In honor of National Nurses Week, this quote from Vincent Van Gogh reminds me of all the nurses who interacted with us through the ten years my husband, Gary, lived with late-stage cancer:

Your profession is not what brings home your paycheck. Your profession is what you were put on earth to do with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.


Photo by on Unsplash


There was the nurse—after the initial surgery where we learned Gary’s cancer had already spread—who brought blankets and pillows so I could sleep in the recliner next to his hospital bed. Because I didn’t have the courage to go home and sleep alone in our bed that night.

There was the oncology nurse who sat beside Gary during his first chemo infusion, holding his hand, rubbing his arm as chemo began its drip, much like a mother comforting a child. Which was oddly comforting to me.

There were the outpatient surgery prep nurses who, when we walked into the prep area too many times, joked, “You know we don’t offer frequent flyer miles, right?” Somehow their good humor spoke of solidarity, of hope and comfort.

There were the same three young nurses at Seattle’s Virginia Mason Medical Center where Gary traveled two weeks out of every three for a clinical trial infusion. They got his sense of humor, throwing zingers right back at him.

And of course I will never forget the compassionate hospice nurses: Field nurse Melinda and those on staff at Hospice House who answered our questions and instructed me in caring for Gary.

Nurses will always hold a special place in my heart.

Nurses were the human touch.

They were the translators for the physicians.

They softened the hospital stays, the bad news, the worse news.

To help usher a new living being into this world, to have someone else’s blood stain one’s clothing, to bring a life back from the brink of death, to hold someone’s hand toward their end of life – is this not one of the highest callings?

Oh, that we could all have a calling and not just a paycheck.

This from an unknown author:

Don’t mess with me. I get paid to stab people with sharp objects.

Which begs the question: Have you hugged a nurse this week?