1. Schaffner, Marilyn MSN, RN, CGRN

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My nursing career has brought me so many treasures, one being the precious friendships I have made over my 30-plus years in nursing. One is a friend with whom I nursed in Illinois. Her life's path brought her to Charleston many years before I arrived. We always kept in touch and, serendipitously, we would think of one another at the same time. A call would be made and we would pick up where we left off, no matter how many months had past. Over the years, we shared the birth of her son, the adoption of my daughter, and the many joys and tribulations of our lives. We never dreamed my life's path would bring me to Charleston, only to reaffirm our friendship.


This friend and I were sharing an evening together and we were reminiscing about our careers at St. John's Hospital in Illinois. She asked if I remembered Ms. Smith. Of course, everyone who worked at St. John's Hospital, and particularly those who worked on the urological unit, remembered Ms. Smith. As a new graduate, she seemed to have graduated when they laid the first brick at St. John's. In my early career, she appeared very old to me. She had never married, had no family, and her joy-her life-was nursing. She was a quiet, but incredibly wise woman. If you were lucky, you worked alongside Ms. Smith as she would softly, without force, impart her wisdom on you. She had engendered great respect from the physicians and the senior urology surgeon would always ask for Ms. Smith to make daily rounds with him.


That night, my friend told me the story of Ms. Smith's end-of-life journey. She was diagnosed with cancer and suffered greatly in her final days. When she died, many attended her wake and funeral. Since she had no family, a group went to her home to assist with cleaning out the house to ready it for sale. In a pantry, high on a shelf, was a box labeled "Bits of String Too Small to Use." The box was pulled down for inspection. Sure enough, it was filled with bits of string, too small to use.


As I went home that night, I thought of the story of Ms. Smith and the bits of string. Our lives are full of bits of string, too small to use. However, when we look back on our life, we find that it is those bits of string that create who we are. I see the bits of string as the numerous people who have impacted and shaped me as I journey down my life's path. It is the weaving of all of those bits of string that has created my life. This story has made me more cognizant of what, at a moment in time, may be considered bits of string, too small to use, yet will eventually become the fabric of my life. I now have a better appreciation of the bits of string in my life, none really too small to use. Thank you, Ms. Smith.



This column is dedicated to one of my bits of string: Cheryl Graham, RN.