My nursing school journey began in August of 2009. I was 38 years old with two kids, a husband, a house, and a dog. Up to that point, I had had a successful 17-year career in marketing and advertising. I had been vice-president of a small local ad agency, owned my own business and had been a district manager for a national promotional products company. But, I was bored. I was bored and I felt like I wasn’t “doing” anything. I had done the networking lunches, the business lunches, the meetings with corporate executives yada, yada, yada. However, helping clients pick out the perfect item to put their brand logo and message on and hand out to thousands of people at a convention or trade show just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. It wasn’t allowing me to do something that put my mark on the world.
In 2007, my father-in-law fell ill and was put on hospice. He declined very quickly but, in that short period of time, I took on the role of caregiver. I sat with him, made him meals, helped him get dressed, cleaned him up when he became incontinent and talked him through his roller coaster of emotions. I watched him transition and navigate his way through all five stages of grief. He went from to denial to anger to depression and back to anger and so on until he, eventually, found acceptance. He died very peacefully at home surrounded by his three living sons and his wife. While his death was sad and life-changing for those of us left, I also found it to be quite beautiful. There was something beautiful about witnessing someone go through the process of facing their own death and eventually coming to a place of peace. I found it to be very touching and enlightening but, most of all, I found it to be an awakening for me.
I didn’t realize it immediately but, as time passed and the grief became less painful, I realized I had found my place in the world. I found where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing. I found my purpose. While he may or may not have known it at the time, my father-in-law gave me the most beautiful gift. He allowed me to care for him during the most vulnerable, frightening and precious time of his life, the end. He allowed me in to have a glimpse of what it is like to be facing death. He allowed me to see his fear of the unknown, his pain, his concern for those he’ll leave behind and his final acceptance of what is inevitable. I believe he showed me these things because he knew it was what I was meant to do. It was time.
It took me over two years before I finally got up the courage to go back to school. I could no longer use my kids as an excuse. They were in middle school and were old enough to understand when mom had class or had to study. However, I was doubting myself and my abilities. My previous degree was in business which didn’t require any sciences. I was terrible at science in high school, how was I going to do science in college? But the image of my father-in-law’s eyes kept popping in my head. They had a certain look on that last day that I will never forget. It was as if they were saying, “Thank you,” and “It’s your time.” I finally heard what he was trying to say and my journey to becoming a hospice nurse began.