A Look Back to Look Forward: Family
The year was 1991 and I was a senior in high school. I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life and was on the path to it. I had applied and was scheduled for an interview at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. I wanted to be a jet pilot and serve my country. Nursing was nowhere in my vision although I knew I had a special gift given to me by my grandmother.
My grandmother was a solid country woman, mother of 10 children and known in her community as a healer. I was named after her and from my earliest memories I recall making potions with her and visiting sick neighbors and their children. There are many stories of how my grandmother healed the sick in her community. She had a quiet yet strong way about her and you felt her presence the moment she walked into a room. A hush would come over the room and an energy that was palpable. She could lay a hand or whisper a song and the sick would respond in turn. She was a truly remarkable woman.
She died when I was seven years old in the middle of the night. I know this because she came to me in a vision and let me know I would do great things in this world and she would always be with me in spirit. Whenever I face a challenge in my life she comes to me either in my dreams or in the form of a red cardinal. Her presence was felt most in my senior year in high school. She came to me during the tragic death of a friend and when my father had his first of many heart attacks. Her presence was an energy that guided my thoughts and actions. I could feel her calming touch and hear her wisdom.
It was in January when my father almost left us. He woke one morning and collapsed in the kitchen. I started CPR while my mother screamed and called 911. I could feel my grandmother’s presence that morning guiding me in my work. She guided my hands and calmed my mind, directing me to care for my father. My father had regained consciousness by the time paramedics arrived and we spent the next two weeks at his bedside in intensive care. In those quiet moments of monitors beeping, nurses shuffling in and out I knew what my calling was. I was here to heal not fight.
I spent the next four years in nursing school, close to home so I could be close to my dad. After graduating college I moved to Philadelphia to work in a large teaching hospital in the cardiac intensive care unit and the cardiac cath lab. Here is where I learned how to care for my dad in his later years after many more heart attacks, surgeries and even an experimental valve procedure my colleagues where performing. My calling again enabled me to care for my dad and countless other cardiac patients. I was on the front line of research and high tech procedures and teaching. He was so proud.
After the birth of my second child I made the decision to focus on family. My father was stable and my family needed me. I left my job and came home to care for my family. My father was never truly happy with this decision. He also felt I possessed the healing skills of my grandmother and wanted me practicing. He felt I was throwing away my career. I substituted in schools for school nurses and found a new path. I was so excited to tell my father about it. He was so proud that I was now affecting lives of children. He would always get a special glow about him when he was in the presence of my own children. He could see their potential and always spoke of it.
On the first day of my first full-time school nursing position, my father passed in his sleep. He was scheduled to see his cardiologist and my friend the next morning. I received the call in my car and I was crushed. In his most dire time of need I was not there to help him. He died alone and from all accounts peacefully. It took time but I came to realize he did this for me. He was most likely going to need an additional surgery and time in the hospital would pull me from my new position. I believe he died for me and my career. He wanted me to care for the children. His time had come. It was through deep reflection, the kind words of a distant relative and a lot of tears that I came to this conclusion. My grandmother also came to me and said as much in a dream. She told me it was my time to heal the children and let the old pass on. I could also feel his presence as I came to this realization, almost a hug enveloping me as I cried. After, I knew I was on the right path and I came to terms with not being able to save him.
These two individuals have given me the qualities of humility, empathy, selflessness, compassion and an insatiable work ethic. When I sit with an injured child, crying in my lap, and I whisper sweet songs in their ear to calm them, my grandmother is shining through me. When I lie my hands on a fitful child’s chest and feel their body relax, my grandmother’s spirit is at work. When I sacrifice my desires and needs for those of my children, my father’s selflessness shines through. When I push hard to learn all I can and grow in my practice and my craft, my father’s work ethic and drive is in play. Without these two individuals and spirits in my life, I am not sure where I would be. But boy, am I quite happy where I am and so look forward to what is to come. I am sure they are both very proud of where I have come and where I am heading.