I wrote this letter on May 5, 2019 during National Nurse Appreciation Week. I decided it needed a re-post because several of these remarkable people- these “beautiful spirits”- have continued to support our family and keep Ara’s memory. I truly miss them all, and I will be forever thankful that they exist… and in awe of what they do .
This is a love letter. Not of the romantic kind, but of a love no less beautiful. It is a letter of gratitude, of admiration, of adoration, that has grown from the deepest sadness I have known…
It is to to Kelley, for an endless array of songs, which she always managed to work Ara’s name into, and for always lightening the mood for us at just the right moment;
And Nicole, for her sweet smile, steady hand and cool head, even when things got tricky and scary, usually in the middle of the night.
It’s to Anna, a born nurturer, who soothed Ara with her words and her touch, and made Julia feel special… and who got my sense of humor.
It’s for Terrie, who was so aware of Ara’s needs and made sure she was safe and comfortable, even when that meant ruffling feathers;
To Laura, who once spent an entire day in Ara’s room, who supported us during a difficult moment with a doctor, and whose presence on Ara’s last “good” day was a comfort to our entire family, especially Julia;
And Sarah, who treated us all like family, who single-handedly moved our room when we needed a change, who brought me Starbucks, made me laugh so hard I spit Starbucks, and who brought us celebratory cupcakes when Ara’s name was changed.
It’s to Tori, who treated Ara the way I imagine she will treat her own children someday, who took every opportunity to hold her and comfort her, and who comforted me in middle of more nights than I can count.
It’s to all of the MS8 nurses who cared for Ara and our entire family for the four months we were there. We saw their hearts in everything they did. We saw the extra hours they put in, the way they stood their ground when they felt strongly about what was best for Ara, the time and attention they paid to make sure Justin and I were okay, the questions they answered with patience and kindness. We felt seen, as they truly got to know us and made us feel like we were part of an extended family.
We saw their extensive knowledge and expertise, the way they carried out even difficult tasks with precision and care. We saw them work as a team, helping and supporting each other, pitching in to meet patients’ needs, whether they were assigned to them or not. We watched them apply their training to provide truly exemplary care. They gave that care to every single patient, but still managed to make us feel like Ara was the only patient. We felt their empathy for Ara when she hurt, and for us when we could do nothing to ease her pain.
This is also a love letter to the PICU nurses who welcomed us each time we found ourselves back there, for the way they got to know Ara so quickly, and met her needs so well. Despite the fact that we didn’t spend as much time with them, they always made us feel comfortable and took our concerns seriously. PICU nurses see awful things, and they provide the care that often makes all the difference. They put their hearts into what they do for the children in their care, even as they hope they will not be in their care for long. We saw the joy in their faces on those days Ara was sent back upstairs, and also a few days later when they came to visit her. And of course, we saw the sorrow in their eyes during her final days…
To Amanda, who was with us at the end, whose eyes were filled with sorrow , but also with purpose… to make those moments count for us. She knew just what to do, and then she hugged me and whispered, “you were exactly what she needed, you did everything right.”
It’s to the clinic nurses, who we did not get a chance to know well, but whose love we felt three floors up. It’s to Tricia, for her “PICU voice” that got radiology to come to us, and her pop-ins any time she found herself nearby. It’s to Erica, who took us to Hem/Onc that very first day, who helped ease us into news of a reality we had not yet conceived of;
And to Mary Fran, one of the kindest, gentlest people I have ever met, who explained the treatment plan to us that first week, and never left us wondering right up to the end; who gave me a way to feel my daughter’s heartbeat.
And it’s to Alli, who, when we thought we had minutes, put Ara in our arms and gave us an entire night. We will always think of Alli as the person who made our beautiful goodbye possible.
This is a love letter to each of the remarkable people who chose a profession that embodies their beautiful spirits. I do not know how to properly express my admiration for those among us who choose to do such difficult work, but I am eternally grateful that they do. Each year since my own illness nearly nine years ago, I have taken the time to thank nurses for what they do. But only now do I have the need to make certain that my baby’s nurses know that no matter how much time goes by, who I meet, or where I go, they will remain part of me. I will love them forever for what they have meant during these few months. And for what they have meant and will mean to countless children and families.
All my love,