The Mercy Tree

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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.

Stolen Time

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There are countless things that you have stolen. Both tangible and intangible. Things you cannot ever give us back. Sentimental gifts. Did you know that the car that you stole formally belonged to my husband’s grandmother? She is no longer alive. The spare key that you took from my purse hung from the very keychain that Grandma Ryan used. A stuffed whale. As silly as that Florida keychain was, it held value. It held meaning. It used to be held in a woman’s hands that no longer walks this earth.

I keep beating myself up. Replaying the night before. I wish I wouldn’t have left my purse in my car. In my driveway. I wish I could change what happened. But, it’s not my fault. It’s actually all yours. I will not allow myself to be an accomplice to the crimes you committed. I have had several imaginary conversations with you. My son surprised me and walked into the room just the other day and asked me what I was talking about. I was talking sternly to you. You can’t imagine how badly I want to look you in the eye and tell you about all of the short-fused moments and interactions you have caused our family over the past week. I want to tell you how many hours I’ve spent canceling credit card accounts, memberships, and bank accounts. You will never be able to give me back my time. Ever. And ironically enough, you may, one day, have all the time in the world. Sitting in prison.

Have you ever worked so hard for something? Maybe to learn how to do something. And you finally figured it out. After hours and hours. Or have you ever had to fill out paperwork for something? Have you ever waited in line for something so painfully long? Have you ever worked for hours and hours without ever getting to take a break to even go to the bathroom? Or eat dinner. Because I have. I have earned my paychecks. I have earned them with constantly running around during a busy twelve hour shift.  And I have continued to earn my paycheck as I have spent countless hours off the clock thinking about the horrendous situations I experience at work. I didn’t need you to help teach me the cruel lesson on how life can be unfair sometimes.

Unexplainable things happen in this world. Unexpected sickness. Fatal accidents. Children dying. Kind decent people have awful, hurtful things happen to them. And you’re making the conscious decision to perpetuate this lesson. You wrongfully steal from others what is not yours. You’re a thief. A robber. A criminal. A black cloud. You provide living proof that bad stuff happens for no explainable reason.

I don’t know you, but I have no respect for you.

I feel sorry for your mom.

You’re a sad, selfish person.

So, here’s what you can do. You know, to make up for all of the time and money that we’ve lost because of your poor choices. I’ll tell you what I care about the most in this world. Kids. I have young children who for the past week keep saying things like,

“I wonder why somebody would do that.”

Or a week after you walked up our driveway and drove away in my husband’s car, my six year old sons say,

“If we find dad’s car, let’s keep it a surprise. Then we will give it to him for his birthday and say, “Surprise! We found your car.”

They have been scared to go to sleep by themselves. Because of you.

Such innocence. Innocence that you corrupted. Yet, another thing you can’t give us back. Fortunately, they haven’t experienced too many people like you in their short lives. Their little minds just can’t grasp why somebody would break the window to our van and steal our stuff. Leaving a broken mess of glass in our driveway and a horrible feeling of violation. Trapped in our minds.

You probably know a few kids. You may just be a big kid yourself. I’m pretty certain that there are some younger kids who may look up to you and may think you are worthy of imitation. They may want to be like you. The way that you can help make right some of the wrong that you’ve caused is to stop. Think about the people you are violating. I think if you worked really, really hard for a paycheck and had it stolen from you, then you may understand the hurt, the pain, the frustration and anger that you cause. The stolen time.

It’s a simple solution. You need to say sorry for all that you’ve done. And you need to mean it. Really mean it. And you need to change. Be better. Stop stealing. Work to change lives for better. Not worse.

Think of all of the pain and unfairness you’ve caused. Think of what you’ve wrongfully stolen from hard-working people. You get to carry this heavy load that you now own as a reminder to be different. Robber. Thief. Criminal. These are titles you’ve sadly earned. But, I believe that you can learn from your mistakes. I believe in forgiving you. I believe you can change. So, do it.

Think about all of the time you’ve stolen from others. And try to give it back. It’s the least you can do. And the most you can do.

I’ll be praying for you and your family by name. Now that I’ve received that.