“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
—Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I remember Sadie Rooney handing me a brown paper bag on my visit that autumn day in the early 90s. Her husband, Jim, a self-taught preacher, had died the month before. At first it seemed she wouldn’t have the strength to honor his wish to die at home. But on that day, Sadie was pleased with herself because she had cared for Jim up to the end. So when I reached into the bag and pulled out a mug and read the inscription out loud—24-Hour Woman—I figured Sadie was thanking me for being there for her. I was the 24-Hour Woman: the nurse practitioner orchestrating the journey towards the final curtain for Jim. And buoying up Sadie to face, head on, the whole dying business.
All these years I kept the mug. It came with me when we moved out of state—twice. Sat on my desk at each new job. A reminder of my nursing success. Or so I thought.
I had made notes of my visits to Jim and Sadie. Now as I write their story for my upcoming book, I am re-thinking Sadie. How resilient she turned out to be. She was there for her husband—night and day—quelling her own fears and insecurities. And at our last meeting, she told me of her plans to become a preacher.
Now with the passage of time, I see Sadie as the 24-Hour Woman. Thinking of her gave me the encouragement to take on new challenges as she had done. I had it all wrong.