It’s early morning, and as I sit here gazing at my Christmas tree, I can’t help but reflect on my last day of working in the ICU, and the goodbyes I said last night. In the center of the tree, in perfect sight is the Christmas ornament a nursing classmate bought me the year we both graduated. It was December 2006. January would bring with it not only a whole new year, but a new job working in the ICU, learning brand new skills, and forming many new friendships. How ironic that I sit here this morning and there in front of me is that same ornament reminding me of another new start in my life. I can’t help but wonder what is in front of me now as another new year begins.
There were so many “lasts” as I worked yesterday. Friends reminded me this would be our “last” shift together, our “last” lunch together, our “last” walk to the parking garage, and our “last” report together. But with every “last” always comes a new “first,” and Monday morning as I begin learning new skills and meeting new people, I’m reminded of how good these past years have been. And since I am a “people” person, I’ve got to say – It’s been the people who have made the past 7 years so memorable, and so difficult to leave behind. This was NOT an easy decision or one I took lightly. I’d like to reflect on that here for a moment!
Twelve hours is a long shift, and when you spend that amount of time together, you can’t help but to know a lot about each other’s lives. When I began working on the unit, my sons were in high school. Every Friday night, I’d leave work in my long, ugly brown, but very warm stadium coat, and cheer in the stands at their football games. Since those first days, they have both graduated high school, gotten a few years of college completed, one has moved out of state for school, the other has married and I now have a daughter-in-law – And he begins student teaching next semester. A lot of changes have taken place in my life while working on the unit. Those are only a few of them!
Over these years, I’ve had friends to share the memories with, the frustrations with, and the joy of, all while getting through those long 12-hour shifts. Some of my co-workers have gone on to different jobs during the years, and we have stayed in occasional touch. Others have become close friends outside of work and we talk often. But whether those who I’ve had the privilege of sharing shifts with have become either a seasonal or a life-long friend, each of them in their own unique way, have been, and will remain a cherished memory for me. I was choked up on the elevator as I left last night. But I’m glad. I’m glad because it means I’ve known some pretty special folks. And I like folks.
Thank you for all of the laughs, both at the desk with humor only a medical professional would understand, and the giggles we have enjoyed behind curtains. Sacred, vulnerable pieces of ourselves have been shared between friends at the desk during some of those long 12-hour shifts. Marriages, divorces, raising children, break-ups, heartaches, deaths, gummy bears, and swedish fish, and just life’s general struggles have been shared there. And I’m thankful for each of you I have known. I’m thinking of so many people as I sit here, and my simple little Christmas ornament reminds me of all of you. I’ve enjoyed every moment. I’ve appreciated every word of encouragement that came when I was a brand new nurse. I’ll always remember those who welcomed me and were willing to share their wisdom, knowledge, and experience. I’ll remember the examples that were set for me. So many of you give more meaning to the word “friend” through your kind words, and the way that you treat people. I’m taking a piece of each of you with me. It’s been a privilege and an honor to walk through these past years with all of you.
And, as I finish this blog, I have a brand new ornament to hang on my tree. I find it no coincidence that my friend at work gave me this yesterday. Next year at this time, I wonder who and what I will have to reflect on and be thankful for as I gaze at it shining on my Christmas tree.
To all in my MICU family – I’m leaving with nothing but joy in my heart. I love each of you.