Enough of trying to pretend that I am coping well. I am not.
There are a few workplaces in this world where you might have the wonderful advantage of a colleague who is always willing to help you out. This is the person you can call in the middle of the night, when you are alone in the clinic and suddenly overwhelmed with a septic child and casualties from an ATV accident. This amazing colleague does not ask questions or complain that she's exhausted, she just gets down to it. Her experienced and gentle hands start the IV while her stern voice gets a room full of hysterical teenagers under control.
I was lucky enough to have this colleague become my friend. She taught me how to make blue cheese bread twists out of the limited groceries we had access to in the Arctic. She rented a boat with me so we could see the icebergs up close, feel the gravel of a glacier under our feet, and bob alongside seals for the afternoon. She taught me to fish and she taught me how to do a proper head-to-toe assessment on a neonate.
Fortune continued to smile upon me. This woman generously invited me to her home in New Zealand, letting me use her place as a base while I travelled around exploring the beautiful landscape of the South Island. She introduced me to her friends and colleagues and they embraced me as an honored guest.
Eventually she became one of my wisest confidantes, and I was truly blessed for this. She listened to my dreams, and encouraged me relentlessly to pursue them. She would write to me, telling me to push on when she knew that my determination was faltering. She sent me gifts when she was far away reminding me of how proud she was. She was one of the few people on this earth truly in my corner, championing my successes and lamenting my failures. When the first round of medical school rejections came, she pushed me back into the ring to keep trying.
She never married or had children. Her spouse was adventure and her children were the thousands of sick babies she held in her arms. Her entire career as a nurse was devoted to the vulnerable and weak, the poor and the forgotten. She spent years volunteering in Zimbabwe , Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. In New Zealand she worked in a special care babies unit and in Canada she took care of First Nations and Inuit communities.
She took me under her wing during my first contract as an outpost nurse in the Arctic and tirelessly answered my endless barrage of questions those first months. If it hadn't been for her I am sure I'd have left the North with my tail between my legs, succumbing to the crushing weight of inexperience and fear.
Mentors and kindred spirits do not come along very many times in ones life.
In Nancy I had both.
She died from cancer on Thursday April 8th, 2010.
Now that she is gone there is an empty void left in this world and in my heart.
Death be not proud. You have taken a shining star, a selfless healer, a wise woman, a sister, a daughter, and a friend.
Nancy I pray that you may now see all of the hearts you've touched, the lives you've saved, and minds you've inspired. Rest in peace my dear friend.