Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Very Present Help. . .

This is a Powder Room that could not have been written until now, it was just too emotional. In fact, even thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes.

Our family loves beagles. From Snoopy, to the current beagle member of our family, Sparrow, we have a soft place in our heart for those big-eyed, tri-colored, howling hound dogs.

We have owned four beagles in the past. Sparrow, a birthday present to me four years ago, is my favorite. She is sweet, loving and obedient. Only slightly behind Sparrow is Grunt, our first beagle.

Grunt was an incredible athlete of a dog (something that could never be said of our couch-potato Sparrow). He was named after the nickname given to Marine Corps Infantrymen, since he was given to us just as our son was finishing School of Infantry with the USMC.

Grunt came into our lives when our daughter Emmie was nine. Grunt was Emmie's dog and Emmie was Grunt's girl. Grunt loved Emmie. He would sit at her lap while she worked on her homeschool studies. He would sit on her pillow at night waiting for her to come to bed. She would make me give him a kiss good-night, just as I gave her one and they would share the bed.

About a year later, Grunt met with a tragic accident. I knew no one would be more affected by his death than Emmie. I sang her to sleep that night as I had when she was a little girl. I was so concerned she would wake up in the middle of the night, feel Grunt missing and be grieved, that I spent that night kneeling beside her bed, to be near her if she needed me. I wanted to be as near to her as possible in her pain. I wanted to be "very present".

In the Scriptures, David tells us the Lord is "a very present Help in times of trouble," (Psalms 46:1). He knows when we have difficulty, when we have pain and sorrow. He desires to be near us, to console us, to comfort us. He is the one described as "gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy," (Psalm 145:8). He is ever near, waiting to shower us with a love that is unlike any love we have ever known before.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Kneeling In Blood: Who is Kate Cumming? Part 6

This series on Kate Cumming is dedicated to all those nurses who give of themselves to heal others. Your kindness, your touch, your wisdom and your unselfish dedication can never be appreciated enough.

To all my sister and brother nurses,
Thank You.

Much of what I have been speculating while reading Kate's journal, has been, why did she do what she did? Why did she leave the comfort of her home, why did she go against the social tide of her day and go into the halls of the wounded?

An exerpt from her diary gives us part of the reason:

September 7: "It seems strange that the aristocratic women of Great Britain have done with honor what is a disgrace for their sisters on this side of the Atlantic to do. This is not the first time I have heard these remarks. Not respectable! And who has made it so? If the Christian, high-toned, and educated women of our land shirk their duty, why others have to do it for them. It is useless to say the surgeons will not allow us; we have our rights, and if asserted properly will get them. This is our right, and ours alone.

Women of the South, let us remember that our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons are giving up all that mortals can for us; that they are exposed hourly to the deadly missiles of the enemy; the fatigues of hard marching, through burning suns, frost, and sleet; pressed by hunger and thirst; subject to diseases of all kinds from exposure; and last, though by no means least, the evil influences that are common in a large army. Are we aware of this, and unwilling to nurse these brave heroes who are sacrificing so much for us? What in the name of common sense, are we to do? Sit calmly down, knowing that there is many a parched lip which would bless us for a drop of water, and many a wound to be bound up? These things are not to be done, because it is not considered respectable!

If it will hurt a young girl to do what, in all ages, has been the special duty of woman--to relieve the suffering--it is high time the youth of our land were kept from the camp and the field. If one is a disgrace, so is the other."


Kate knew the war would bring suffering, injury and death. She also knew there would be a need to bring comfort to that suffering, hands to bind those wounds and hearts to ease the soul as death came.

For Kate, it was not tolerable to "sit calmly down" and wait for the war to be over. She could not rest knowing there was something she could be doing and to not do it. She had it within her power to help the wounded and she would not stop until she was allowed to do so. She felt it not only her duty, but her calling and her right to do so.

Every nurse, who on their time off, has stopped at a traffic accident, has helped a wounded or sick neighbor, or who has volunteered their time and skill, when they could have instead sat "calmly down," knows to some degree the heart that was beating in the chest of Kate Cumming.

It is more than a duty. It is more than a calling.

It is something that you just can't help but doing. Because being a nurse isn't something you do. It is something you are.

For all my fellow nurses who so willingly give of themselves after the time-clock stops, I thank you. Thank you that nursing is more than just a job, it's who you are.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

beyond the bow. . .April 21, 2011

We were determined for this trip to not deal with strong currents or high waves. We had decided upon a sunset trip and timed our start so we had plenty of time out.

Instead of Mobile Bay, we traveled a little more eastward and put in at Chacaloochee Bay. We decided to head down toward Apalachee River. The water was still cool, still in the sixties, but not too cool to be uncomfortable.

Without having to struggle with the current or the waves, I could easily remember why I love kayaking. I love the peacefulness of it. I love the smell of the sea. I love the feel of the water on my arms and face. I love the sounds of the water, of the birds and of the fish jumping. I told Glen that this season was the season one of those fish were going to jump right into one of our boats!

We reached the river and decided to cross the river and then paddle gently along the shoreline. As we started across the river, it was obvious we had not escaped the current. It was a strong push to get to the other side of the river and once there, the current was strongly pushing us toward the shore. This would not be the gently paddle we had in mind.

