One Nurse’s Ode to Fragility

Illustration by Lisa Dietrich for AJN.

Illustration by Lisa Dietrich for AJN.

For nurses, the world outside work may from time to time seem as fragile and tenuous as the health of patients. Natural disasters threaten homes, illnesses afflict family members, the reminders of impermanence become too insistent. This month’s Reflections essay, “The Robin,” explores such emotional terrain with sensitivity and honesty.

Gentle warning: This is not an essay that neatly delivers a pearl of take-home wisdom at the end. But that’s what we liked about it. Sometimes the best we can do is hang in there and pay close attention. And, if we’re able and willing, write about it. Here are the opening few paragraphs of this short essay:

A dead pine tree stood in our yard. For over a decade it had guarded the path to our front door. The salt winds from Hurricane Sandy that tore across the Long Island Sound and shredded our neighborhood had fried the tree’s soft, heathery needles from blue–green to brown.

Last week my husband and I visited a farm stand and purchased a new tree to replace it. He has been so eager to make progress in restoring our little yard, which has been slow to respond to spring because of the beating from last year’s storm. We made arrangements for the new tree to be delivered and planted the following week.

That evening I noticed that a robin had built her nest in the tree’s branches. She did not seem to mind that it was dead, and perhaps she felt that its sparseness gave her a better view of approaching danger from the feral cat and fox that prowl the marsh across the road.

In the days that followed, it warmed my heart to see her shadowy figure meld into the branches at twilight and reappear with the dawn. She was my sign of spring after a long winter, my hope that the new lesion in my husband’s liver might vanish like other spots had, my promise that the right nursing position for our life circumstances would materialize.

To read the entire essay, click here. There’s foreboding here, but maybe also at moments a delicate kind of hope.–Jacob Molyneux, senior editor

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2016-11-21T13:01:56+00:00 October 7th, 2015|narratives, Nursing, nursing perspective|1 Comment

About the Author:

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

One Comment

  1. amygetter October 10, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    “And if the way grows darker still,
    Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
    With glad defiance in my throat,
    I pierce the darkness with a note,
    And sing, and sing” (The Gift to Sing by James Weldon Johnson)

    I, too, think of my patient I left yesterday in the last hours of her life, and hope her night was free of suffering, and today brings her peace. I’ve spent my day home from work, gazing outside my window at the raging wind whipping through the grassy lot next door while the river rises. The Robins I’ve enjoyed all summer skirted death from a coastal storm today, and I realize in the calm after the storm, they have learned the best lesson in life…to sing in spite of everything.

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