Themes throughout the novel: the value of truth/truth and perspective, human needs and relationships, the need for control/ stability/power, the nature of difference, communication, acceptance and the rites of passage…
Statistics: Autism is one of the most common developmental disabilities. Individuals are of all races and ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Current estimates suggest that approximately 400,000 individuals in theUnited Stateshave autism. Autism is three to four times more likely to affect boys than girls. Autism occurs in individuals of all levels of intelligence. Approximately 75 percent are of low intelligence while 10 percent may demonstrate high intelligence in specific areas such as math.
Autism is a psychological syndrome distinguished by an emotional shutdown of an individual. It is a fact that severely autistic people will shy away from human contact and social pleasure, often engrossing themselves instead in routines, repetitive tasks or private interests. We know that they are not mentally retarded, and can be extremely intelligent, talented and yes, different. As the cliché goes, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
In the autumn of 1998 the multifaceted emotions of his parents and the pain that they endured will always linger as a hidden secret. I speak of the protagonist, Christopher Francis and his parents Ed and Judy Boone from the book; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I would first like to declare that autism is as blind as a bat. It makes no difference if one is black, white, yellow or brown, rich or poor. There are no discriminatory factors within the disease. We all know someone who has been diagnosed with this heartbreaking syndrome, autism. But what does it look like? Have you seen the movie “Rain man” with Dustin Hoffman? Look around. Look at who is sitting next to you, or your friends, children or family. All of them could very well be the minority group of the faces of autism. Whether it is a daughter, son, brother or sister. That is why we are here. Have you ever experienced what those parents did in the novel? The tears, frustrations, anger and love as Ed and Judy Boone struggled with their own inner torments and joys which were only glimpses in the book? I’ll bet your answer would be yes. Could you relate to the evidence laid before you when someone you knew had almost a complete lack of understanding and mimetic ability making life very difficult for parents? Yes, again.
The characters within this text are shaped by living in a working class urban environment. The house in which Chistopher and his father lived in had a garden. Christopher described his hometown inSwindonas being small. Individuals within this town were capable of holding the power of their social status through their work, living in a society based on equality. As with Christopher’s parents, it was their independence and freedom of progression that became apparent when the reader discovered his father was a heating engineer who owned and operated a maintenance and boiler repair company and his mother was in search of herself and a career.
Whereas, the family values were depicted in a more negative light, “I used to think that Mother and Father might get divorced. That was because they hated each other. This was because of the stress of looking after someone who has Behavioral Problems like I have.” (Haddon, 2003, p.45). The structure of the family unit appeared fragile and weak resulting in not one but two marriage dissolutions.
His mother followed her dream to be independent and had to walk away from her family for her own sanity. She felt she was living in a falling tower and destruction was on her heels. She could not accept the trials and tribulations of being a mother of an autistic child and the loss of love within her husband. Motherhood was not a priority as she recognized her maternal instincts were insufficient knowing that she did not have the patience to cope with her son’s behavioral issues.
It was not only the mother who was barely coping, but also the long suffering father. Being a single parent for two years was extremely difficult for him. As hard as he tried he appeared to be insensitive to his sons needs. One can sense the torments and the power struggles of forbearance leading to his being short tempered, even inept when it came to his family yet, this character truly revealed his love and devotion towards his son. There was a dependence that was shared between the two of them. As a person with autism, his father took care of him in every meaning of the word and a small example of the reverse was when the reader was told his father never had to write down his bankcard pin number down, “…Father hadn’t written it down in a safe place, which is what you’re meant to do, but he had told me because he said I’d never forget it. And it was 3558.” (Haddon, 2003, p.135). Foucault made an interesting point, “…whose ideas have strongly influenced the development of new historian, power circulates in all directions, to and from all social levels, at all times.” (Tyson, 2006, p.284). Unfortunately, the end result was that Christopher became more of a loner than a family member. He was in need of a traditional family lifestyle and to feel protected in a secure place in which he could call his own in order for happiness to occur.
Here is the bottom line. You must know that your unconditional love can and does make a difference. We love these individuals and accept their innate disabilities and culture. Because what is culture but the essence of a society, of shared patterns, behaviors and interactions. Thompson (1997) commented, “that disability is another culture-bound, physically justified difference to consider along with race, gender, class, ethnicity and sexuality’.” (p.248). I believe if one thinks about it, are we not all born into a society and culture? Diversity is a part of life.
Within all cultures exists some type of language even in groups of individuals with life long developmental disabilities. It could be through gestures, drawings, physical actions and non verbal cues. Christopher utilized his communication skills through the world of art. As a child with autism drawing was means of relaying his message the only way he knew how. The wooden puzzle piece on page thirteen, the map of the street in which he lived on page thirty five, the constellation Orion on page one hundred twenty five, the Double Decker bus on page 211 and a more intricate wooden puzzle on page 217. These were clearly images that Christopher did not have the words to adequately express. This was one of many things he did because he had Asperger’s Syndrome. Tyson explained this as thick description. “Thick description, through close, detailed examination of a given cultural production – such as birthing practices, ritual ceromonies, games, penal codes, works of art, copyright laws, and the like – to discover the meaning that particular production had for the people in whose community it occured and to reveal the social conventions, cultural codes, and ways of seeing the world that gave that production those meanings.” (p.288). The main character was uncontaminated by societal logic and was limited by his own language. He appeared to be lacking in people skills, had difficulty in understanding tones of voices and difficulty with any type of gestures or body language. The National Autistic Society was quoted, “For people with autistic spectrum disorders, ‘body language’ can appear just as foreign as if people were speaking ancient Greek.” He is not the only one, for all children born with this disease share common characteristics, as a set pattern. There is what is called a triad of impairments and in layman’s terms means three social disorders are trapped within them. They have trouble with many aspects we all take for granted such as utilizing social/creative imagination, social interfacing and dealing with aspects of social communication. Let it be known that there are also differences within the population of individuals who have this disorder. No two are exactly alike.
How frustrating it must be not only for a child, but a parent when verbal communication is complicated or becomes unattainable. It has been said that most people inflicted with this disorder have difficulty effectively utilizing language. A daily occurrence, a constant struggle of understanding what a child wants or needs. Are they happy, sad, or maybe hungry? This was due to the fact that the child may experience emotions and feelings but, does not know and/or can’t express the meanings. Webster-Heard discussed her seven year old son’s ways of non-verbal communication, “My seven-year old, who is on the low end of the spectrum is nonverbal and is only able to show me what he wants by taking me to it or bringing a picture to me. The fact that he can’t communicate is the reason for most of his severe temper tantrums.”
