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Friday, April 7, 2017

Lent / Tarot / The Queen of Coins / Florence Nightingale


Today's randomly drawn tarot card is the queen of coins. Coins represent money, the body, earth, seeds, and physical reality. The queen is the highest female expression of her suit.

What better queen of coins, on this day of an act of war, than Florence Nightingale?

Florence Nightingale was a driven, phenomenal, transformative human being. She saved millions of lives and elevated care for the sick, dramatically reducing death statistics by the double digits. She remade the world. We all owe her a debt of gratitude.

I hate, I mean I just really hate, "sexy nurse" Halloween costumes. My sister Antoinette was a nurse. I worked as a nurse's aide. My uniform was daily spattered with blood, pus, and other bodily fluids. I washed human beings who could not wash themselves, fed them, ambulated them, and held their hands as they confronted family betrayal, failing bodies, and approaching death. Registered nurses contribute more to keeping people alive than do doctors.

A joke: a newcomer arrives in Heaven. He sees an effulgent light radiate from a divine figure, who is striding about in a white coat and a stethoscope. The newcomer asks St Peter who this impressive personality might be.

St Peter replies, "Shh. That's God. But he thinks he's a doctor."

Florence Nightingale clocked twenty-hour days in battlefield hospitals, followed by nights using her whip-smart brain to crunch numbers, and plans, and architecture, and laws that affected soldiers. In her lifetime, she remade Western medicine.

"A friend, Sir John McNeill, wrote her, 'To you, more than to any other man or woman alive, will henceforth be due the welfare and efficiency of the British army. I thank God that I have lived to see your success.'"

After the Franco-Prussian War, "Jean Henri Dunant said, 'Though I’m known as the founder of the Red Cross … it is to an Englishwoman that all the honor is due. What inspired me … was the work of Florence Nightingale.'"

How did she do it? She was smart, dedicated, and hard working. And she received her commission from God. According to Christianity Today, "Though she did not think herself deeply religious and never thought she became so, on February 7, 1837, when she was scarcely 17 years old, she felt that God spoke to her, calling her to future 'service.' From that time on her life was changed."

There was no clear route from her life as an English lady to such service. She considered conversion to Catholicism and discussed this with Cardinal Henry Manning, who himself had converted from Anglicanism. Her letters to Manning, expressing her desire to convert to Catholicism, are intense and overwhelming. You can read quotes here, the Google books version of Henry Edward Manning: His Life and Labours. In the end, Florence did not convert. No matter. She converted medicine. Manning supplied her with ten Catholic nuns. There were also Anglican nuns on her team.


Footnote: I once cleaned house for septuagenarian UC Berkeley statistician Florence Nightingale David, who was named after Florence Nightingale by her parents, who were the original's friends. I found her house hard to clean because she had piles of peer-reviewed journals on just about every surface. 

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