Lofoten Islands · Norway
Words are wholly insufficient to convey the significance of today. Today, October 3, 2018, an amazing palliative care nurse colleague announces her retirement after an indescribable 49-and-a-half-year career. She is the embodiment of what it means to be a nurse and is the pinnacle of excellence in palliative care practice that all specialists in the field should aspire to—impossible as it may be to reach. In every moment of every day in which she’s wielded the immense responsibility conferred by the R and the N that succeeds her name, she has gone far above and beyond the call of duty in demonstrating what it means not only to truly care for people but also about people.
In my privileged times of sharing an office with her, practicing alongside her, and assisting her in bearing the sorrows of a grieving family or easing the moral distress of well-meaning healthcare team members, I have never before borne witness to a greater sense of duty, service, sacrifice, passion, and unwavering commitment to upholding the sanctity of humanity and interconnectedness of the universal emotional language that binds us all together, and I suspect I never shall again. To be clear, this is no intended incrimination nor diminution of my colleagues past, present, or future--I simply need to somehow convey and honor the singularity of practitioner and personhood that is my colleague, mentor, and friend Kathleen Moneymaker.
K$, I know you no longer dabble in social media, but I will write this to you in the same tenor of words I’ll speak to you at my next privileged opportunity. You have positively impacted people’s lives in ways that are utterly immeasurable. Though your energy and ethic may only directly touch one individual at any given time, it permeates through them in their subsequent encounters whether they’re conscious of it or not. And in this fashion your influence is exponential, tangible, indelible, enduring. Though we may never again experience the privilege of walking the halls of Legacy Emanuel or Randall Children’s Hospital as Team Top-Moneymaker, you will be with me always in every single encounter I will ever have as a clinician--just as your spirit and ethic has resonated within me on some tangible level ever since our very first patient encounter together at OHSU. And I know that whatever insurmountable challenge I might be facing, however hopelessly tangled and daunting a maze I must navigate to find the most righteous and healing path, WWKD (What Would Kathleen Do?) will always be there to light my way.
And so here I am, fourth paragraph into a hopefully halfway-coherent string of effusives that I already prefaced at the outset would never be up to the impossible task of describing your list of accomplishments nor your immense influence on not just the regional palliative care community but the greater healthcare system at large (being one of the original founders of the nurses’ union at Kaiser, for example). In one very true sense, the day has come too soon, and perhaps with more time I could have manufactured the words to do you and your career some semblance of justice. But in another sense--equally true, if not more so--whenever this day would have come would always have been too soon, and the words will always fall short. But such is life, as you’ve taught me, and I must accept this heartache as a healthy sign of affinity, of respect, of human vulnerability, and of a connection that transcends all scales of time. As it is, then, I take solace in the fact that there are a whole lot of people in the field and in the community who know exactly all that I’m talking about when I simply speak the name “Kathleen Moneymaker.”
But most importantly to me, I know you know, too.
Happy Retirement, Kid.