With Christopher, his perception was only through conventional signs. Through piecing the puzzles together he was able to distinguish when his father shouted that he was angry or when there were tears it meant sadness. Consequently, all language subtleties whether they were ironies or metaphors were vague to him. He was disabled in his capability to efficiently interpret certain fundamentals he encountered, powerless to comprehend emotions in a normal fashion and found countless every day events to be intimidating and ordinary actions challenging. The coping mechanism he used was to surround him self with rules, rituals and math, “4 red cars in a row made it a good day, and 3 red cars in a row made it a quite good day, and 5 red cars in a row made it a super day and why 4 yellow cars made it a black day.” (Haddon, 2003, p.24).
It is unfortunate that the social order in place today has negative undertones of this brain disorder. As a young child, Christopher distinguished his thought process as a slicing machine in a bakery. This portrayed how his mind performed by certain regiments, at his own pace. His mind was configured as a machine or computer that transformed information. As with a computer, considering their intrinsic existence, the language of logic, and their ultimate determinate nature, it would seem that the machine of order and stability was the representation of the protagonist. At fifteen years old he was extremely intelligent, excelling in college level math and had held great deal of knowledge in technical and scientific facts.
An individual’s disability could be examined from many different lenses, whether it be the social construction, a medical standpoint, psychological or through a glimpse into the group dynamics as a minority. If one thinks about it, we all have our little quirks whether it is the type of food we eat, how we eat it and why. Or maybe it’s the colors in one’s wardrobe (is there a predominant theme?), or maybe…the list is endless. It is true that our “normal” world was significantly different from a person with development disabilities as in the main character. It can’t be easy for someone with a disability in our world which is consumed with competition, rivalry, restraint, and independence.
Point one: Who killed Wellington was an underlying theme in the novel? I would say the initiator of chaotic excess seemed to be the murderer ofWellington. Christopher loved animals, Toby his rat and dog’s because the canine portrayed characteristics he could relate to, “I also said that I cared for dogs because they were faithful and honest, and some dogs were cleverer and more interesting than some people.” (Haddon, 2003, p.6). This love of animals progressed into his search for order and stability. This was Christopher’s mind, literal, categorized and classified. Anything out of the “norm” jeopardized his happiness and feelings of safety. He observed the poodle’s death as representation of turmoil and disarray and therefore needed to be corrected in his mind due his high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome. The realization that he could not be in control all the time and not everything had logical explanations was disturbing to him. The only way he knew how to communicate and respond was through anger or logic. He concluded that the passing over of this creature was an event to him in which he experienced and therefore chose a logical way of dealing with it, and so began the search for the truth. This was the beginning of his rite to passage. His handicap had become his strength.
Point two: Communication in general comes in a variety of forms. Ed Boone’s character was shown as someone who utilized cursing and foul language. For example, when discussing Judy’s letter’s, “Wrote to him? What the fuck use is writing to him? (Haddon, 2003, p.196). It was also through his language that he emphasized just how difficult Christopher tended to make situations for him and unfortunately not taking into consideration the type of communication his child could absorb. At one point stating, “Then he said, “Holy fucking Jesus, Christopher. How stupid are you?” (Haddon, 2003.p.81). Although, the father seemed usually very patient and understanding with Christopher, signs were shown of his gradual uneasiness. He had chosen not to relay the circumstances behind the cruel murder ofWellington to his son. Christopher’s comments held true, “Most murders are committed by someone who is known to the victim? (Haddon, 2003, p.42). Art imitating life? As a man who had been disgraced by his ex-wife’s infidelity and flight from her responsibilities, he was in his own emotional turmoil. He had killed the animal in a state of rage knowing it was wrong from a societal point of view. He observed the death of the animal as a symbol of releasing his hatred of the situation, the anger he held inside, the circumstances in with he had no control or power over. Was he brought up in his cultural setting knowing right from wrong? Probably so, Yes. Were his morals askew? Yes. Was he penalized for his actions? No. He concluded that the intentional death had resulted in newer struggles with Christopher. A bridge, a larger gap between himself and his son, emotionally, physically and stemming from a lack of trust. Their communication had reached a different level in hopes of creating a stronger relationship.
Point three: Judy Boone’s concern and emotional feedback for Wellington seemed small and trivial. Her life had been revolving around making a home for herself and her new mate. Trying to pick up the pieces and begin a new. Although, she ran from her own fears and insecurities into her neighbor’s arms, a man who at one time owned Wellington. She had no other connection with her past which consisted of befriending her neighbors and their dog. She had observed the animal’s death as a representation of a past that was already put to rest, her personal historical closure in a sense. There were no real signs of sympathy, as she concluded that the tears of her past had already been shed.
Point 4: Eileen Shear’scharacter was a neighbor of Christopher’s and the ex-wife of Roger Shears. She too had gone through many struggles as one divorce themselves from a cheating spouse. She cursed and utilized foul language, “Let go of the dog”, she shouted. Let go of the fucking dog for Christ’s sake.” (Haddon, 2003, p.4). She was not a religious woman as she used words that some would say were spoken in vain. She became a female influence in Ed’s and Christopher’s home. “This is why Mrs. Shears came over and did lots of cooking for us after Mother died, because she didn’t have to cook for Mr. Shears anymore and she didn’t have to stay at home and be his wife.” (Haddon, 2003, p.42). A relationship progressed, blossomed and ended with her and Ed. She observed the death of her dog with anger but no tears. Is the reader to assume that she found out who killedWellington which led to the ending of their friendship? She concluded the death was a malicious action based on her past experience with Ed.
Point 5: Siobhan is Christopher’s teacher, mentor and friend with attributes of, “…long blonde hair and wears glasses which are made of green plastic.” (Haddon, 2003, p.5). She knows how to communicate clearly with Christopher. She enlightened him on the inner workings of society and proper behavioral actions and reactions within its complicated rules. She observed the death ofWellington to be a learning experience for her student. She guided him in showing him an outlet of his feelings, through a new art form with the hopes of educating him. Therefore, she concluded that even though it was a sad occasion and a loss, the death brought about a positive ending and the personal growth of Christopher.
In conclusion as these points suggest, “what is “right”, “natural,” and “normal” are matters of definition. (Tyson, 2006, p. 285).
Haddon, M. (2003). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time.New York: Vintage Books.
Always put yourself in others shoes. If you feel that it hurts you, it probably hurts the other person, too. ~ anonymous~
This quote is a reflection of diversity and the negative views associated with it just as the protagonist felt the pain as she dealt with closed minded people.
