Behind me, before me, with me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Some days, when I walk into my house after a long day at work, Liam sweetly asks, "Mommy, how were fings at the hos-a-pital today?" It's an innocent question. I should probably just respond, "They were good, buddy. How was your day?" But some nights I walk in carrying so much weight, and it's difficult to translate to 4-year-old speak.

If I could say what was on my mind, I would talk about the hospice patient who died alone because his estranged daughter refused to visit in his last moments. I would talk of the way he gripped my hand and stared at the wall blankly before his eyes closed forever. I might mention the woman who came into the ER with a stomach ache and would leave the hospital with a terminal cancer diagnosis. How her husband wept at the news. I might even mention the dementia patient who was fully convinced she was a famous politician's wife, and how it kept a smile on our faces. Or the way another's illness brought his grown children and grandchildren into town for the first time in years.

There's a heaviness that comes with working in the medical field that only others in the medical field can really identify with. It's as if this sacred space - the convergence of life and death - can hardly be discussed outside hospital walls with well-meaning family and friends because it's just too much to grasp. And recounting a day in my life as a nurse probably makes my job seem thoroughly depressing, which it's not. It's peppered with plenty of hilarious moments, often involving bodily fluids. (They're usually just funny after the fact.)

Transitioning from the hospital back into my real life can be tricky. I often fall into bed past midnight and wake up just after 7am to toddlers asking for blueberry waffles. Images from the night before haven't left me, and I'm shocked awake a few hours later to the stunning joy of my life with my family. I remember during clinical in nursing school, I would walk out of the trauma unit and cross the street toward my car, passing a playground full of giggling children and smiling teachers. Did they have no idea that just across the street, someone was being pronounced brain dead? That another was just receiving news that his son had died? I found it hard - and still do - to break back into "normal" life, chatting about potty training and meal planning on the playground with other moms after what I've witnessed the night before.

There are days I wish my feet didn't have to carry me rooms so devoid of hope. Then there are other days I know for certain the Lord has led me there with great purpose. People lying on their death beds usually have big questions, and some have looked me square in the eye and asked, "There's something different about you - what is it?" It's there I can look right back at them and say, "The difference is Jesus Christ. He is everything to me: my joy, my peace, my hope for salvation in this very dark world." I never quite know how those tiny seeds will grow, or if they've fallen on rocky soil. But I'm reassured in that moment that God is so near, I am so unworthy of him, and he has called me to this very moment.

If you're thinking about becoming a nurse and this all sounds unimaginably heavy, let me encourage you. It's a lot like I've found motherhood to be: hard, but extraordinarily rewarding. When you see a patient recover from an illness that should have cost her life, you rejoice. When your coworkers rally around you on an especially hard day, there's nothing like it. It's a ministry like few others in being so hands-on and practical. Each day I throw the stethoscope around my neck and walk off the elevator, I have no idea the challenges and the joys ahead. What I do know is that Christ goes behind me, before me, and is with me even in the darkest places.

7 comments:

  1. Well said! I know all too well (in nursing for over 3 decades). It is a calling I was happy to answer.

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  2. Beautifully written, babe. It is so apparent that God has gifted you for nursing - intelligence, problem-solving, compassion, mercy, and patience. AND He's gifted you for motherhood - intelligence, problem-solving, compassion, mercy, and patience! You balance those worlds so well. Proud of you!

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  4. Hi...I have been reading your blog for a few years now, but I think this may be the first time I have ever commented, I apologize if it is! I have always been encouraged by your transparency and desire to live out the gospel in every aspect of your life. I just wanted to thank you for your willingness to be used by God as a nurse. As the mama of a special needs little boy who has seen the walls inside the hospital many times over the last year, I know just what an encouragement a nurse who truly cares can be. I will never forget the nurse (who happened to be from our church) lovingly listening to me talk and the other nurse who came in after her shift just to sit and pray with me; those are gifts whose value is immeasurable. I think about the nurses I know often, and what a heavy burden you all carry. What you wrote is almost exactly what a couple of them have shared with me about what it's like to leave the hospital and enter the outside world. I just wanted you to know that just being a light for Jesus each day you enter that world will be a gift to those whom you meet, even if they never communicate that to you. I am praying for you!

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