We started down the river, but it was all I could do to keep my boat straight. The current kept pushing me in toward shore. After a while, I maneuvered to a position more toward the center of the river. Glen was then closer to the shore and could feel the strong current I had been fighting.

Finally we decided to head back to Chacaloochee Bay to find a spot to eat our snacks we had brought. We made it to where the bay meets the river and we must have found the perfect spot in the currents because our boats didn't drift one bit as we ate.

We sat for a while and then headed back toward the put-in. Once there, we still had plenty of time before sunset, so we passed the put-in and paddled further in the bay. With the sunlight quickly disappearing, the breeze blowing and the water still cool, it wasn't long before I was cold. I stood it just about as long as I could. We ended up leaving before we actually saw the sun disappear along the horizon, but we were able to see the sunset on our drive home.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Kneeling In Blood: Who Is Kate Cumming? Part 5

This series on Kate Cumming is dedicated to all those nurses who give of themselves to heal others. Your kindness, your touch, your wisdom and your unselfish dedication can never be appreciated enough.

To all my sister and brother nurses,
Thank You.

Excerpts from Kate's journal:

"April 13th: We eat in the kitchen, surgeons and all. It is not the cleanest place in the world, and I think, to use a Scotch phrase, would make even Mrs. McClarty 'think shame.' Hunger is a good antidote for even dirt. I am aware that few will think so except those who have tried it.

As I was passing one of the rooms, a man called me, and begged me to do something for him and others who were with him. No one had been to see them that morning, and they had had no breakfast.

About eight were in the room, among them Mr. Regan of Alabama and Mr. Eli Wasson of Texas, both of whom had lost a leg. I paid these special attention, as they were worse than the others. They were very grateful and thanked me all the time. Mr. Wasson said that he knew that he would get well now. They are both unmarried, and talk much of their mothers and sisters, as all men do now. 'Home, sweet home,' is the dearest spot on earth to them, since they are deprived of its comforts. Mother, wife, and sister seem to be sweeter to them than any words in the English language.

April 16th: Mrs. Ogden was completely worn out; and it is not much to be wondered at, as she, with the rest of us, has had to sleep in any and every place; and as to making our toilet, that was out of the question. I have not undressed since I came here.

April 17th: I was going round as usual this morning, washing the faces of the men, and had got half through with one before I found out that he was dead.

Mr. Wasson felt better, and knew that he would soon go home. I asked the surgeon who was attending him about his condition, and was much shocked when I learned that neither he nor Mr. Regan would live to see another day. This was a sad trial for me. I had seen many died, but none whom I had attended so closely as these two.

April 18th: I remained with Mr. Wasson all night. A child could not have been more composed. he told me how good the Lord was in giving him such peace and strength at the last hour. About 4 o'clock a.m. he insisted that I should leave him, as I required rest. He begged so hard that I left him for a little while. When I returned he had breathed his last.

Mr. Regan died this morning.

It does seem strange that, amid all the terrible scenes of destruction that we are daily witnessing, we think as little of death as ever, and act as if it was something that might happen to others, but never to ourselves. . .

Mrs. Lyons left this morning for home. She is very sick; and one of the doctors informed her, if she did not leave immediately, she would certainly die. I know the men whom she has been nursing will miss her very much, as she has been so attentive to them."


Death. It is inevitable that every nurse will have to face the death of a patient at some point. Even in the happiest of units, like mine, death sometimes comes and when it does, it is very, very sad.

Like Kate, sometimes as nurses we are so intent upon healing and helping, we forget that death can touch us as well. When a co-worker dies or has a serious illness, it seems all the more shocking for some reason, as if we never thought death could enter into our world of medication and treatments and health.

Some nurses choose to deal with death as a career, and for those special hospice nurses, I give a special tribute. I remember the hospice nurse, Debra, who guided us through my mother's death and even fourteen years later her expertise --but more so her caring--has left a tremendous impression upon my heart.

From a nurse who helps babies into the world, I give a special thank you to those of you who help guide patients out of this world.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

beyond the bow. . .April 19, 2011

The first trip of the season and the first trip after my hand surgery three months ago. This was also the earliest in the season we had ever started. The water was chilly, in the sixties, but it only felt cold for a minute or two. The sun was warm on our arms and legs so the colder water felt good.

We left about 1030, which is unusual for us. We prefer early morning or late afternoon trips, so we can catch either the sunrise or the sunset. I can't even remember the last time we were out at midday.

I remember putting sunscreen on my face, arms and thighs, but I never even thought about putting it on my shins. Obviously, after two hours in the water at midday, I had a sunburn to deal with. Glen, who burns much easier than I, had more sunburn in spite of using sunscreen more diligently than I did.

I had been hoping for a nice, easy calm-water trip out and back. This was not that day. We had decided to head over to the bay. We know usually during the morning, the bay tends to be calm, but it was windy. The waves were kicking up a little as we started and only increased as we continued. By the time we were coming back, we were dealing with some three and four foot waves.

Halfway through our trip, we managed to find a spot of sandy beach where we could get out of our boats, stretch our legs and enjoy the view of the bay, without having to concentrate on the current and the waves.