It was like being a jet black social creature, a tiny ant following the trail of hundreds of other ants, or should I say gays, straights, transgenders, bisexuals and lesbians. We crawled through an overcrowded parking lot where they led the way to the Van Wezel, a giant purple building that holds events like plays, musicals and on this day, the Gay Pride celebration. The festivities included drag shows and a performer that was transgender, a she who was now a he. People were different here in Sarasota, Florida because when they pushed in front of me at least they smiled when they did it, not like in New York City where they just pushed. I remember those days well in the crowded trains, buses and jam packed city streets. I waited patiently in a long line that ran outside the door to purchase two tickets to enter this wonderland of sights and sounds. I waited with the young and old, male and female, couples and singles, all who gathered for this event.
Three years have passed since the almost hate crime, at least it could have been in my eyes. Since my divorce with my transgender ex-husband my friendship list has grown thanks to the World Wide Web. I have ventured into chat rooms, blogs and websites to try and fully understand the inner and social fights of the transpeople.
Hate crimes are a main topic. I’m in school for cultural studies in writing to become a better writer and critical thinker because I want to write about what the world needs to know about. One can only write from experience, right?
It was on May 10th 2008, a beautiful ninety degree spring day with the wind puffing gently as the sky filled slowly with light billowing clouds. My transgender boyfriend, Peter, a handsome red head and I had attended a once a year Gay Pride celebration and drag show. There must have been five hundred people, drinking, laughing and enjoying the entertainment. Drag queens/men dressed up in glamorous evening gowns, brightly colored Crayola crayon poofy hair that walked graciously around in their high heels and packed on makeup which consumed their faces, a definite sight to see. It was all in the name to promote their shows. Some of the queens were wearing stilettos; I envied them because I would fall flat on my face if I attempted that feat, no pun intended. Music was blaring out of the eight foot high black boxes as I made my way through the masses. Gays and lesbians and transgenders, oh my! People were talking, smiling and singing along to a popular song, What a shame.
Concession stands for safe sex, beer, auto insurance and t-shirts were overcrowded as people flashed their dollars in the air. Then I saw food. The smell of burnt coals and meat slapped me in the face. As I passed the food display of hot dogs and hamburgers my stomach screamed out, “Feed me,” but we couldn’t stop as Peter was on a mission.
We found our way to a small patch of grass and sat down. In front of us was a huge stage surrounded by posters promoting diversity with rainbow flags moving leisurely in the breeze like small sail boats on a lake. I watched a man perform a song that brought a tear to my eye. Fifteen minutes later we met up with Peter’s newly found Trans buddy, Ronny. He was blonde, “six-pack”, hence his stage name and a little on the short side. He just finished performing on stage, What a shame by Shinedown. He was wearing angel wings as he flashed names of transgenders, gay men and lesbian women that have died from hate crimes on small pieces of colored construction paper, blue, green and yellow:
“What a shame, what a shame
To judge a life that you can’t change
The choir sings, the church bells ring
So won’t you give this man his wings?
What a shame to have to beg you to
See we’re not all the same, what a shame…”
After the performance Ronny introduced us to a couple. They were a cute happy couple, a transman, Hank Canster with short brown hair who had a dry sense of humor. His girlfriend, Vainita Smith was the typical blonde bombshell with the attitude to match in her bling bling shiny pink metallic tank top and tight blue jean shorts, “Nice to meetcha,” she screamed over the music. We spent the entire day and most of the night together. The sun had gone done hours ago and the lights from the building exterior were blindingly bright. It was late, we swapped phone numbers and parted, “Don’t forget to call tomorrow,” Hank said as he shook Peter’s hand.
Our Gay Pride celebration evening should have been a continuation of our day, fun and care free with a sense of being unified. It was about 11:30 pm as we drove home on that warm clear moonlit night. In the distance, there was an all-night restaurant with a neon sign, it flashed, blinked and lit up the sky. Both of us were hungry so Peter pulled in and we walked hand in hand to the entrance. After being seated, he excused himself to go to the bathroom.
There are many stories out there that depict the biggest dilemma when a transgender is considered in “limbo.” At that very moment, he was passing as a man, one hundred percent of the time with the goatee and no female breasts due to surgery and testosterone. He had an “M” on his driver license but, with the name Peter Marie, a feminine name that lingered along with his birth certificate that stated he was still a she. He did not have his name legally changed yet and it concerned him deeply in the recesses of his mind. It was the thought of a potential altercation with another man could take place in the men’s room so he felt he had no alternative, but to enter the ladies lavatory. Timing can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
Five minutes later a group of young Spanish men wearing t-shirts, leather jackets and blue jeans came into the restaurant with their voices raised as they spoke in a vulgar manner, “Fuck this and fuck that.” They sat catty corner to our table. Men like that I have passed in the street and usually they would whistle or make crude comments to me, “Come here girl, you are so pretty.” I would hear them say, “Vienen chica que son tan bonitas!” It was a large group, eight to be exact and in my opinion, they held an air of a street gang. They were loud and obnoxious. I paid no attention and proceeded to read some of the pamphlets that I picked up earlier in the day. I tried to look interested in something other than their major outbursts.
I had never before been so aware of restaurant noises, the extremely bright lights, the waitresses talking and giggling in the kitchen, the clanking of dishes being piled up as the tables were cleaned and the commotion of twenty five people all in conversation, I counted. In the distance I heard two young Spanish women as they walked down the aisle and approached their table speaking in their native tongue while snickering as they walked passed me. “El hombre en el baño de mujeres!” a young woman shouted. I understood the words that were spoken, a man in the ladies bathroom. As they sat down the story of a man in the woman’s bathroom had begun to flow around their table and it seemed like it ignited an uncontrollable fire that blazed from their eyes as the men glanced around feverishly.
I became anxious and wondered where he was. Another five minutes passed and I stood up in order to locate him when he turned the corner. We both sat down in a pit of silence for a moment. He didn’t have to say a word since we both knew the events that transpired just moments before.
Neither of us wanted to move at that moment. Peter was facing them. They were staring at us. My hands trembled, but I tried to hide it by keeping them under the table in my lap. What else was said between those Spanish individual’s I will never know. On the one hand, I did understand the confusion and anger at first glance of the situation. Peter did look like a pervert, a man in the ladies bathroom. It could have been cause to call in the police, but they had no clue what led up to that incident and why a man was using the ladies restroom.
We were both frightened. Could this be a hate crime waiting to happen?
