A Greater Purpose
Less than a year into practice as a nurse, I would have never expected to be jumping head-first into a pandemic. Yet somehow, here we remain. When asked to provide input for the resiliency initiative, I had to take time to truly reflect on what constituted my own resiliency and personal integrity. I knew that my relationship with God was at the center, above all else. However, for some who may not hold similar beliefs or ideologies, simply stating that would prove difficult when it comes to connecting with others. It occurred to me that what grounds me personally, is not only a concrete set of actions, beliefs, or practices but also a lifestyle, an identity, a greater purpose. By having a root system grounded in the values that I have fostered throughout my life amidst personal trials, I believe that my own resiliency has flourished in this difficult time. With that, I would like to share a story, in the hope that others may be inspired to deepen the awareness of their own beliefs, and why they are so important when it comes to remaining steadfast in trying times.
While in nursing school, I was simultaneously discerning life as a religious sister. In those years, my prayer life began to transform and intertwine with my work as a nursing student. I recognized the precious gift that it was to accompany someone on what could be their greatest day of suffering. It is humbling to realize that of all the nurses in the world, somehow, God saw fit that certain people would weave their way into my life, and I into theirs. The Lord challenged me to be more present, aware of the impact of my interactions with others. With each passing day, the call to serve those at the end of their life was tugging at me with greater intensity. In the quiet prayerful moments, I knew God was calling me to dedicate my life as a nurse not only for the body but also for the human spirit, which many times experiences greater suffering than the flesh.
After working at a hospital for a time after graduation, I found certainty in the desire for connecting my nursing career with religious life. The religious community of Catholic sisters whom I was discerning with, the Little Sisters of the Poor, dedicate their lives to the elderly poor, giving them a home where they are received as a family, as well as providing healthcare and spiritual accompaniment in this life to eternity. The mother superior asked me if I wanted to move-in and work as a nurse in the Home to further determine my perceived call to religious life. I jumped at the opportunity and moved-in with the sisters and elderly residents at the beginning of January 2020.
Eight short weeks later, the coronavirus hit the USA hard, and nursing homes around the country were placed on strict lockdown. The elderly, some of the most vulnerable individuals, were isolated and hidden away even more so than perhaps they had been before. As I too was a “resident” in a nursing home, this lockdown pertained to me as well. I quickly found myself adjusting to life 24/7 with the elderly – I was their nurse by day, companion in the evenings, and an advocate always.
In the beginning, and even now, there are challenges, and it can be exhausting. There were many times when I thought to myself, “I could never be what they need. How could God have possibly wanted unremarkable me to serve these people in such a profound way? Lord, I was not ready for this!” I wanted to be everything for them. Yet I soon learned that it is not my place – and rightly so! For everything that I lack (and there are many things!) I always call upon God to satisfy the needs I cannot fulfill in others. And, in beauty all its own, some way or another, He always does.
To clarify, I have not begun any sort of formal formation to the consecrated religious life yet – I am not a religious sister, though that is still the ultimate goal if God desires it for me. The timing is all His! Though I have been unexpectedly immersed into a life of service to the elderly, I cannot imagine life any other way during this pandemic. Currently, I consider myself, “just Amanda”, a young nurse and aspiring sister with much to learn both medically and spiritually, here to serve in whatever way is needed during these unprecedented times. If I did not have a solid foundation of prayer, thanksgiving, and a lifestyle that goes beyond myself and personal desires, the year 2020 would have looked a lot more desolate. Through the community of sisters here, perseverance in prayer, and viewing each elderly person I serve and live alongside as an image of Jesus Christ, my outlook on what may have seemed a very hopeless situation becomes full of promise and peace. This does not mean I turn a blind eye to suffering or slide on a pair of rose-tinted glasses every day and say, “Everything will be okay. It’s all good!” To me, having a hopeful outlook simply means that my strength and joy have to come from God; without His grace and promise of eternal life in heaven, I can do nothing, and darkness will surely settle in quickly. A prayer that keeps me going is one with which many may be familiar, the Peace Prayer by St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
The moral of this story I suppose is that my resiliency comes from a belief that there is a greater purpose for my work. It goes beyond me, looking upward toward the heavens and upon the precious faces of my elderly residents. Just as every morning starts with prayer (and coffee), every night, as my head settles into a cool pillow, I thank God for whatever the day brought. Resting in His peace, I know that faith alone is enough for me, and from that, many blessings flow.
God bless all of you nurses out there who have fought a good fight. Remain strong and grounded in who you have been called to be. Please be assured of my prayers, and those of the little sisters as well.