After our short break, we headed back. This was when the waves were at their highest. Each stroke took concentration. It wasn't until after we had crossed over into smaller Polecat bay that the water was calmer. I enjoyed just putting my hands into the cold water and feeling the warm sun on my face.

It was nice kayaking without my hand going numb. This was the final test of my surgery. I can now tell my surgeon it was a complete success!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Kneeling in Blood: Who Is Kate Cumming? Part 4

This series on Kate Cumming is dedicated to all those nurses who give of themselves to heal others. Your kindness, your touch, your wisdom and your unselfish dedication can never be appreciated enough.

To all my sister and brother nurses,
Thank You.

I have been fascinated reading Kate's diary. Separated by 150 years, there are so many experiences, so many feelings she writes that are still felt and witnessed by nurses today.

Excerpts from Kate's journal:

"April 11th: Miss Booth and myself arrived at Corinth today. We are at the Tishomongo Hotel, which, like every other large building, has been taken for a hospital. The yellow flag is flying from the top of each.

Mrs. Ogden tried to prepare me for the scenes which I should witness upon entering the wards. But alas! nothing that I had ever heard or read had given me the faintest idea of the horrors witnessed here. I do not think that words are in our vocabulary expressive enough to present to the mind the realities of that sad scene.

Certainly, none of the glories of the war were presented here. But I must not say that; for if uncomplaining endurance is glory, we had plenty of it. If it is that which makes the hero, here they were by scores. Gray-haired men -- men in the pride of manhood -- beardless boys -- Federals and all, mutilated in every imaginable way, lying on the floor, just as they were taken from the battle-field; so close together that it was almost impossible to walk without stepping on them.

If I were to live a hundred years, I should never forget the poor sufferers' gratitude; for every little thing, done for them -- a little water to drink, or the bathing of their wounds -- seemed to afford them the greatest relief.

The Federal prisoners are receiving the same attention as our own men; they are lying side by side.

I sat up all night, bathing the men's wounds, and giving them water. Everyone attending them seemed completely worn out. I have been busy all day, and can scarcely tell what I have been doing; I have not taken time even to eat, and certainly not time to sit down."

"April 13th: Enjoyed a very good night's rest upon some boxes. We all slept below stairs, in the front room -- our baggage separating us from the front part of it, which is the clerk's office, and sleeping apartment of some dozen men.

Some slept on shelves. I slept so soundly that I did not even dream, as I was completely worn out with the labor of the day. I could realize how, after a hard day's marching or fighting, a soldier can throw himself upon the ground, and sleep as soundly as if he was on a bed of down."


What nurse among us was not surprised when we entered the "real world" of nursing? Training and instructors left behind, we were alone to fend for ourselves in a sea of patients hurting, complaining, dying and being born. While few of us will have witnessed the horrors that Kate saw, we all know what it is like to work hours upon end, without rest and without food.

I have never had to resort to sleeping on boxes, but hurricane seasons have required nurses in my area, and others like it, to come in and sleep in the hospital in whatever east side VS west sideImage by sashamd via Flickraccommodations we could manage. One year, we turned an extra operating room into a sleep room for nurses.

Like Kate, modern day nurses sometimes often work longer hours than expected -- due to that heavier patient census or unexpected call in, or both. Sometimes, like Kate, we are literally on our feet the entire day, perhaps without breakfast, without lunch, sometimes without dinner.

The needs and safety of the patients must always come first. It is deep in the heart of the nurse to not only care for the patient, but to care about the patient. If that means personal sacrifice, the majority of nurses I know are quick to oblige. One line in Kate's journal seems to express the sentiment so completely:

"I have sometimes felt like making a vow to eat nothing but what is necessary to sustain life till the war is over, so that our soldiers can have the more."

Watching my fellow nurses, how they respond to adversity, how they pull together as a team to deal with emergency situations and how they support and encourage one another, makes me proud to be numbered among them. It makes me proud to be called a nurse.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

"There is something about the Resurrection. . ."

President Obama hosted an Easter prayer breakfast in the East Room at the White House on Tuesday of this week. During this breakfast he stated,

"As busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there is something about the resurrection ... of Our Savior Jesus Christ that puts everything else in perspective."

I have to admit, he is right.

There really is "something" about the resurrection. First of all, it is the hallmark event of Christianity. It is something no person has ever done before, or will ever do again. . .raise themselves from the dead.

Raising the dead was not a new thing for the Lord Jesus, He did that several times while He walked this earth. Perhaps the most well known example gives us a hint to His own resurrection.

When Jesus learned that His dear friend Lazarus was sick, He told His disciples, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby, " (John 11:4).

He knew that Lazarus would die and He knew He would raise Him from the dead. This was a picture of what would happen on the cross and afterward.

While on the cross, those watching mocked Him by saying, "He saved others; Himself He cannot save," (Mark 15:31). Jesus certainly could have saved Himself at any moment. He told His disciples, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53)

It was not His purpose, however, to be saved from the cross. It was His purpose to die there for our sins. . .for mine and for yours, that we might be saved from the judgment He bore that day.

