Monday, April 12, 2010

Death Be Not Proud

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. 


OMDG said...

I'm sorry ABB! Your friendship obviously meant a lot to her as well. It's such a shame that you and the world had to lose her.

Albinoblackbear said...

Thanks OMDG.

She was such a special lady it was a privilege to be known as one of her 'surrogate children'. :)

I can feel somewhat comforted by the fact that she knew the impact she had on my life.

RH said...

What a beautiful eulogy. Nancy sounds like an amazing person and an inspiration to us all. Thank you for sharing her story with us. I am sorry you lost such a great friend.

Albinoblackbear said...

RH--Much appreciated.

She was an amazing person. I just wish I knew more about her life prior to when I met her. Even in the last two years she had traveled to the Middle East, Pakistan, Borneo, Papua New Guinea...I mean she really took life by the horns all the time!

Her life story, I am sure, would have to be several volumes long. It is part of the reason I am so sad that I can't fly home for her funeral. I am sure many people will have amazing anecdotes of their adventures with Nancy. :)

Keet said...

Blessings come in many forms, and it sounds like Nancy shared and recieved many blessings, perhaps even her passing being one of them. We all know how horrible cancer can be in the end. My thoughts are with you, and her family and friends. May her strength live on in you, and be celebrated in your success. Xo

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful reflection on your friend's life.

Brings to mine one of Mary E. Frye's poems,

"Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die."

Fordo said...

ABB, I am so sorry to hear of the death of your friend and mentor. I am confident, though, that she will live on in you and the other people she loved. You probably became a better nurse for having known her and learned at her side. Her teachings will extend into your medical career, when you ask yourself, "What would Nancy do?"

Light a candle for Nancy, ABB. Talk about your memories. Reach out to her family and friends, so you all can be enveloped in one enormous group hug. My thoughts are with you.

Beavermedic, beautiful poem!

GENOVEZ said...

I´m sorry for your lost dear ABB, but I´m pretty sure that you keep her alive everytime you share to us all those beautiful things she did here...

Grumpy, M.D. said...


Those who touch us, live on through us.

I think you're making her proud in the way you carry on your life.

Albinoblackbear said...

Keet--It was great to talk to you today. xo

BeaverM--Thank you so much for passing that poem on. It was given to me years ago when my father died but I haven't heard it since. It is lovely and hopeful isn't it?
I appreciate the gesture.

Fordo--You are absolutely right, her legacy in my career and many others will live on, and continue to be passed on. She was teaching nursing students right up until her major surgery last year. (And continued to give not-so-gentle instruction to her nurses at times on the wards when she was a patient! Haha)

It's been great actually, getting to talk about her with others these past few days---even writing this post was hard, but comforting.

GEN--Thank you, that is what I hope to do.

Grump--A really big reason I went to medical school was her urging and nurturing the flame in me.

She was over the moon when I got into medical school and I will always remember that a big part of both my nursing and medical career I owe to her. Thank you.

Maha said...

ABB I'm so very sorry for your loss. Your tribute to her was absolutely beautiful. I'm glad though that she knew how much she meant to you. Big hugs from Canada.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry for your loss ABB. Your friend sounds like she was such a lovely person, such an amazing life. We should all strive to live our lives so fully and to be such a light to those around us.

Liana said...

I am so sorry. She sounds like a wonderful person and a very good friend.

Josiah O. Morris said...

I'm awfully sorry to hear about her passing, but thank you for posting about her. Reading those things brought a smile to my face just to know that such fantastic people do exist...even better, you realised the friend you had and appreciated the gift you'd been given =)

Albinoblackbear said...

Maha--Thank you for the Canadian hugs! :)

Ninja--Well said, and she will continue to inspire me with the life she lived for a long, long, time.

Liana--Thank you--indeed she was both of those things.

JOM--Thank you--that was the intended effect. I am glad it made you smile. Yes, people like Nancy are the only reason I still have faith in humankind some days.