If I wanted to be funny, I would say that I just couldn’t take it anymore. That it nearly broke me when they eradicated the sugar-free cokes. And then the chocolate covered cinnamon bears disappeared. Next they replaced the entire grill and deep fat fryers with weird non-ovens. I’m no good at packing my lunch and bringing it to work unless I pretend that I’m that homeless man’s mother off of 71 hi-way and pack us both a lunch. So, I would like to blame my resignation on something trivial like the gradual disappearance of non-healthy comfort foods in the hospital cafeteria. A junk food extinction. I don’t “feel better” about it. But that would just be ridiculous. Because everybody knows if you work in the emergency department, you will typically be surrounded by carbs. And more carbs. Carbs of every kind. Pretty much every shift. Especially on Sundays.
The truth is that I’ve been saying goodbye to this place for months. I knew I had to prepare my heart far in advance. I’ve spent too many years here to only give myself a two weeks notice of goodbyes. I’ve walked around differently, a bit more slowly, soaking in the views from the many different hallways and places I’ve worked. I’ve tried to avoid thinking about the last times. The last time I would prepare and support a child or teen as they navigate through a lengthy and humiliating exam. The last time I may temporarily squeeze into the shoes of a mother or a sister or a friend. I’ve held on tightly, so tightly, to the beautiful moments when a mother hugged me after I did something small to help her child or her. I’ve jumped at the opportunity to console a tiny crying one or comfort a sibling or explain that an accident was not his fault. Most times, even when I’ve been hurting or tired, I’ve eagerly grabbed my Mary Poppins bag full of distraction materials to quickly go support a patient getting sutures or an IV.
I’ve absolutely cherished last conversations with coworkers who I love so dearly that it physically hurts to think I won’t see them on a regular basis. Maybe if I could memorize their voices, their laughs, and their faces, it will help me later when I’m missing them.
I’ve prepared myself because I need to walk out of here with my head held high. More proud than sad. I’ve prepared myself because I know it’s best for me and because that’s what I have always done with kids. Hundreds and hundreds of kids. Nearly twelve years worth of kids and families. I’ve blown at least a million bubbles. I’ve held hundreds of nervous, scared or confused hands. I’ve taken a million deep breaths. I’ve said thousands of prayers. I think I’ve heard “Let it Go” at least a trillion times. It’s really, really difficult, almost incomprehensible, to think that soon I won’t navigate these halls with the ease, familiarity and confidence that comes with years and years of experience. This place has been like my second home with all of my beautiful brothers and sisters, my work family.
So, I’m feeling a bit shaky, like a volunteer tree. You know those opportunistic little seedlings? The ones that fall from the strong well-established mature tree and plant themselves in a perfect or not so perfect place in a forest or yard and they begin to grow. That’s me. I have fallen or taken a leap or perhaps the winds of life have pushed me away from my big comfortable home base work tree. It’s all a little scary. And uncertain. Definitely unfamiliar. But change is always new. And hard. And usually a risk. So many new doors to embark upon or windows to slide through.
A month or so ago, a kind-hearted and smart gardening friend of mine came over and walked around my backyard with me and pointed out flowers, and perennials and weeds. She also pointed out my “volunteer trees.” The trees that had grown on their own accord…because well, I didn’t plant them. Some of them were so tiny and cute, little toy trees that could easily be uprooted by my children running or tromping on top of them. Other volunteer trees appeared strong like they had strategically placed themselves in a perfect growing spot. Like they may take some real effort to dig out. So maybe I should just leave them alone and let them keep growing. Plant a tree. Or just be open to one planting itself. And leave it alone.
Let it grow.
That’s what I’m hoping to do. Little volunteer tree me. Grow through the change. Battle the winds. The seasons. The unknowns. And just keep growing. Just keep growing. I will tell myself. I will always think of all of the encouragement and support and love I’ve been filled up with. And I think I will manage alright because I’ve learned from one of the strongest, most resilient and beautiful trees that exist. The Mercy Tree.