i’d not been there in 32 years. even though in so many ways it’s defined who i am. even though my time there resulted in one of the first words you’d read in my bio.
i became a nurse there. and today, armed with laptop and handouts and even an imovie, i went back to the college of nursing that made me a nurse, back to a classroom.
only this time, i was the teacher.
or, more accurately, i was there to inspire the ones who filled the chairs in the room, the ones who have dedicated their lives to the art of nursing, of healing, of listening, of holding hands down long dark lonely corridors, of wiping brows in the night, of handing over a squirmy wet newborn, of pulling up the covers when it’s all finally over, of taking loved ones by the hand and finding a quiet safe room….
i went back to say out loud, and into the hearts of those who would understand, the words i’ve said every time someone has asked me, how does a nurse become a newspaper writer?
the answer is, it’s not so hard really. every thing about being a nurse can make you a wonderful writer.
you know how to walk in a room and soak in everything, i told them, and they knew what i meant. you see, you take in, you absorb in an instant the spoken and the unspoken.
you know to ask questions, elicit story. you put your heart right out there, open it wide. people sidle up to you. they let you take their hand. don’t flinch when you matter-of-factly slide your arm round their shoulder.
you are a master of looking deep in someone’s eyes. you lock gazes like nobody’s business.
you are all heart. all eyes, and all ears.
you gather up stories for a living, as you tend to the brokenness that fills the beds of your hospitals, your clinics, the homes you visit, and, yes, the school nurse’s office.
you are on the frontlines of life at its most triumphant, and its most crushing.
to be witness to all of this, to be the bearer of truth and unforgettable gospel, is, for some of us, a call to be the teller of story, to shine light where there is darkness, to put down words so none of it slips into nothingness.
that’s what i told the beautiful healers, the beautiful writers, who were gathered there in the room of the school that taught me so much. so heavenly much.
a whole semester in listening, among my courseload. how to listen. how to ask question. how to reach out a hand and gather up the whole cloth of someone’s life story.
it’s but one of the tools of the nurse. a part of how she, or he, carries on the art of healing, of making whole.
i loved being a nurse. i loved learning, becoming one.
i don’t don whites to go to work anymore. don’t pass out meds, making my way from room to room, anymore.
but, so help me God, i hope that not for a minute do i wake up and leave my house without donning all that i learned, that i loved, in the college of nursing.
it was a powerful moment to step back into the place that long ago filled my soul.
i pray that those in the chairs today believe what i told them: you have something to say. and you know how to say it.
the world needs the voices of nurses.
so tired i am, late late at night after a very long day and long week. i’ve a little boy upstairs who wants a back rub, as he settles into sleep the night before yet another big baseball game. i am, as of now, on vacation. i won’t be here next friday, as i always am. but i will meander once i’m home, and then only three fridays till the one in which i take my firstborn to college.
the picture above is one of the frames from my little inspirational imovie. part of my workshop: “writing the heart of nursing.”
little one calling. no more words. just circles on the small of the back of a little about-to-be-dreamy boy….