Tribute to a Nurse
We said farewell to my grandmother, Mamie, on Tuesday, which would have been her 97th birthday. Though she passed in mid-January, several months earlier, there wasn’t an empty seat in Evergreen chapel for her Celebration of Life service. Toddlers ambled in the aisle and one perched on my cousin’s hip as she read from Ecclesiastes. My eight-year-old nephew wore wingtip shoes and a vest suit as he read from the book of Pslams with my brother and sister-in-law. “Do not let your heart be troubled,” a cousin recited to the congregation.
For the first time in years, I played guitar and sang. I performed Israel Kamakawiwoʻole's version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and an abridged version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah.” To soothe my nerves I found myself singing to the verdant hills of Shenandoah and the bluebird skies that surrounded the chapel. I was looking for her.
Her Best Days: Working as a Nurse
In recent years, Mamie told me that her days working as a nurse were the best days of her life. She told me she worked until she was pregnant and could no longer fit in her uniform. As customary in the 1950s, she stopped working to become a mother.
Nightingale Tribute for Nurses
I fell apart during her service, tears streaming down my cheeks, when several local nurses, a Nurses Honor Guard, performed a Nightingale Tribute during the memorial service, symbolically concluding her work here on earth.
I don’t remember much, just that my four-year-old daughter placed her hand on my mine. I remember the officiant said Mamie (AKA Claire) became a nurse to support the war effort—she was in high school during WWII— and that she worked as a scrub nurse in the Johns Hopkins Urology operating room, which is where she met my grandfather, who was a young surgeon beginning his career.
The Nurse Honor Guard Performs Nightingale Tribute for Nurses
The Nurse Honor Guard first asked all the nurses at the memorial to stand during the tribute–there were many in attendance.
The officiant said, "Nursing is a calling, a lifestyle, a way of living. Nurses here today honor Claire and her life as a nurse. Claire is not remembered by her years as a nurse, but by the difference she made during those years by stepping into people’s lives…. by special moments." Then he read the nurses poem, "She was There"poem by Duane Jaeger, RN, MSN.
When a calming, quiet presence was all that was needed, Claire was there.
In the excitement and miracle of birth or in the mystery and loss of life, Claire was there.
When a silent glance could uplift a patient, family member or friend, Claire was there.
At those times when the unexplainable needed to be explained, Claire was there.
When the situation demanded a swift foot and sharp mind, Claire was there.
When a gentle touch, a firm push, or an encouraging word was needed, Claire was there.
In choosing the best one from a family’s “Thank You” box of chocolates, Claire was there.
To witness humanity, its beauty, in good times and bad, without judgment, Claire was there.
To embrace the woes of the world, willingly, and offer hope, Claire was there.
And now, that it is time to be at the Greater One’s side, Claire is there.
A Nurse's Final Farewell
Last Call for a Nurse
I was too overwhelmed with grief and gratitude to remember all the details of the closing portion of the Nightingale tribute. I remember a candle lit, a call for Mamie to be present, a silent room, an announcement that she is now retired as a nurse, and then the candle was extinguished.
Mamie's Nightingale lamp and presented it to my cousin, who recently completed nursing school.
The Nightingale tribute was remarkable and an honor to witness. I’m not sure I will have contributed in such a meaningful way, when my time’s up.
Farewell Tribute to a Nurse
With Mamie’s passing we say goodbye and pay tribute to a good nurse and an elegant, community-minded woman with a rich sense of humor.
A woman who neighbors and friends described as "fabulous." A woman who was always best dressed, for any occasion.
A woman who trusted me with her butterfly broach and pearl necklace (I wore as a bracelet) on my wedding day.
A woman who practically carried me down the aisle during the processional of my brother's wedding, in good cheer, the day after I drank too many mojitos at his rehearsal dinner.
A woman who, in her nineties, lived on her own and on the occasion of meeting her great-grandchild, prepared fancy meals to welcome us to her home. She gave my daughter her first taste of chocolate cake.
I am forever in awe of Mamie's orderly grace, her service, sacrifice for her family, and her exuberant style.