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.

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