It would seem the definition from the dictionary.com web site reported that the verb “hate” is another word for “loathing,” or “disgust, possibly what the ethnic group felt. “It means to feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest.” The Merriam-Webster web site defined it from the Old English “hete,” it was first used before the 12th century. The thesaurus web site explained that the noun means “intense dislike.” It means “to hate the enemy.” Were we the enemy? The verb also can mean “to provoke; to be diabolic.” The fear I felt was instilled deep within me to the point of never being able to release it. US Legal stated that, “A hate crime is usually defined by state law as one that involves threats, harassment, or physical harm and is motivated by prejudice against someone’s race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability.”
We ate breakfast quickly, not even once did we acknowledge one another. I know I had scrambled eggs with ketchup on them, toast and bacon, yet I don’t remember the taste of anything, not even my buttered browned bread as I woofed it all down within record time. Prior to our departure I will be honest, for a brief moment I glanced at the unused stainless steel knife that sat quietly on the table. “Maybe I should take it for protection. I could slide it into my purse and no one will notice,” I thought.
I remember watching several transgender movies, some good and some were pitiful. One that always stuck with me was The Soldier’s Girl and how a male soldier died in a hate crime by his own people, his so called army buddies, because he loved a woman who was different, a transgender. I cry every time. That was me, I loved a woman who transitioned into a man.
Definitely not the norm in our society, he was a man that few recognized as having an inner struggle between two souls, male/female. The Native American’s referred to transgenders as Berdache because they are considered to have two souls, male and female. They were touched by the spirits of the ancestors and had powers on the order of the shaman. (The Two-Spirit Tradition).
My mind wondered for an instant to flashes of a horrific nightmare that unfolded in my confused brain, blood was everywhere. Peter and I lay on the ground. And then I got a grip on myself. As we stood up to leave a small voice told me to take it. I looked to the left and then slowly the right. When no one was looking I grabbed the gleaming knife from the table and slidit into my black leather purse. We proceeded to walk to the front to pay our bill. I was extremely paranoid and will be the first to admit it. Being the Scorpio that I am, I thought the worst. Could we make it to the truck safely? Would the group of men follow us outside? Were they carrying weapons?
We walked out of the establishment, looking back every so often until we were half way to the dark truck. And then, there they were. Eight mean looking guys with kick butt in their eyes stared right at us. I don’t believe that I have ever been so petrified in my life. I know that Peter was affected by this incident because his hands quivered. My right hand slid into my purse and my fingertips touched the cold metal. At that moment, he grabbed my left hand and pulled me to double time it back to the black SUV. I could hear the sound of what seemed like wild horses as their hooves galloped behind us. “Faster, come on,” he yelled. The doors unlocked and I jumped in like I was in search of a long lost sanctuary because if I didn’t fate would have taken a different turn. We took off speeding and the truck was like a “Bat out of hell” as Meatloaf would have said leaving screech marks on the gray pavement. Words were not spoken while, What a shame by Shinedown played on the radio.
On November 20, 2011, the LGBTQ Nation held a ceremony called the, “13th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance around the world, a day when the LGBTQ and allied community honor those who have lost their lives to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice, and seek to raise awareness of the ongoing threat of brutality faced by the transgender community.”
Today is a day to remind ourselves to love because in reality, that’s all we have. Many have lost their lives at the hands of another due to hate. What makes people kill?
What makes people physically and emotionally injure innocent victims and why? The reason is because they are different? I live my life each day and can remember the fear that they felt before leaving this earthly plain. To feel trapped in a place of no return. LGBTQ Nation reported, “In 2011, there were at least 23 more lives lost to anti-transgender hate, including seven in the United States.” I am grateful that Peter and I did not become a national statistic because in 2008 as the FBI National Press Office reported, “There were 5,542 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons…” And according to the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics report for 2010, “The 6,628 hate crime incidents reported to us by our law enforcement partners stayed consistent with the 6,604 incidents reported in 2009.” I see a pattern that the numbers are increasing each year, do you? I have always been a fighter for the underdog and will continue to do so. I have learned that there is plenty of work to be done in getting word out about diversity. People’s fears need to be addressed head on to realize we really are all the same.
Take a good look because this means that in 2008 at least 5,542 were the assaulters, in 2009 at least 6,604 were the assaulters and in 2010 at least 6,628 were the assaulters. What does this say about our sense of humanity? Are we as tiny in thought, love and respect as those little jet black creatures that roam our earth?
“Live for something. Do good, and leave behind you a monument of virtue that the storm of time can never destroy. Write your name in kindness, love and mercy, on the hearts of the thousands you come in contact with year by year. You will never be forgotten. No. Your name, your deeds, will be as legible on the hearts you leave behind as the stars on the brow of evening. Good deeds will shine as the stars of heaven…” ~ Florence Nightingale
The history of the nursing profession has been immersed not only in chronological primitive events to current day, but in cultural and societal beliefs that influenced the world; and although it never repeats itself with complete duplication, there are patterns and trends affected by unique forces and factors that have led to paths similar to that seen in earlier years, yet uniquely different. Author Lewenson (2004) commented, “Understanding nursing history helps us to comprehend current issues in nursing and anticipate future trends in the profession.”
Some of the first descriptions of assistants tending to the health needs of others occurs as early as the first century AD when Pliny the younger (63-113) as well as the Greek physician Soranus (98-138), both wrote of the use of midwives in childbirth. Pomeroy (1995) discussed midwives as being, “InRomethe skilled midwives, like the physicians, were likely to be Greek” (p. 169). Traditionally, it was the woman who prepared herbal remedies and treated illnesses even though they were viewed as second class citizens.
From the beginning of time, women have cared for infants and children; thus, nursing could be said to have its roots in the home. Religion also had a significant role in the development of nursing. During the third and fourth centuries, wealthy matrons of theRoman Empireconverted to Christianity and used their homes to provide for the sick. Throughout history, inadequacy of care during the Crimean, American Civil and World Wars has accentuated the need for nurses. Nursing, during the 16th century, changed from having a religious orientation to human welfare and expanding the body of nursing knowledge. Taylor, Lillis and LeMore (2005) believed that, “Religious organizations closed leading to a shortage of people to care for the sick. It was during this time that women of ill repute were recruited into the nursing profession in lieu of serving jail sentences for their crimes” (p. 5).
Nursing’s origin can be seen as part of a time line that correlates to the issues currently plaguing in this century. In an article published in the Virginia University School of Nursing, Keeling (2007) stated that “…nursing’s origins are found in the woman’s role of caring for the sick. Women have traditionally filled the roles of caregiver of the sick throughout history.”
