Cowbells in Heaven


So last night I was privileged to take part in an awards dinner for the programs at which I work.  I am a nurse manager and (as you may have inferred) I manage nurses.  I do this in four programs which are all “secure” which is the modern term for “locked.”  We care for people who have severe and persistent mental illness, generally schizophrenia, and in my opinion we do it pretty well.

Last year our director started this awards dinner thing, and so this was the second annual awards dinner, and I have to say it was pretty fun.  And served an excellent purpose, which is to recognize the work we do, single out certain individuals for exemplary service, and eat some really excellent food.

Also, there are Hi-Chew candies strewn over all the tables and this year:  COWBELLS.  We put them to good use.

Last year I was called upon to give a little speech about what we nurses have accomplished, the types of medical conditions and such that we have handled, and the challenge of engaging people for some fairly intensive medical care when we often have difficulty getting them to shower on a monthly basis, let alone endure a dental procedure or minor surgery.  I think it went pretty well; I tried to be reasonably brief and to the point.

This year I was asked to come up with an award specifically to recognize a nurse working in our programs who exemplified excellent nursing care.  This nurse would be peer-nominated, which I declined to participate in to avoid any flavor of bias or favoritism.  I didn’t even know who won the darn thing until I presented it.

When I was called upon to create this award, I toyed (listlessly) with the idea of a Florence Nightingale award for about ten seconds, but it was so deeply unoriginal that I couldn’t take it seriously.  Then as I sat there doodling my way through a meeting, it struck me that this award could honor a nurse who had worked in one of our programs until last fall, when she had had to reluctantly stop.  She had to stop because she was terminally ill.  She passed away in January.

Internets, this nurse was an amazing woman.  She was a sprightly little woman with a quick wit, a keen sense of humor, and an enormous heart.  When she died, it broke all of our hearts.

I asked her family if naming this award for her would be all right with them and they replied that they were pleased and honored.  They sent photos that we could use in the presentation.

So last night I stood up before the staff and managers and directors and a few other interested parties and I read a little speech about this nurse.  Initially I was quite worried that I would not be able to do this without blubbering, but a few days ago when I banged out this piece that I was going to read I found that a tremendous calm came over me.

I’m not going to say that I felt that Sima, for that was her name, was telling me that she was pleased and honored, although I think that she would be.  I think that if Sima could send any message to me it would be that she didn’t deserve all this fuss (she did deserve it and much more) but that if we were going to do this award in her name, she would want us not to be sad.  She kept her illness very private and we few who knew kept the secret for her.  She didn’t want to focus on it, didn’t want to weigh anyone down.

I think the sense of calm boiled down to the fact that I was proud to have known her, proud to be the one to tell everyone how much she meant to all of us, and proud that we were going to honor her in this way.

Sima, we miss you every day.   You made the world a better place.




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