A longtime nurse looks back on her work—and describes the perspective on suffering that she has gained from her Christian faith—in her debut memoir.
Richards acquired some of her earliest images of the medical profession from the sanitized television shows, like Dr. Kildare, that she watched while growing up on postwar Long Island. So when she chose a career in nursing at the age of 20, she was, she says, “wholly unprepared for the implications of my decision.” She soon learned that her field would bring her face to face with far more suffering than she could have imagined from the popular novels about the student nurse Cherry Ames that she enjoyed as a teenager. Whether she was caring for a paralyzed girl or a man with bone cancer, Richards had to confront what she calls “the problem of pain and the capricious nature of adversity.” In this moving account of her life, she tells the linked stories of her professional and spiritual growth without fully weaving together the two strands. In her 20s and early 30s, she viewed her challenges through a mostly secular lens and saw the Bible as “outdated.” Some of her ideas changed, however, after she started doing volunteer work for the family retreats sponsored by Joni and Friends, an organization that ministers to children with disabilities. Richards ultimately came to accept that she couldn’t cure some illnesses, no matter how good a nurse she was, and saw her work in a fresh context after she had a sick newborn of her own. In the later chapters of her memoir, she explains how she reconciled the suffering she had seen with her rich and sustaining faith. The result may have its greatest appeal for readers who share her Christian perspective, but her frame of reference is broad enough to enable her to quote from sources as diverse as late Unitarian minister Forrest Church’s Life Lines (1996) and Catholic scholar Eugene Kennedy’s Cardinal Bernardin’s Stations of the Cross (2004).
A nurse’s candid account of what her life and work have taught her about faith and suffering.