He knew that "the Son of God might be glorified thereby" in His death and then three days later in His resurrection. So, He,"for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God," (Hebrews 12:2)

Oh, yes, there is indeed something about the Resurrection. . .something wonderful, something glorious. I can only repeat the words of the hymn, "Hallelujah! What a Saviour! Hallelujah! What a Lord!"

Kneeling in Blood: Who Was Kate Cumming? Part 3

This series on Kate Cumming is dedicated to all those nurses who give of themselves to heal others. Your kindness, your touch, your wisdom and your unselfish dedication can never be appreciated enough.

To all my sister and brother nurses,
Thank You.

An Exerpt from Kate's Diary:

April 12, 1861 -- I sat up all night, bathing the men's wounds, and giving them water. Every one attending to them seemed completely worn out. Some of the doctors told me that they had scarcely slept since the battle.

As far as I have seen, the surgeons are very kind to the wounded, and nurse as well as doctor them. The men are lying all over the house, on their blankets, just as they were brought from the battle-field. They are in the hall, on the gallery, and crowded into very small rooms. The foul air from this mass of human beings at first made me giddy and sick, but I soon got over it. We have to walk, and when we give the men any thing we kneel, in blood and water; but we think nothing of it at all.

There was much suffering among the patients last night; one old man groaned all the time. He was about sixty years of age, and had lost a leg. He lived near Corinth, and had come there the morning of the battle to see his two sons, who were in the army, and he could not resist shouldering his musket and going into the fight. I comforted him as well as I could. He is a religious man, and prayed nearly all night. Another, a very young man, was wounded in the leg and through the lungs, had a most excruciating cough, and seemed to suffer awfully.

One fine-looking man had a dreadful wound in the shoulder. Every time I bathed it he thanked me and seemed grateful. He died this morning before breakfast. Men who were in the room with him told me that he prayed all night. I trust that he is now at rest far from this dreary world of strife and bloodshed. I could fill whole pages with descriptions of the scenes before me.

This morning, when passing the front door, a man asked me if I had any thing to eat, which I could give to some men the depot awaiting transportation on the cars. He said that they had eaten nothing for some days. Some of the ladies assisting me, we took them hot coffee, bread and meat. The poor fellows ate eagerly, and seemed so thankful. One of the men, who was taking care of them, asked me where I was from. When I replied Mobile, he said that Mobile was the best place in the Confederacy. He was a member of the Twenty-first Alabama Regiment; I have forgotten his name. I have been busy all day, and can scarcely tell what I have been doing; I have not taken time to even eat, and certainly not time to sit down.


What was it that made Kate so willing to endure such personal hardship, so willing to witness such human suffering, so willing to care and give care with almost hopeless odds of success?

One could suppose that she hoped in doing so she was somehow helping her brother's cause, who had enlisted in the Confederate Army months before. But I doubt that was entirely it.

One could surmise that it was because she fiercely loved her country, her adopted land and wished to preserve the way of life she had come to know and love. I don't doubt that some of that is true, we know Kate strongly identified herself as a Southerner. But I suspect there was something else there as well.

It is as simple as this. In her very heart, Kate was a nurse. A nurse has that deep within her which makes her truly, a nurse. Her statement, ". . .when we give the men any thing we kneel, in blood and water; but we think nothing of it at all," this is the statement of a nurse. How many nurses among us know exactly what Kate means by this? That moment when, unexpectedly, blood is splattered or spewn, vomited or thrown, gushed or dripped, all over you and you just know you can't stop, you just have to go on thinking "nothing of it at all".

Kate was a nurse, a dedicated, caring, good nurse.

Kate was a prototype for every good nurse today and an example for everyone who hopes to one day be a nurse.

We had the great honor this past Sunday, of placing roses on Kate's grave. We found some beautiful white roses that were barely tipped with red along the edges. Looking at them, I couldn't help but think of what what a nurses' white pinafore would look like as she walked along bloody halls.

Placing the small bouquet at her tombstone seemed like such a small gesture, but it was a big thing in my heart. It was a way of connecting me, 150 years later, to this nurse who was willing to give up her every comfort in order to give what little comfort she could, to others.

To everyone who wears the title, NURSE;
to everyone who sacrifices their own comforts for the comforts of others, and to our friend Kate,
I applaud your dedication and your devotion.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What's In A Name. . .

In my business, names are a big deal. Most women come in to Labor & Delivery not only knowing what they want to name their baby, but they have it monogrammed on everything in sight. Picking out a just the perfect name takes thought and time and careful consideration.

I have often wondered what went wrong in my case.

I have heard my mother wanted to name me Phyllis, a much better alternative in my mind. My father, however, insisted on the name I have now, Frances. I don't know where Frances came from. My middle name, which you shall never see here, was after his mother. Just let me say, my middle name makes even "Frances" look good!

I was blessed in the fact, though, that my parents and siblings rarely called me Frances. For as long as I can remember, I have been "Frannie".

I like "Frannie".

It doesn't sound old. It doesn't sound like it should be a middle name that people only hear when one is graduating or getting married. Most of the people I know call me Frannie.

Except my husband. And anyone that knows me through him.

My husband has only called me Frannie once that I can remember in the thirty-five years we have known each other. He says it just "isn't you." I guess it's a matter of perception, it feels like me to me.