The Bible referred to many occurrences during this time dating back as far as 1450-1410 BC that would be considered a function of nursing and public health. Midwives are referenced in the Exodus in the Proverbs 31 and described a woman who helped the poor and the needy. Another description was written in the book of Acts which told the story of Tabitha who was recognized for her reputation of being a helper of the poor, compassionate and resourceful.
During the Roman era 31BC-476 AD, Roman armies developed mobile war nursing units. These moveable hospitals provided care to the troops. They consisted of a series of tents that gave way to permanent buildings next to combat areas that were developed into primitive types of hospitals. Though most nurses in those days were slaves, servants, or family members, the nursing position appeared to be strengthened.
The Middle Ages (476-1453 AD) served as a transition between ancient and modern civilizations. Nursing during this era was mostly influenced by Christianity, with the beginning of deaconesses, or female servants caring for the sick. These individuals would only care for the needs of the women in the early church, while deacons cared only for the men. It appeared that different social classes performed diverse women’s work during this era. Barber (1994) expressed that, “In the Middle Ages, for example and in the 18th century, elegant ladies passed their time spinning and embroidering silks, not for sale but for conspicuous use at court” (p. 210).
During this time religious groups built public hospitals to serve the poor. The earliest documentation of clinical decision making in nursing was in the 17th century by the French Sisters of Charity. They were untrained helpers, nuns and mostly servants who were considered nurses. Bevis & Watson (1989) explained their prescribed course of study included supervision of patient care as well as lectures, quizzes, and religious exercises. Lundy and Janes (2001) discussed that, “…in 1633, St. Vincent de Paul founded the Sisters of Charity inFrance, an order of nuns that visited the sick in their homes. These early nuns became the first organized visiting nurse service, which are widespread throughout theUnited Statestoday.”
The concept of humanism in nursing can be traced to the ancient Greeks by noting the importance that they placed on understanding human interrelationships especially within the context of social order. Pomeroy (1995) noted that during the classical times an older Athenian woman would seek work in her community out side the home in the form of basic care of a child, “A hymn to Demeter, probably composed in the seventh century B.C., describes how a freely elderly woman may seek employment as a child nurse or a domestic” (p. 44). In this period of time, from birth a girl was not expected to learn how to read or write, nor was she expected to earn an education. Therefore, history has proven that from the time of womanhood regardless of social class, a woman worked primarily indoors or near the house. Their daily concerns revolved around the producing of clothing, nursing ill slaves and the caring for young children while preparing food for the family.
Socrates (470-399 BC), Plato (384-345 BC), and Aristotle (384-322 BC) believed that we can glimpse into the understanding of human nature by studying what humans do and the way they interact, especially interactions that are directed to doing good or evil towards others. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was a key figure in this Hellenic civilization. He separated medicine from the supernatural and initiated its scientific foundation. Hippocrates became influential and stated that illness was a natural process. This turned the healing idea away from the spiritual to physical causes.
The stories of women in our culture resonate as a journey through time and trial for equality, individual freedom, and hope. Hope rests close to the heart of health care; it is a belief in powerful healing, and hope for a better community that encourages so many women and to better the places in which they live through health care.
Florence Nightingale was one of the most memorable individuals, and known by many as “The Lady with the Lamp” and “The Founder of Modern Nursing.” She is most remembered as a pioneer of nursing and a reformer of hospital sanitation methods. When her sanitary reform was implemented, the mortality rate declined. Unknown too many, however, was her use of new techniques of statistical analysis, such as during the Crimean War when she plotted the incidence of preventable deaths in the military. She developed the polar area diagram to dramatize the needless deaths caused by unsanitary conditions and the need for reform. With her analysis, Florence Nightingale revolutionized the idea that social phenomena could be objectively measured and subjected to mathematical analysis. In 1860 she established theNightingaleSchoolatSt. ThomasHospitalinLondonwhere nurses would be trained and was the first woman to receive this honor.
Another great woman in the profession was Mary Ann Bickerdyke who was described by Stein (2006) as a woman who, “…had received training in botanic and homeopathic medicine…been engaged in private-duty nursing.” Bickerdyke was only woman allowed in Sherman’s camps became known simply as “Mother Bickerdyke” to thousands of Union soldiers, famous for her ability to bypass bureaucracy, scrounge together supplies, and help run army field hospitals. She was known as the most colorful and resourceful Civil War nurse. She worked as a botanic physician in and organized many hospitals inCairo. By the end of the war, with the help of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Bickerdyke had built about three hundred hospitals and helped the wounded on nineteen battlefields.
When women in history had to deal with discrimination in the workplace a Hospital was built and its primary focus was on women in the medical field. TheNew EnglandHospitalfor Women and Children was founded by Dr. Marie Zakrzewska and Ednah Dow Cheney. It was, for more than a century, a teaching hospital where women doctors and nurses could study and practice medicine and women could receive treatment from female doctors. Constructed over a 58 year period (1872-1930), this was the oldest remaining example of the hospitals that were run by and for women during the latter half of the 19th and early part of the 20th century. The hospital was established in an effort to overcome the obstacles that stood in the way of women entering medical practice.
Woman during this time in history had to deal with many different types of social prejudices whether it was sexual, racial or gender. Ashley (1975) commented that, “Instead of openly questioning sexual prejudice directed toward nurses, leaders, without public protest, accepted it and lived silently with the results…Born and nourished by separatism, the nineteenth century solution to sexual discrimination, the hospital, by the time of its centennial in 1912, was facing conflict over integration and the challenge of justifying its existence as an all-woman’s hospital.”
Clara Barton known as “The Angel of the Battlefield,” expanded her concept of soldier aid, traveling to organize a program for locating men listed as missing in action. Through interviews with Federals returning from Southern prisons, she was often able to determine the status of some of the missing and notify families. By the end of the war Barton had performed most of the services that would later was associated with the American Red Cross, which she founded in 1881. Faust stated, “For 3 years she followed army operations throughout theVirginiaTheaterand in theCharleston,S.C., area. At this time she formed her only formal Civil War connection with any organization when she served as superintendent of nurses in Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butlers command.”
Linda Richards wasAmerica’s first trained nurse and devoted her life to the work of caring for the sick and suffering after hearing of the need of nurses in the Civil War. She began her work atBostonCityHospital, but was disappointed she when realized her work to be only that which today is being considered a maid. She also opened the first training school for nurses in Japan and started a nurse training school at the Methodist Episcopal Hospital inPhiladelphia. Richards was also the first president of the first professional organization for nurses, the American Society of Superintendents of Training Schools. In addition, she was recognized for introducing the idea of keeping records of patient care and initiating the use of nursing uniforms in practice.
