Last night my wife and I attended a wonderful dinner party in celebration of the retirement of a nurse who had worked for our mental health center for thirty two years. She was surrounded by other nurses, doctors, counselors, therapists, supervisors, her son and several other friends. There was laughter, story telling, joking, drinking, eating and toasting.
After dinner there was cake, one of the most elaborate, fun, whimsically decorated cakes I've ever seen. A buddy and I had been asked to offer toasts to honor our coworker, which we gladly did.
As part of my toast, I told her and the gathering of friends that I thought there were three things that were absolutely necessary to have a successful career in the mental health field.
Commitment, compassion, and consistency.
This lady had been absolutely committed to her patients for years, going the extra mile to make calls, run down medications, work people in for appointments and go to various sites when she was asked to help cover clinical needs over the years.
She was compassionate without a doubt, and her patients and coworkers had no doubt about that. She was all about making sure that her charges were treated well, treated fairly and that they were given every opportunity to get the interventions they needed to recover from their illnesses and live happier lives.
She had not just done this for the first year or two, or even the first decade or two. She had done this consistently over more than three decades of service. She was dedicated to her profession and her patients, and she was in the business of caring for others for the long haul.
Transitions are hard for us all, especially transitions that involve leaving. It is hard to say goodbye to a treasured friend, coworker, and partner, especially in such an intense business as mental health. Retirement is one of those times that someone must take their leave, to be sure, but it is also a time of beginning in that a new chapter may start. Doors to more leisure time, hobbies, learning new skills and simply relaxing open up and can be joyfully anticipated.
We were all a little sad to be losing a full time partner as we continue to provide mental health services to those who need them, but we celebrated this new chapter in our friend's life at the same time. We are happy that she will move to the next phase of her life and can look forward to many more fulfilling years.
Sometimes, happiness is saying adieu.