That's why the address on the package was so special.

Well, first of all, receiving a surprise package in the mail is always special. But then, seeing it addressed, not to Frances Davis, but to Frannie Davis, put a huge smile on my face.

Even if I had not looked at the return address, immediately I knew who had sent the package. There are few people who know how special that nickname is to me, and this person is one. He knew the name on the package mattered. It makes me think of the verse in Proverbs: "there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."

One day we will be blessed by a name from another "friend", indeed, greater than a friend. The Scriptures tell us that one day the Lord Himself will give us a white stone. Upon that stone will be a name for us that only the Lord knows. Image that, a name that is so personal for us that it is only known by us and the Lord. A name that is a term of endearment.

People who love each other often have terms of endearment for each other. I call my granddaughter "Princess Pea". My husband calls me "Sweetie Pie". Well, one day, the Lord will give us a personal, private name. What a tender and precious thought. You can be sure, too, that He will have taken great care and consideration, great thought and time in choosing just the perfect name for you, just the perfect name for me. How glorious and blessed is our Lord, our Friend. . .our God.

"He that hath an ear,
let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Revelation 2:17

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kneeling in Blood: Who Was Kate Cumming? Part 2

This series on Kate Cumming is dedicated to all those nurses who give of themselves to heal others. Your kindness, your touch, your wisdom and your unselfish dedication can never be appreciated enough.

To all my sister and brother nurses,
Thank You.

If you read Part 1 of our story on Kate Cumming, you know we will be exploring her journal as a nurse of the Medical Department of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War.

Photo from
Before exploring her journal, I thought it would be good to have a little basic information about Kate. A cursory search reveals a great deal.

Kate was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, between 1828 and 1835. Sometime in the 1840s, her father, David Cumming,moved their family to Montreal, Canada. Then he moved them to Mobile, Alabama, where I live.

Kate spent her formative years in the beautiful Southern city of Mobile where she lived a life of comfort. Mobile at that point had been occupied by the French, the English, the Spanish and was now a part of the United States, the multi-cultural tone of the city allowed her to, keep her Scottish roots and still strongly identified herself as a Southerner.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Kate's mother and two sisters left for England but Kate remained at home with her father and her brother, who enlisted in the Confederate army. As the war intensified and battlefield casualties arose, Kate joined the relief effort by gathering supplies for hospitals.

She decided to volunteer as a nurse at the front after hearing a speech by the Reverend Benjamin M. Miller, an advocate of female nursing. It should be remembered that until 1853, nurses were primarily men. As the Civil War intensified, able bodied men could not be spared as nurses and women were pressed into this duty.

Kate's family objected, mainly because from the 1600s to the 1800s, nurses were not viewed as professionals as they are today. Most female nurses were nuns. Those that were not nuns were often considered as having low morals, since in that day and time women were not supposed to touch men, especially not perform care on men who would be even partially unclothed. To this Kate once replied: "....from my experiences since last writing on that subject, that a lady's respectability must be at a low ebb when it can be endangered by going into a hospital."

Inspite of her family's protest, Kate eventually joined a party of around 40 women who ventured into Corinth, Mississippi, after the April 1862 battle of Shiloh, in which more than 23,700 soldiers were killed or wounded.

For four months Kate braved the dismal conditions in Corinth, then briefly returned home. Most of her companions did desire a permanent nursing position, but Kate and two other women visited hospitals in Chattanooga, Tennessee seeking permanent nursing positions. Finally, they found a physician willing to accept their services in August 1862. The conditions were poor and the death rate was high, but the gratitude of the soldiers convinced Kate to persevere.

When the Civil War first broke out, the Confederate Medical Department was small and disorganized. For the first year and a half of the war, efforts by volunteer nurses such as Kate, filled the gaps in medical care. In September 1862, the Confederacy reorganized its medical department and in recognition of the volunteer nurses' efforts,( and based on statistics showing better survival rates in female-run hospitals,) the Confederate Congress created official positions for such women, who became known as matrons.

While a matron, employed with the mobile hospitals of Dr. Samuel Stout, medical director for the Army of Tennessee, Kate maintained a personal diary that provides a detailed and honest account of female nursing in the South during the war.

In April 1862 she nursed the wounded at Shiloh and worked that summer at Corinth, Okolona, and Chattanooga. In her diary she noted in January and April of 1863 that there were so many wounded they could "scarcely take note" of their names. However, she listed the veterans who died, many which are buried in Chattanooga Confederate Cemetery. This compassionate act has allowed many families to find their loved ones, even if it took generations to do so.

Kate published her diary in 1866 as A Journal of Hospital Life in the Confederate Army of Tennessee from the Battle of Shiloh to the End of the War: With Sketches of Life and Character, and Brief Notices of Current Events During That Period.

The inspiration for the title of the series, "Kneeling in Blood" will be discovered in Part 3.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Kneeling In Blood: Who Was Kate Cumming? Part 1

 This series on Kate Cumming is dedicated to all those nurses who give of themselves to heal others.  Your kindness, your touch, your wisdom and your unselfish dedication can never be appreciated enough.

To all my sister and brother nurses,
Thank You.

The inscription on the tombstone surprised me, the simple word, "NURSE".  Those five letters told me volumes of a woman about whom I actually knew nothing.