As time progressed emerging practice dilemmas began to emerge. It became clear that in history women were considered the primary foundation of the field of nursing. Yet, as men entered this profession, it became obvious that there was an inequality between men and women in the workplace. In addition, an article in City Hall news stated, “Men are climbing the nursing career ladder much quicker than women, despite the fact that most women have longer experience in the profession and better nursing qualifications” according to new research from the independent Policy Studies Institute. Despite the central role of the nurse in hospitals, decision making was vested in managers and physicians, who were men.
Discrimination in nursing may occur regarding racial or ethnic background, gender or sex, sexual orientation and age. Nancy Kaleda (2008), “Yet, it refuses to end a discriminatory practice that for decades has denied registered nurses equal retirement benefits.”
Therefore, racial and ethnic discrimination remains a problem in society as a whole and unfortunately, health care systems are not immune to these problems. Brandy (2008), a third year nursing student commented on the discrimination of women in nursing by explaining “how African American women had no rights during WWII and in the Korean War to the point of not being able to serve their country in the military as a nurse.” Although, there are indications that nurses have moved into greater acceptance of all individuals in advance of some other portions of society, concerns about discrimination still remain.
A survey pertaining to minority nurses was published by the ANA which indicated that many believe that they have been adversely affected by discrimination in nursing profession. Some concerns cited were the perception that others questioned their capabilities, ethnic backgrounds were reasons that they were passed over for promotions.
Mary Eliza Mahoney was known as the first African American professionally trained registered nurse in theUnited States. The National Association of Colored Graduate Persons established the Mary Mahoney Award in 1936 to honor her nursing contributions. Bolden (1996) mentioned that, “The award continues to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions in interracial relationships.”
Consequently, Fitzpatrick (1997) commented that, “In many respects, the role of the nurse in the hospital could be compared to that of a mother charged with the responsibility for the care of a family. (p.821)” As time progressed, there became a need to develop independence among the nursing profession and to develop both intellect and leadership capabilities within this community.
The Journal of Professional Nursing (2003) stated, “ “It is important for a student to study the history of nursing due to the fact that, “History promotes critical thinking skills as students question historical events and explore how these events may have altered the profession.” The basic knowledge a nurse must possess and apply on a daily basis is reading, document use, writing, math skills, oral communication, working with others, computer use and the willingness to continuous learning. It is crucial to be able to apply nursing theories, some management and leadership abilities.
The rapid expansion of knowledge in the technological and psychosocial sciences means today nurses obtain only a basic foundation for practice in undergraduate programs. Each new graduate has the responsibility to learn to apply and expand their knowledge in the specific work role and setting. Nursing candidates must prepare by a rigorous course of training that includes a thorough grounding in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, the cause and treatment of disease, the intricacies of nutrition and diet, surgical skills, and a variety of techniques pertaining to patient care. Many nurses also prepare for more specialized work, such as the care of newborn infants, maternity patients, or the mentally ill, or for duties in the operating room.
Nursing is a unique profession with many levels of clinical practice ranging from technical to advanced practice Higher education for nurses begin at the entry levels as per Angi Mohr, Assistant V.P of Nursing at Unity Health Center pointed out, “Training for a career as a registered nurse can be met by several means: a two-year course at a junior college or a four-year degree program at a college or university.” Emphasis on college education for nurses is on the upsurge, because greater knowledge is required to apply the latest methods of diagnosis and therapy. Training includes both classroom study and actual hospital practice, and the graduate must still be examined and licensed by the state. This applies also to women in religious orders who train and work as nursing sisters.
The Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary was founded in 1881 when the first eleven students met with founders Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles in the basement of the oldest Negro Baptist church called theFriendshipBaptistChurch. But the useful lives alluded to in writings by the founders was very much in keeping with an African proverb, “Teach a woman and you teach a nation.” 1886 Spelman Seminary renamedSpelmanCollegeestablished the first nursing program for African Americans.
There are other aspects that a trained nurse must focus on. Although many patients face significant physical needs, their mind and spirit may be ill as well. Three facets make up an individual: physical, mental, and spiritual. To provide optimal holistic care, the care nurse must take into consideration each of these three aspects. But most importantly, the care nurse must recognize that spiritual care begins with oneself. Spirituality is one such area of patient care that, when addressed, can reap positive benefits for both the patient and the healthcare provider. O’Brien (1999) stated, “In years past, spiritual care was generally not considered a dimension of nursing therapeutics. With the advent of the holistic health movement, however, together with the notion of holistic nursing, assessment of an ill person’s spiritual needs, and in some cases the practice of spiritual care, became recognized as legitimate activities within the domain of nursing” (p.118).
Angi Mohr, Assistant V.P of Nursing at Unity Health Center when asked about the social support and spiritual aspects of nursing stated, “The biggest thing is just being there…a hand on a shoulder…a simple prayer” She felt that as a nurse, there is a need to meet the spiritual needs of a patient. It begins being open to other religions other than her own. She commented that, “It may be as simple as identifying a spiritual need and finding a way to meet that need for the patient.”
Nursing has become a therapeutic and caring discipline whose practice is based on nursing knowledge, the sciences, and the humanities, and is guided by the ANA Code of Ethics. Within a variety of roles and in multiple settings, nurses collaborate with clients and members of the interdisciplinary health care team to provide high quality client care and to facilitate improvement in health care delivery systems. Nursing is a vital force in society’s culture whose roles affect and are affected by current and emerging issues in health care. Knowledge derived from research, other scholarly activities, and societal trends provide direction for the evolving practice of nursing. Clare (1993) acknowledged, “The culture taught in nursing schools, with professional ideals of autonomy, empowerment, and reflective practice clashes with the “highly bureaucratic institutions in the health care system” (p.1034).
As nursing students are involved in the clinical and academic environments it is believed that ethical principles are a necessary guide to professional development. NSNA (2001) reported, “Students of nursing have a responsibility to society in learning the academic theory and clinical skills needed to provide nursing care. The clinical setting presents unique challenges and responsibilities while caring for human beings in a variety of health care environments.” Each woman, upon entering the profession, inherits a measure of responsibility and trust in the profession and the corresponding obligation to adhere to standards of ethical practice and conduct set by the profession.
