“For a Nurse” Written by John O’Donohue from To Bless the Space Between Us


Your mind knows the world of illness, 

The fright that invades a person

Arriving in out of the world, 

Distraught and grieved by illness. 

How it can strip a life of its joy, 

Dim the light if the heart

Put shock in the eyes. 

You see worlds breaking 

At the onset of illness: 

Families at bedsides distraught 

That their mother’s name has come up 

In the secret lottery of misfortune

That had always chosen someone else. 

You watch their helpless love

That would exchange places with her. 

The veil of skin opened,

The search through the body’s night 

To remove tissue, war-torn with cancer. 

Young lives that should be out in the sun 

Enjoying life with wild hearts, 

Come in here lamed by accident 

And the lucky ones who leave, 

Already old and in captive posture. 

The elderly who should be prepared, 

But are frightened and unsure. 

You understand no one 

Can learn beforehand 

An elegant or easy way to die. 

In this fragile frontier place, your kindness 

Becomes a light that consoles the brokenhearted, 

Awakens within desperate storms

That oasis of serenity that calls 

The spirit to rise from beneath the weight of pain, 

To create a new space in the person’s mind 

Where they gain distance from their suffering 

And begin to see the invitation 

To integrate and transform it. 

May you embrace the beauty in what you do 

And how you stand like a secret angel

Between the bleak despair of illness 

And the unquenchable light of spirit 

That can turn the darkest destiny towards dawn. 

May you never doubt the gifts you bring; 

Rather, learn from these frontiers 

Wisdom for your own heart. 

May you come to inherit 

The blessings of your kindness 

And never be without care and love 

When winter enters your own life. 

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