Her tombstone also gave more information.  It told that she was with the Medical Department of the Confederate States of America.  This touched my heart as well.  the whole reason I found her grave  was because I was helping others to mark the graves of those Confederates so they could be honored on Confederate Memorial Day.  Since my Scottish/Irish Great-great-great-grandfather died in the Civil War, I find it more than fitting to honor all those soldiers, and nurses, who died in that War.

Finding Kate Cumming's tombstone created a desire for me to know so much more about this woman, this nurse, who obviously sacrificed to care for the wounded and dying of the bloodiest war in our nation's history.  But first I wondered, what do I now about her without knowing anything about her?

~I know she saw great suffering.  At least 618,000 men died during the Civil War.  Many of them would have been treated by people just like Kate.  With supplies, medicines and surgeons in short supply, Kate would have hundreds of men suffering incredible pain and agony.  Likely, she felt helpless to ease their pain, to lessen their suffering in any way.

~I know she was a woman of great compassion.  I can see no other reason why she would have done what she did.  What else would have compelled her to be a part of the medical department of the CSA?

I love this answer I found on the internet: "The world's women have always come forward to aid and comfort their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons during wars. Bless them all."

At a time in our history when nurses were primarily men (Florence Nightingale is traditionally known as the first modern female nurse, emerging during the Crimean War in 1853), all able bodied men in the South were needed as soldiers.  None could be spared to be nurses.  As in almost all wars in our nation's history, when the men went off to war, the women stepped up to the plate and did what was needed.  This is what Kate probably did.  She just did what was needed to do.

~I know she was able to control her emotions.  She would have seen great sorrow and suffering, but as an extremely busy nurse, she would not have been able to give in to those emotions.  All nurses know this feeling.  Those emotions must be stored away somewhere for a later day, another time when one has the luxury of crying and grieving over the sorrows of the day.

~I know she was a strong person, not only emotionally, but probably physically as well.  She likely had to help move wounded soldiers who weighed more than she did and who could not help in their movement.  She would likely be responsible for carrying supplies.  She might have been responsible to help restrain soldiers who had to experience the horror of surgery without any available form of anesthesia.  In that situation, it is not unlikely she would have thrown her whole body over the patient to help prevent him from further injuring herself.   Nurses know the feeling of disregarding one's own safety to ensure the safety of their patient.  It happens hundreds, thousands of times across the world everyday and each nurse would likely tell you she or he was "just doing my job".

Actually, Kate and  I have a lot in common.  Both nurses, we both have a Scottish/Irish background, we both have lived in the same city and we both love to journal.

Thanks to Kate's journal,  we don't have to guess about her, Kate kept a journal of her time nursing.  As I read it, I will share with you the  truth of "Who Was Kate Cumming?"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It Seemed Like A Good Idea. . .

It really seemed like a good idea at the time.

It was almost twenty years ago and we had just moved into our house.  We decided we needed some shubbery around the perimeter of the backyard.  After talking to the experts at the local nursery, we pick out 42 ligustrum plants, brought them home and planted them.

They were small then, maybe 18-24 inches high.  The nurseryman told us they would get much bigger, and they did.  They are now at least 18 feet high.  Just as the nurseryman said they would, they provide beautiful dark green foliage.  They provide the wonderful privacy hedge he promised.  They also provide something we did not anticipate.

Every year during late April, early May, these 42 huge plants begin to bloom.  They bloom with a great abundance of tiny white, extremely fragrant blooms.  This would be a delightful experience, except, the first year they bloomed we became aware that we are both highly allergic to the blossoms.

Even the short five minute visit to the backyard to take the photos left my eyes itching, my throat sore and my head throbbing.  Once in full bloom, the fragrance begins to waft in through our den windows and our house isn't even an escape.

Last year we planned our vacation to Boston and New York City.  As we left on Mother's Day, we joked that we were leaving just as the ligustrum were blooming and we wouldn't have the allergy attacks the blossoms usually created.  We had not traveled very far northward before we realized both sides of the interstate were banked with huge ligustrum now in full bloom.  The fragrance was being blown into the car by the air conditioning.  Mile after mile, for over three hours, we were bombarded with an attack of allergens that even our allergy medicine could not fight.

Who would have imagined that something that seemed like such a good idea at the time could each year, without fail, bring us such misery?  Isn't that true of other things in our lives?  We have things which seem like a good idea at the outset, but upon full realization we see we have made quite a mistake.

It behooves us to carefully consider the will of God when making decisions.  Just because we have a desire to do something, does not mean God desires us to do it.  Just because we have strongly want to do something, does not mean it is God's will.  We must be willing to accept His will even when His will is different from our own, no, especially when His will is different from our own.

He has given us the Scriptures, the fellowship and counsel of other believers and the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in His will.  We should take care to avail ourselves of everything He has given us so that we see the path He has made straight before our face.

While as Christians, our salvation is secure, but we must one day give account for all our actions.  It is wise of us to seek His wisdom, His guidance and His leading in exactly what those actions should be.

