Dedicated to my brother Kevin and my niece Erika, who are nurses.

Brian Doyle was born in New York and attended the University of Notre Dame. He lived in Oregon and was editor of Portland magazine.

A Song for Nurses

Written by Brian Doyle

     I have seen nurses praying by my tiny son’s bed before and after his heart was edited so that he could live to be a lanky and testy teenager today. I have seen nurses grappling cheerfully with the wires and coils and tubes and buttons and toggles and keyboards of vast machinery beyond my ken. I have seen nurses with blood on their blouses in the nether reaches of the night in emergency rooms. I have seen nurses hold my children’s heads as my children were sick upon their shoes, and never a snarl did I hear from those nurses, but only a soothing sound deep in their throats, a sound far more ancient than any civilization. I have heard friends of mine who are nurses speak eloquently and articulately about their work as witness, as story-saving, as patience and endurance, as being those souls who stand by the door between life and death and usher other people through it in both directions. I have quietly gaped in awe at the sinewy courage and flinty strength and oceanic grace of nurses, and many times considered what our hospitals and hospices and clinics and schools and lives wold be without them; which is to say starker and colder and more brittle and fearful. We would be even more alone and scared than we are now when faced with pain and confusion.

We take them for granted, yes we do. We think of them with reverence and gratitude only when we see them briskly and gently at work, leaning over us and those we love, being both tart and sweet at once; but here, this morning, let us pause a moment and pray for them in the holy cave of our mouths, and thank the mercy for these most able and skillful agents of His dream for us. And let us pray not only for the extraordinary smiling armies of nurses among us; let us pray to be like them, sinewy and tender, gracious and honest, avatars of love.

~ Brian Doyle 

From his book: One Long River of Song 



  4 comments for “Dedicated to my brother Kevin and my niece Erika, who are nurses.

    March 30, 2020 at 2:28 pm

    Beautiful, yes, we are indebted to all first responders – and familes are beginning to realize we do not pay our teachers nearly enough to educate our children – learning the hard way does seem to be the best teacher.


  2. Bunty
    March 30, 2020 at 5:37 pm

    Very nice Teddy, and thoughtful.
    It definitely takes special people
    to be able to nurse. Only the special can handle that task!


  3. Eileen Cunningham
    March 30, 2020 at 10:32 pm

    Truly, tenderly and beautifully stated.


  4. Robin Eve
    April 1, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    How lovely!


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