Last week’s blog focused on new beginnings and ended with this quote from Walt Disney: “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Apparently, my wife Cathy took Disney’s quote to heart because this past week, she decided to give her employer her notice of retirement. She’s been a health care professional for forty-seven years, first as a floor nurse and then an administrator. At one time, her job required extensive travel. She was on an airplane every Monday morning on her way to offer quality management and education to staffs at high-end retirement communities across the country. For the past ten years, she’s been the Director of Risk Management and Corporate Compliance at a small hospital. All these years, at whatever level, she’s been in the service of residents and patients to make sure they receive quality care.
I’ve always admired the self-sacrifice nurses make—the long shifts, the hours spent on their feet, the risks they accept. I’ve been their patient during my own frightening times, and I’ve been grateful for their gentle touch, their kind words, and their excellent care. I’ve known Cathy to be empathetic, understanding, patient, steadfast in any emergency, wickedly funny, and direct—even stern—when the situation called for her resolve.
I admire her more than any words, including the ones in this post, can ever express. Forty-seven years of those long hours. Forty-seven years of taking colleagues’ shifts so they could be with their families on the holidays, forty-seven years of being distant from her own family, forty-seven years of prioritizing the care of the elderly and the sick. No one comes to the Director of Risk Management and Corporate Compliance with good news. When Cathy’s phone rings, it’s because someone has a complaint or there’s an issue of legal exposure that she must deal with. I know, if I were a patient in need, hers is the voice I’d want to hear on the other end of the line. She’s willingly dealt with stressful situations time and time again because she believes in patients’ rights to superior healthcare, and she’s dedicated to doing whatever she can to protect those rights while also keeping her hospital compliant with all regulations. Her behind-the-scenes work has made a difference for countless people.
I admire her for her work, but I also respect her for the courageous decisions she made in her personal life. A single mother at the age of eighteen, she took a job as a nurse’s aide, worked her way through nursing school, passed her RN licensing exams, and later became an Assistant Director of Nurses. Once she started doing quality care and risk management work, she moved up the corporate ladder to a salary of just under six figures. Then her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. Cathy didn’t hesitate. She resigned her position, so she could take care of her mother at her home in a tiny town in southeastern Illinois. Her mother lived only a short time, and there was Cathy, grieving, and without a job and very little prospect of one in this small, economically depressed town. So, she went to work for a landscaping crew. Her ex-husband told her she was too old to do that. It was all the incentive she needed.
Simply put, Cathy possesses tremendous strength. She’s always been a survivor, someone who doesn’t rely on anyone but herself to keep going, no matter how dark the days. And keep going she will. I have no doubt she’ll end up employed, probably part-time, because she’s not the type to just sit around, and she still has a great zest for life. “I want to do something fun,” she tells me. Something she won’t have to carry home with her. Maybe she’ll work at a local garden center, or become a personal shopper, or work at the public library. I can’t tell you how happy I am for her. She’s worked hard on behalf of others all her adult life, and she deserves to be able to start offering care to herself.
So, join me in a toast of congratulations to my lovely wife, and while we’re at it, let’s lift our glasses to all of us who are still pushing forward, especially the writers among us who get told no over and over and somehow find a way to keep doing what we love.