"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; 
and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 

Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD,
and depart from evil."
Proverbs 3:5-7

Friday, April 15, 2011

Taking Pleasure

Photo by Emmie Davis
Last week I was giving my granddaughter, Emma, a bath.  The bath portion had actually ended and we were well into to the "play" portion.

I had already pulled the plug from the drain and most of the water had drained from the tub, but this had not dampened Emma's enjoyment of the experience at all.  She was using a small face towel to "scrub" the sides of the tub, singing as she did so.  She would scoop up some of the remaining bubbles, tell me what she was doing, and then start her song and scrubbing all over again.   Fun was clearly written on her every movement.

I in turn took great pleasure in simply sitting there watching her enjoyment.  I laughed when she laughed.  I listened when she spoke and I marveled at what a wonderful little-girl voice she has with which to sing.  I took great delight in sitting there for many minutes watching my little granddaughter enjoy herself in what was left of her bath water and bubbles.

It was not until the next day when I heard a preacher quote the verse, ". . .the LORD taketh pleasure in His people," (Psalm 149:4),  that it struck me.  The same pleasure I had in watching Emma is the pleasure the Lord takes in us.  In me.
The Lord takes pleasure in ME

That thought is so profound, so beautiful, so unfathomable, I just can't wrap my brain around it.  The same God who created the worlds, who holds my very universe together by the power of His Word, that same God, takes pleasure in ME.

Sometime this day find some time to be still, sit alone and just ponder that thought.  If you have trusted in the Lord Jesus as your Savior, the Lord takes pleasure in you.  He takes pleasure in YOU.  Let that sink down into your soul, let it fill your heart.  The Lord, our God, takes pleasure in you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"When Are You Going To Read It?"

My granddaughter Emma was in my bedroom the other day, and picked up my Bible off the table by my bed.  At first she asked me if it was Granddaddy's.  I told her no, it was mine.  Her next question was so innocent, and yet, so profound. 

"When are you going to read it?"

For three-year-old  Emma, who loves to have books read to her, a Bible - or any book for that matter - must have a need to be read. 

Her question though, was a good one.  "When are you going to read it?"  It is a question for us all.  Just when are we going to read it?  Do we read it as a matter of course, a matter of pattern, or only haphazardly?  I would have to confess I have not read the Scriptures as much as I would like to be able to admit to have done.

Perhaps an even better question would be, "Why are you going to read it?"  Do we ready the Bible merely to be able to say we had done so?  Do we do it as a rote thing, or do we do it to communicate with our Lord?

I have a beautiful box with pictures of hydrangeas on the top.  As pretty as the box is, what is inside the box is even better.  The box is full of love letters from my husband.  Well, they aren't actually letters as having been written by hand and sent through the mail, they are emails.  But in this computer generation, we can call them letters.  As love letters should be, they are tied with silk ribbons and are full of expressions of his love for me.

If I were to sit with this box at my feet and read those these letters, perhaps without really even seeing the words, what would be the affect upon his heart?  If I could read letter after letter, then rise without my own heart being touched in any way, what would he think of my response to his outpouring of love and emotion?

Yet, how many times have we perhaps done the same with the Scriptures?  We have looked over the words with our eyes, but never let them reach down to our hearts.  Perhaps we have read the words and then scooted up to our various errands without another thought to what we have read.

One look at Psalm 119 shows us this is not the type of attitude David had regarding the Word of the Lord.  Verse after verse shows the Scriptures to be a lamp, a light and a protection.

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." 
Psalm 119:105

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee." Psalm 119:11

David said the Word was something to strengthen, to quicken and to show the way of Truth.

"My soul cleaveth unto the dust: 
quicken Thou me according to Thy word." 
Psalm 119:25 

"My soul melteth for heaviness: 
strengthen Thou me according unto Thy word." 
Psalm 119:28

"I have chosen the way of truth: 
Thy judgments have I laid before me. " 
Psalm 119:30

David didn't confine himself to what the Word would do, he also committed himself to action, to meditate on the Scriptures, to delight in the Word and to not forget it.

"I will meditate in Thy precepts, 
and have respect unto Thy ways." 
Psalm 119:15

"I will delight myself in Thy statutes: 
I will not forget Thy word." Psalm 119:16

Let us approach the reading of the Bible as it is, the expression of love from the Lord God to us, to each of us personally.  Let us, like David, "meditate" in the precepts we find therein and "have respect" unto His ways.  Let us choose to delight ourselves in His Word and in return we will discover ". . .the LORD taketh pleasure in His people: He will beautify the meek with salvation. " Psalm 149:4 

Friday, April 8, 2011

No More Night Shifts. . .

Being a nurse for over thirty years, I have worked my share of night shifts. For the Nurse and baby, copied for Miss Rodger in 1906first twenty years or so of my career, I primarily worked during the night. When I finally "moved up" to day shift, it was with the caveat I would be a "day/night rotator", which simply meant I would swing down to night shift as the need arose.

Once I became Assistant Manager of my unit, one would have thought my night shifts would be over for good. It seems, though, I work as many - or even more - night shifts as ever.

In actuality, I like night shift. My natural body clock is more set to working the "graveyard" shift. I like the quieter environment, even though in Labor & Delivery the patients are the same whether delivering at night or in the daylight hours. I seem to be one of those rare people who can sleep well during the day. I even lose weight when I work a significant number of night shifts (especially since the cafeteria took those grilled ham and cheese sandwiches off the menu).

