“I put the flowers that Linda's family sent at the nurse's station. Before Linda died, I had come to talk with her, her husband, and their two adult sons. I did that every Saturday for three months. We were always in the same small, sterile room. We never talked about cancer. ... The card attached to the bouquet was from Linda's family was in a yellow envelope. The short inscription read: You brought us sunshine.”

The lines above won’t make sense unless you watch this video:

I hope you will. It is created by a nurse and physician, Sadie Hutson, who tells the story of taking care of her mother, Joy, who had breast cancer and who died at age forty. Sadie’s decision to become a nurse was inspired by her mother.

It is not always easy to be the nurses we are called to be. So much of life is a salvage operation, making the best of circumstances we wish were otherwise. Sadie understood this:

When I was eleven a homecare nurse brought supplies to our house and showed me how to clean and flush my mom's port, and change the dressing. I held my breath when I pulled the needle out or pushed the needle in.”And so it is with us, whatever situations we face. We, too, have our dressings to change and ports to flush. We, too, do not always feel up to the task.

And yet we persist. We nurses can and do have strength and courage and faith. Not faith that everything happens for a reason, but faith that, whatever happens, we can make a way out of no way and help others along the way. Faith is trust in the availability of fresh possibilities. It is openness to grace, not as an idea but as a healing energy within us and around us. Faith is grace.

Grace is not all-powerful. It cannot eliminate hardship or erase tragedy. It cannot make the world so beautiful that there are no more tears. But it can provide opportunities for nursing: that is, for spreading goodness and beauty in the world. Often there is a joy in this. We find ourselves singing along with Sadie Hutson as she drives to work, and sensing that, in some mysterious way, our songs are heard by something so deep, so tender, that it includes all ancestors, all sorrows and all joys, in a perpetual spring.

Isn’t the universe itself enfolded within the life of a Nurse so deep that she never gives up, not on us and not on anybody, in this life or the next? And aren’t we made in her image, such that we can grow into her likeness? The caring and the singing — is this not what it means to become a nurse, each in our way? A mother nurse, a father nurse, a sister nurse, a brother nurse, a daughter nurse, a son nurse — and a sleeping nurse, too. We all need our rest.

As I walk down the street I like to see each person as a nurse-in-the-making. My task is to appreciate their struggle and offer encouragement. And of course I am a nurse-in-the-making, too. We need each other and — so I am told by a reliable source — the Nurse needs us, too, if her will is to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Such a holy calling, immersed in the thick of life. Even the hardest of times, even the small sterile rooms, cannot obstruct its beauty. It brings sunshine to the world.

Next Post: Aging and the Wisdom of Trees