Thursday, July 08, 2010


Back in May, my mom approached me and asked me to write a poem for her. Not just any poem, but something for a specific event, with a specific audience. She's a nursing instructor at Highline Community College, just south of Seattle, and she wanted me to write a poem for her department's pinning ceremony.

My mother, aunt, and grandmother are all nurses. So, while I'm not one myself (ix-nay on the bodily fluids), I've always had a respect for them and the sense of calling my mom feels about what she does. I remember the end of my junior year in high school when she graduated with her RN, and all of us kids loaded into our station wagon to attend her pinning ceremony at SPU. There was something almost sacred about the lighting of the candles at the end, and I've never forgotten it.

For a few weeks before my miscarriage, I tried submitting the poem to several different nursing publications, and so I held off posting it here (I've gotten in trouble recently from one place in particular for trying submit work that I had published previously on my blog). I pretty much ran out of steam on trying to get it published, so here it is.

By the way, the reference to the "house of misery" in the first line of the fifth stanza is a nod to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem about Florence Nightingale, "Santa Filomena".

The Keepers of the Lamp

We, the keepers of the lamp,
pass this gleaming flame of knowledge
from our practiced hands to yours.

May you see farther by it than we have,
lighting the way for those in your care
and one day kindling its glow in those you will teach.

May you always keep your lamp filled
with the pure oil of compassion,
which burns hot, clear and long.

May you care faithfully for your own vessel,
that in darkness you may bear light
without growing dim or going out.

May you tread softly in the house of misery,
for its beds are full and a careless footstep
can crush a mending spirit.

With hope and pride, we pass to you
this calling to listen, to care, to heal
for you are now, with us, the keepers of the lamp.


Dyann said...

So great. So perfect for that profession. May I share with my nurse MIL?

chicklegirl said...

Dyann, thanks. Please do share it.

Ally said...

Amazing Katie!