Turn On Your Light

By Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis Grad PicBrandon Lewis speaking at August 2018 convocation.

In light of this year’s graduation theme, “Turn on Your Light,” I’d like to share with you a recent experience. A few months ago, I had a mid-school crisis. Maybe you have had a similar experience, where you question everything you are doing and wonder if you made the right career choice. In my case, I was reflecting on my recent clinical hours.  In a family practice that emphasizes functional medicine, a majority of the patients I had seen were struggling with chronic disease. As you know, there exists no magic pill that will reverse chronic disease overnight, and improvements were very slow coming for some of my patients. So, I found myself asking, “Is what I do improving the lives of others? Am I making a difference? Do patients even need me?”

As I pondered these questions over the next few days, I had a distinct prompting come to my mind.  It was simple, but the answer I was searching for. The prompting said, “They aren’t supposed to do this alone. None of us are supposed to do this alone. We were never meant to do this alone.”

That was reassuring to me. As I thought about this answer, the first line of the Portuguese hymn, Lead Kindly Light, kept coming to my mind. It translates as, “In the darkness oh shine sweet light. Come guide me!”

As this hymn and this year’s graduation theme portray, we have chosen a profession that allows us to be there for others, to turn on our light, and guide them through their darkest times. They will not have to do this alone, just as we would have never been able to get to where we are today alone.

So in that light, before continuing my thoughts, I want to take a moment to thank all of the friends, family, and faculty that have helped each one of the graduates reach this milestone. I know I would not be standing here today without the unconditional, loving, devoted support of my wife Lana and our children, without my favorite aunt named Sheryl, who let me sleep on her couch all through school, without wonderful in-laws that looked after my family while I was away at school, supportive parents, and countless others. I know every graduate here feels the same about those closest to them in their lives. And I know we are all especially grateful for the sometimes thankless sacrifices, time, and efforts that the faculty put in to educate us and get us to graduation.  We couldn’t have done it alone, so thank you.

And now we’re here. Not alone, but together, having received the help we needed to become successful healers. Now we get to turn on our light and provide a beacon of hope to others, like our Savior does for us.  In his book ​“When Breath Becomes Air”,​ Neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi eloquently captured this principle of being there for others when he said,

“The physician’s duty (and I would add nurses and nurse practitioners) is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.”

For some of us, this may be done in an emergency room trauma bay, preventing the loss of a life.  For others, it may be in hospice, providing a peaceful transition out of this life. It could be in surgery, oncology, cardiology, pediatrics, primary care, or countless other ways where our services are required.  It could be full time, part time, here in Utah, or anywhere else in the world. The important thing is that, as Oprah advised,

“You…find what sparks a light in you so that you, in your own way, can illuminate the world.”  Or as Sister Eubank admonished, to turn on your light.

I know that as nurses and nurse practitioners we will bring light to a lot of people, and together, we really can illuminate the world, especially as we remember to “let [our] light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify our Father, which is in heaven.”

I would like to close with a poem from Irish poet John O’Donohue entitled, “For A Nurse”

In this fragile frontier-place, your kindness

Becomes a light that consoles the brokenhearted,

Awakens within desperate storms

That oasis of serenity that calls

The spirit to rise from beneath the weight of pain,

To create a new space in the person’s mind

Where they gain distance from their suffering

And begin to see the invitation

To integrate and transform it.

May you embrace the beauty in what you do

And how you stand like a secret angel

Between the bleak despair of illness

And the unquenchable light of spirit

That can turn the darkest destiny towards dawn.

May you never doubt the gifts you bring;

Rather, learn from these frontiers

Wisdom for your own heart.

May you come to inherit

The blessings of your kindness

And never be without care and love

When winter enters your own life.

As nurses and nurse practitioners, I hope we recognize the privilege we have of turning on our lights to awaken the brokenhearted and help others rise from beneath the weight of pain and transform it…just as our Savior, The Master Healer, does for each of us. Because of Him, we never have to do this alone.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Brandon Lewis spoke at the August 2018 college convocation.

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