Holding up my badge, I clock out. It’s nearly 8 p.m. when my car tires finally turn into the driveway. Our two kids are already showered and into their pajamas, waiting for my return.
“How was your day?” my husband asks. He accepts my worn and tired face as an answer.
Tucking them into bed, I have my first flashback. Looking down at my hands that are now pulling up the Elsa-themed covers over little legs. I am brought back to the moment that I was in, not more than an hour earlier. These exact same hands that I had used to pump someone’s heart with blood while they fought for their last breath.
As I flip through the pages of an innocent bedtime story, my mind flashes through the images of seeing another family at their worst. The soft sounds of them crying, all of it echoing throughout my subconscious. I try hard as I can to focus on the words in the book. I read aloud, “Goodnight stars, goodnight air,” and do my best, pretending not to take it all too seriously—even just for this moment.
“Goodnight, I love you,” I whisper, kissing their foreheads. Reminded how fragile life is, I take in this precious act—the routine and the simplicity of it all.
My family has learned my unique rhythm through the years. Sometimes I hold them tighter. Sometimes I look at them with lost eyes. Sometimes I smile in the little moments that others may not notice. Sometimes I let conversations go further than they should. Sometimes I question everything.
They see me as I get ready for work. Placing a stethoscope around my neck. Putting on the badge with RN after my name. I wouldn’t have it any other way. In this line of work, I am a student, and life is a teacher. She shows me the world in a way that many do not see. She tells me how we all have strength.
We are a resilient bunch.
Some of us show it more than others.
We are a quiet strength when we need it. A loud strength when we need it more.
We are tears and smiles.
We joke when the air is still. We are brave when the unexpected or expected comes.
We gather and pray.
We recite poetry.
We close our eyes and go places.
We put our muscle in it.
We draw our breath in and exhale it slowly.
We hold hands.
We tell stories.
We share ourselves when we least expect to.
We have peace. We have fears.
We are candid.
We fight. We soar.
We live for tomorrow. We live for today.
We sing. We may be off-key. But we sing anyway.
We believe. We don’t believe.
The badge may do its best to clock me out at the end of the day, but I carry it all with me. I cannot express how grateful I am to have the opportunity to experience all of the moments that have brought me to this place—the core of our human existence. We are all people who have a unique and beautiful strength.
I will gladly take all the flashbacks if it keep reminding me how special this life is. Those two kids who I am lucky enough to have call me their mother, I appreciate them more each and every day. They teach me about my own strength, in coming home after the work that I do. They don’t have to know the intricate details of the hours I spend clocked in. What they will know is how much I love them with every ounce of gratitude within me.
And for me, being a nurse helped make it that way.