring him comfort, I knew I was witnessing an angel moment, one that nurse pulled out effortlessly in the hectic and so very unglamorous demands of her day. It's her job, yes, but it would be much easier for her to make her rounds, do her duty and keep her heart out of it.
I imagine it would certainly keep her schedule on better track.
And as it turns out now, my dad's going to be OK. His ailment was excruciating, but his life's not in danger. And for that we're grateful.
But the whole ordeal has worn on our nerves and made us less patient with the little things because of the weight of the big thing we've been carrying for days on end.
Yet I vowed in the hospital hallway to take a cue from Dad's nurse, so I offered a smile and directions to the cafeteria to a man who looked lost, because Good Lord, aren't we all?
If the cost of kindness is nothing but a few minutes, I'm willing to pay it forward, out of respect for those angels.