Along with the code of ethics there is a philosophy that is upheld by nurses. Brencick and Webster (2000), together described the concept of the meaning of an accepted nursing philosophy stating, “…encourage the health profession to embrace a more holistic approach to healthcare in this enlightening outlook that envisions a synchronistic relationship between technology and caring.” There is a need to demonstrate how a return to the humanities that can help reestablish the individual’s identity in a system that currently treats each patient as a piece of paper with a number on it. It is crucial for women to encourage the health profession to incorporate a holistic approach to healthcare that envisions a simultaneous connection between science, technology and caring.
The key element of nursing is a holistic approach that serves to counteract the reductionism of medicine that has inadvertently been undermined. Although many nurses have attempted to maintain past clinical practices, work pressures, staff turnover, the cutting of wages and the hiring of lower paid licensed nurses impeded their aspirations and, too often, nurses in management have not shown the leadership their predecessors did in the 19th century.
There are two sides to the problem: more nurses are leaving the profession and fewer people are entering the profession. Both reflect massive failures of national policy.
Nursing also suffers from a training bottleneck. In 2005, fully 150,000 qualified applicants were turned down atU.S.schools of nursing both associate and baccalaureate degrees due to insufficient faculty and classroom or lab space, or lack of clinical sites. The problem is mainly teachers of nursing, combined with the fact that nurse training programs are often money losers for community colleges and universities, so too few slots are offered.
In conclusion, the field of nursing has and continues to face significant challenges for women regarding their own identity. Nursing, a scientific discipline, requires creativity in its execution. The art of nursing lies in the application of concepts and principles of nursing theory to the design of individualized care using the nursing process. It is a scientific discipline that takes a holistic approach to the diagnosis and treatment of potential and actual responses to illnesses. The goal of nursing is to lessen the effects of illness, promoting comfort and healing and assisting patients whether that is an optimum state of health or a dignified death.
Being a woman in today’s nursing field is never easy but can be very rewarding…when you’re a nurse you know that every day you will touch a life or a life will touch yours…
Ashley, J.A. (1975). Nurses in American History: Nursing and Early Feminism. The American Journal of Nursing, 75(9), 1465-1467.
Barber, E. W. (1994). Women’s Work: The first 20,000 years. Women, cloth and society in early times.New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
People fear death even more than pain. It’s strange that they fear death. Life hurts a lot more than death. At the point of death, the pain is over. Yeah, I guess it is a friend. ~ Jim Morrison
Life is filled with options and decisions and we hope that we make the right choices at the right times. If wrong choices are made, we hope to learn from them and move on.
This is my story about cause, effect, regret and forgiving myself.
Mom, always said, “It’s you and me against the world.”
It was a dark and wintery night when the first call came in, probably around midnight.
The nurse called and stated stated …”she was having some problems and was calling the doctor to confirm placing her on an IV bag.”
I should have jumped up that very minute. Not once in two months had they called me to tell me her status. I was half awake and half asleep…but that was no excuse. I didn’t rush down there to hold her hand. I didn’t get into the truck and speed over to the hospital to tell her I loved her.
I just rolled over and went back to sleep. Two hours and seventeen minutes later the phone rang. My heart sank.
The nurse on the other end said, “…there was nothing they could do…she was gone.”
I dropped the phone…speechless. I was hysterical…barely able to speak.
To say the words…my mother passed over. My friend, confidant, sometimes worst enemy yet, the one who taught me about life, strength, courage and love in her own way has left her earthly body.
The early morning brought bitterly cold wind with snow and ice on the ground. My lover and I dressed hurriedly or should say my partner did because I couldn’t stop the flow of tears and my knees buckled beneath me and I kept hitting the floor. I was picked up and held for a moment and then kissed gently several times. She was my rock at that moment and I had no idea. After I was dressed we went outside and she walked next to me holding my hand. As we staggered across that blanket of winter to the truck, I could hear the crunching of snow under our feet which seemed to have echoed in my head. One could actually taste the cold air.
The ride to the hospital was filled with hysterical cries in the night. Trying to speak, but everything came out jumbled. My mind was racing a mile a minute. When we arrived at the facility, I could my lover’s mom waiting for us as we pulled up into the parking lot. I didn’t realize she even made that call. When it was time to get out of the truck…I couldn’t…it was as if my body shut down…I was frozen. The two of them had to hold me up as I walked because I kept collapsing barely making it to the entrance. We all walked in somewhat unison to the elevator with sounds of my outbursts echoing in the empty halls. We got in and they let go of me.
I collapsed to the floor and they looked on for a moment. The bell rang and they lifted me up as the doors opened.
Please, no I don’t want to go down that hall, if I don’t go she will still be here to yell and scream at the nurses…I heard myself cry out in my mind.
I have never taken such a long walk down a hospital corridor. It seemed endless…the closer I got the further away it seemed to her room where my mother lay.
I could feel death in the air lingering. It seemed so still, so surreal…I couldn’t hear anything as we passed the nurses at their station. Silence was deadly.
Looking back I now see how fortunate I was to have two loving individuals stand by me during the hardest and most trying time of my life. I could feel their love and their support with every step I took.
I entered the room and held my mother’s hand. I spoke to her about being close to her lover in heaven and not being in pain…no more suffering…just peace. My final good bye included how much I loved her.
I have learned so much from that night for instance carpè diem; not only to seize the day, but also the hours and minutes too and always remember that I can never tell someone I love them too many times. Will you let a day go by without saying I love you to a loved one?
While in my speechwriting class, I was asked to write a eulogy. I loved the description it went something like: You can write a eulogy for a dead person, an alive person, on yourself, but, no animals. Anyway, I chose my mother. I never had to chance to speak these words from my heart.
For those of you who don’t know me, let me introduce myself. I’m Tracy Danelle, Sheila’s only child. Or as mom would tell the world, “I did it once and I did it right.” It is a dark day for many as it is for me. I have spent four, soul searching days trying to find the words, to write them, while finding the courage to speak them on this day. I have my eulogoly in hand, but these words come from my heart.
Today we should not shed tears. Today we should not use a box of kleenex. Today we are here to celebrate and reflect on life. A life that has been very dear to me, my mother’s life. She would not wanto us to cry her a river, but to learn how to sail on it.
My mother’s essence was filled with an abundance of love, courage and humanity. Sheila’s heart was of a saint as she applied herself to helping others. Those who were close to my mom could feel the radiance of love and dedication deep within her soul. It encircled her clients, friends and family.
