Behind me, before me, with me.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
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.