There is a time coming, however, when there will be no more night shifts for anyone:

"And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. . .And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there." Revelation 21:22,23,25

No more night. No more darkness. I don't know about you, but I'm not a fan of total darkness. I like to know where a flashlight is at all times. No more night, no more darkness. "The Lamb is the Light thereof. . . ," what a wonderful thought, He shall be our Light forever.

There is a time coming when what we will experience is so incredibly marvelous, we could not begin to imagine it with the most creative, inventive mind in the world. If we were to sit and think of the most wonderful, beautiful, peaceful existence we could imagine, we would be light-years away from what our Lord has planned for us.

Once when I was a teenager, my Daddy was going to give me money to buy Christmas presents. Instead of just giving me what he had budgeted for me, he had me write on a piece of paper the amount I wanted. He wrote on his paper the amount he had budgeted for me. He would give me the lesser amount, whichever it was. I wrote my amount down and gave him the paper.

My amount was a significantly smaller amount than his. He kept his word and gave me the smaller amount and I learned an important lesson, about him and about the Lord. We are loved far more than we can ever know and our Father's desire to give us "good and perfect gifts" far exceeds our desire to receive them.

So regardless of our experience today, no matter what our circumstances, we can look to the future with great expectation. As my husband loves to say, "There are great days ahead." He is right, eternity is long, and for those of us who have trusted in the Lord Jesus, it will more glorious than we could have ever imagined.

"For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him." Isaiah 64:4
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Flowers in the Rock

Flower in the rocksI have many times seen a place where two rocks have come together, either natural or man-made and a tiny flower will be blooming between the rocks. It is always a sight which both amazes and blesses me.

The Lord allows hard places to come into our lives.  Sometimes these hard places come in the form of a situation we desire but cannot seem to have.  Sometimes they come in the form of  need we believe we need supplied, but which seems to have no answer.

Whatever the hard place, the Lord knows it is there.  He has either placed it there, or allowed it to remain for a purpose.  Perhaps He has us there to pray for people in that hard situation.  Perhaps He has us there to pray for people in similar hard situations whom we may not even know. . . He knows them.  Perhaps He has us there that we may learn to trust in Him for our supply and not in money or people.

Whatever the hard situation, whatever the reason it is there, it is ultimately for our good.  We can believe that and trust it to be true whole-heartedly.  Our God is after our best interest and He works that which is for our good.  It may not always be for our "like" or for our "want," but it is always for our good. 

If we find ourselves in those hard places, let us ask the Lord to reveal Himself, His purpose and His will to us in those hard places.  Then let us lift the sacrifice of praise to Him for being in those very hard places. 

Let us, like the little flowers, bloom amid the rock, bringing color and life and beauty to that which was gray and dark and empty.

"And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. " 2 Corinthians 12:9

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ripples of Life

My husband and I love to kayak.  One day we had set out early in the morning when it was still cool.  After a couple of hours, the sun was shining brightly and it was beginning to get quite warm. 

We had been exploring the coves and inlets a river and had come to a spot were the water was so still it was like glass.  In order to shift some cooler water into my boat, I gently rocked it from side to side.  The motion caused ripples to move away from my boat toward the shore.  Because of the stillness of the water, I was able to watch the ripples all the way to the shore.  As new ripples were approaching the shore, the old ripples bounced off and headed back to the boat.  I was fascinated watching how my slight movement had caused such an effect upon the water.

I thought about this earlier this week at work.  A young woman came into our Labor & Delivery unit.  As two other nurses started admitting her, I sat outside her room putting the physician's orders into the computer.  I heard the patient ask if Denise was working.

Denise had worked with us for a couple years and then had to stop as she fought an on-going battle with breast cancer.  The patient spoke for almost five minutes about the impact Denise had on her during her first labor. 

She told the nurses how she had been so fearful coming in to labor with her first baby and Denise had calmed those fears.  She told them how supportive and caring Denise had been to her family and their needs.  She told them of the great care she gave their baby once he was born.  Denise had made a tremendous impression -- her ripples had spread greatly -- upon this family and she never even knew it. 

I was able a few days later to share with story with Denise's husband, who also works at our hospital.  In this way, those ripples traveled to the shore and made their way back to Denise's boat.

We all cause ripples in our life.  Our choices, our actions, cause ripples which affect others and we may never know the full impact until we get to heaven.

Perhaps one day in heaven someone will come up to us and tell us how much it meant to them when they were in trouble and we were there to help them.  That person who was sick or bereaved and we took them a meal, that person who was broken down and we called for help or helped them ourselves may all come up to us to say "Thank you". 

Or perhaps it will be someone we never even knew who was lonely and hopeless.  Perhaps they will walk up to us and say, "I had no hope, I was alone and you were, too.  But you prayed and asked the Lord to bless someone who was in the same situation as you were, to meet their needs and encourage them."

"I was that person.  The prayer you prayed was what the Lord used to lift me up and give me hope to go on.  Thank you so much."

We all make ripples everyday.  May our choices be such that we are blessed as well when those ripples make it back to our boat.