I can recall a statement she made that went something like, “I have always been a dedicated supporter of anti-poverty programs. Whether paid or not, change must come, to serve community needs.” Mom began the first runaway shelter in Pennsylvania, Sanctuary House, implemented life skills programs for youths and job training projects. As a mother, social worker, journalist, photographer, counselor, poet, grants writer, as well as working with ex-offenders, street gangs, and delinquents, Sheila has enriched many lives.
Sheila Ann Jobe was born in Wisconsin in 1944 and was raised in an elite environment of the rich and famous.
When she was 17 and a recent graduate from high school her parents arranged for her to be married. Mom married a Navy man who had a woman in every port. Nine months later I was born. We traveled from state to state never staying more than six months to a year. When the pressure became too much, mom and dad divorced in 1968. I was four years old. It was then she became the black sheep of the family. Sheila had been disowned by the only family she knew. We traveled from state to state as mom tried to support us. It was through her trials and tribulations that she found the courage to persevere. All that she knew was that motherhood had not been anything like the stories told to her. As time went on it was the holidays that she missed and cherished most with her family.
(Mom: bottom left)
With all of her family and money gone, she found herself a single parent. She was working two jobs as a manager at local bars in California. We were surrounded not only by straight people but, gays, lesbians, and I can’t forget those drag queens.
And that is where I leaned about diversity and acceptance. To accept people for who they are not what they are.
My mother always followed her heart. Married once, to my father, twice, second husband and thrice. In 1973 mom married a woman with five children. It was a gay Rabbi in New York City who pronounced them wife and wife. It was a moment that warmed my heart as I watched love blossom before my eyes. We laughed then we cried during the ceremony. The marriage only lasted two years, but the memories of my mother’s happiness lasted a lifetime. Sheila finally found her true self.
She was a social worker for 20 years and loved by all of her clients. Everyone called her, “Mom.” Sheila had worked for different agencies and even in Ryker’s Island, New York City’s jail facility counseling inmates. Sheila worked with street gangs in Harlem, New York. You could say mom was in the middle of the stereotypical members who would kill for $10 bucks and the bloody massacres of street gang wars. These kids would do anything to survive and I do mean anything. Not only was mom able to help those disadvantaged youths who wanted to better themselves but, also gave love to each and every one that crossed her path. She guided them to a better place, a safer place, a place of hope.
One moment in time enhanced our lives forever when she was employed at Woodycrest, a home for neglected children, homeless children. It was there that she befriended a young African American boy about to turn 18. He had been sent there for juvenile protection. It was a cold place, but at least he had a roof over his head and food to eat. It was state mandated that once reaching the legal age that the child now adult be given $50.00 and told to go and face the world, on his own, alone.
I was 13 years old and we lived in upstate New York in the Hudson County Valley area when my mother came home with the news. “I have been counseling a young man who was going to be placed out into the cruel world without any help. I wanted you to know that there will always be people in need, but if I could help just one of them…” she said. My mother had a heart of a saint. Sheila opened up our home to a lost soul. It wasn’t soon after he moved in that I realized I had found the brother I never had.
Sheila’s heart shinned through during the holidays. Holidays meant a lot to my mother especially Thanksgiving. We would cook all day and then go out into the night. Driving through Greenpoint, Brooklyn looking for homeless people on the streets. We invited them home for dinner. I remember her words, “No one should be alone on Thanksgiving. And everyone takes a doggy bag with them.”
Sheila had a heart of a saint. But few knew of my mother’s physical hardships. At 34 she had a hysterectomy and was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer and severe diabetes. Then told, “You have six months to live.” My mother proved them wrong and lived twenty eight years longer than expected. She was in an almost fatal car accident and was told walking was out of the question. My mom proved them wrong after six months.
She had a strong will and resilience but, it is her zest for life, search for knowledge and the love of mankind that will live on through all of us. She has touched us deeply.
While going through my mother’s belongings a few days after passing over, I came across a poem she had written right after being diagnosed with Cancer. I would like to share it with you now.
But Ms., Dying isn’t my fear…
One day after surgery
ah yes, the pain still lingers
one day after surgery a kindly
social worker came in to ask:
Are you afraid of dying?
Pressing the issue, ever demanding
my strength, my last blood,
Let’s talk about dying, you’ll feel
so much better, dear.
Dying? What a queer subject
when one is supposedly recovering.
The contradiction of will and reality.
I’m overcome, Ms., please leave.
She stayed on,
ghoulishly awaiting a cathartic breath, a sentence she
could transcribe into: service.
You want to serve me, and not waste
an ounce of your precious education
then serve me.
Teach me to live with the knowledge of
Her face grimed. I cannot.
I was sent here to discuss dying,
To err is human. I learned this hard lesson the morning my mother passed over.
It was a dark and wintery night when the first call came in, probably around midnight and the nurse stated she was having some problems and was calling the doctor to confirm placing her on an IV bag. I should have jumped up that very minute. Not once in two months had they called me to tell me her status. I was half awake and half asleep…but that was no excuse. I didn’t rush down there to hold her hand. I didn’t get into the truck and speed over to the hospital to tell her I loved her. I just rolled over and went back to sleep. Two hours and seventeen minutes later the phone rang. My heart sank. The nurse on the other end said there was nothing they could do…she was gone.
I dropped the phone, speechless. I was hysterical, barely able to speak. To say the words, my mother passed over. My friend, confidant, sometimes worst enemy yet, the one who taught me about life, strength, courage and love in her own way, has left her earthly body.
I know she is here in spirit and I want her to know that you have not only inspired me but so many others along the journey of life. You taught us of the meaning of living. “Follow your heart”, you always said. Never again will I talk to my friend, confidant, sometimes worst enemy yet, the one who taught me about life, strength, courage and love. Never again will my mom call to me in the evening to tell me to turn the channel to the dog show competition or to call just to say I love you. They say, “Never say never because it will happen” and I believe it to be true because those vibrations go out into the universe. So, when I meet my mother in heaven, we will talk again. I will embrace mom as if one day has not passed.
You are my inspiration, my guiding light, my mother. You have touched the world with your heart and we thank you for you being you.
Mom always thought that I was the queen of clichés. That my humor was dry. Well, before I say my last goodbye to the woman who had a heart of a saint, I will not disappoint her. Jerry Seinfeld once stated, “A recent survey stated that the average person’s greatest fear is having to give a speech in public. Somehow this ranked even higher than death which was third on the list. So, you’re telling me that at a funeral, most people would rather be the guy in the coffin than have to stand up and give a eulogy.”
Mom, I love you. Thank you all and remember, love is stronger than death.