Friday, May 6, 2016

A Letter to the Children of a Nurse

Dear Ones,

I knew when I chose nursing as a career, that I would make many sacrifices. I did not know then that my future children would make many sacrifices, as well. Of course, you had no say in my career choice. However, I often wonder if you did have a choice, if you would choose differently for me, for yourself. 

You have friends whose parents have staid nine-to-five jobs. Jobs that don’t keep them away from the dinner table because your shift is not yet over. Jobs that don’t require on-call hours, holidays away from home and entire weekends of ballgames missed. That probably seems like it would be easier to handle than having a parent who is off trying to save lives and comfort others instead of in the bleachers when you land your first home run, sing your heart out in the school program or receive your first scouting badge.

I am sorry for every time that you have dreamt of me having a different job so that I did not miss the important days of your lives. I wish that I did not miss those days, as well. My soul carries a hole where those memories should live.

You probably wish that I had a job that did not leave me dog-tired and emotionally drained at the end of every day. As hard as I try, sometimes there is simply little of me left to spread over my children at the end of a day when my hands brought life into this word and, maybe in the same day, out of this world into the next. I have given everything that I am in the space of that 8 hour, 12 hour, 16 hour day-- often without a bathroom or meal break. I come home and want to rest, but try my best instead to shower you with love. You are my priority always even though there are some days that it must not feel like it.

I am sorry for every day that you wondered if my patients mean more to me than you. My patients are very important to me but you will always and forever be more important. If I didn’t show that truth to you each and every day, no matter how tired I was-- I am so very sorry.

You have told me how hard it is to spend holidays without me-that there seems to be a hole in the family photo albums where your mother should be. We tried celebrating on different days but your heart always knew the day that the world was celebrating on and that I was not there.

I am sorry for each and every holiday that I missed. I promise you that I was with you in spirit and that, as I tended to my patients, I was often thinking of you.


I know that it seems like an entire part of my world, of my life, is a secret. I am bound to keep the details of my patients secret. They deserve that privacy. I know that when I lock myself in the bathroom to have a cry that you would like to know why I am crying. I cannot tell you that I a child died in my arms or I told a mother that her child was not long for this world or maybe that I’m so blissfully happy that I was able to witness a miracle that day. I try to tell you what I can even as I want to shield you from the terrors of a cruel world.

I am sorry if I sometimes seem emotionally distant. I wish that I were strong enough to not allow you to sometimes witness my own breakdowns. I hope that you know that I let you see of much of me as I can and that I am trying to protect you from seeing the gritty realities of my chosen career.

I know that there were days that you were sick and you wanted no one else but me. I have always tried my best to be with you. However, there were days when no one could cover my shift and I had to go in so that my patients; vulnerable, suffering and in need of care; could get the care that they deserve. You were left with Dad or Grandma, who cared for you in the best way possible, but were never Mom.

I am sorry that I have not always been there every moment that you needed me. These shifts were the hardest of my life. I often had to seek out a bathroom to weep against the tiled wall, so badly did I ache to have your fevered body in my arms. I hope someday that you will understand.

I have chosen this life. This career that has given me far more blessings than pain. I was called to this job by a power that I could never explain. You did not get a say in this choice, but still have to suffer some of the consequences. For that I am so very sorry.

I write you this letter to honor your struggle, your pain and, hopefully, your pride. I can see what extraordinary people you are, my children. I hope that witnessing my journey as a nurse has played a part in that. I know that your sacrifices made to support your mother’s life as a nurse likely played a part in your empathetic nature, as well.




You did not choose this life but you have met every struggle with grace and love. You are not an ordinary child. You are the child of a nurse. 






21 comments:

  1. My mother was a nurse. She has passed away but this resolves a lot of feelings for me. Thank you for writing it.

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    1. Thank you so much, Kathy. I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  2. My mom is a nurse and I remember as a kid she worked a lot, but she always made time to see my school plays, chorus concerts, and my girl scout functions. As much as I wish she could be around more even now, I understand why she can't. I work at a nursing home also, and now I understand what she deals with from day to day. I wouldn't change my mom being a nurse for anything. She is one of the strongest kindest people I know, she was meant to be a nurse. Love her so much.

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    1. She sounds like an absolutely amazing woman.

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  3. I literally have tears streaming down my face after reading this. Thank you!! You've put every thought I've ever had about missing bedtime tuck ins, parent teacher conferences and yes, snuggling my sick little ones, into words so eloquent and truthful, that I feel you could have plucked them from my heartstrings.

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  4. All of this is true and I was in agony missing my children and wishing I had a normal life. But that was not what God had planned for me. Nursing is one of the hardest jobs to do. You literally have a patient's life in your hands. So many lives teetering on the edge. Sometimes you save them and other times they don't make it. I prayed with every patient that I felt could use that little prayer. I hope my children understand. I did it for them.

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  5. Well said! You have spoken a truth that many of us try to ignore.If we think it, it brings the pain and guilt to front and center. I love being a nurse, but I know that my adult children still harbor sadness ( and if honest, a little anger) at what we missed as a family. As sad as that makes me, I don't regret my career.What a gift to share some of the most important moments in someone's life.

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    1. I hope that someday they can understand, Reb.

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  6. I am a nurse. My son is now grown. His father passed away when my son was four. I raised him as a single parent. Together we related to and appreciate everything mentioned in the letter. Thank you for taking time to write and publish the letter. It was a source of understanding and healing for both of us. We are so thankful for nurses like you. Thank you my colleague.

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    1. You sound like an extraordinary woman, Nancy! Thank you.

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  7. I am "the Mother", the nurse. All of this is true. Now, my daughter is a nurse and I feel like the child. Although I totally understand the life of a nurse, the hours, the stress (Level II Truama X 15yr) and the heartbreak, I still feel the loss of my daughter and our relationship. There just isn't time for Mom any more.

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    1. I'm so sorry, Dena. That sounds crushing.

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  8. tears running down my face as i read this her father was a doctor she watched die from colon cancer in her late teenage years married young they put her and him through college had four beautiful girls and i am now getting close to the end of my life i have copd and she just wrote the words right out of my heart she is a earth angle and it is us that are blessed that she has taken the time no matter how short to touch each one of us when she herself has gone to sleep setting in a hospital chair by my bed her childrens bed and her husbands bed it is truly us that should feel blessed as leaving the hospital we would be in she would rush to the next hospital where her assigment would be 12 to 18 hr. shift work just to leave there to fly by ck on us rush home to start the circle all over. I have seenn her go to work wearing a mask just in case she had a cold my heart breaks for my baby girl that chose such a challenging position in life I am so proud of her. I to am the mother of a earth angle the name i have given to my daughter as only gods child could cover the ground she does and I am so blessed

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    1. You sound like an amazing mom, Charlotte.

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  9. I read my daughter and sin bed time stories over the phone beacause I was at work. Makes me sad, but we all try out best.

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  10. A beautiful letter but you are such a loving mother you have nothing to be sorry for.

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