Do you have a person in your life, who inspires you? A person who loves deeply and without reservation, who cares unabashedly and fully, and whose perspective on life helps you to better understand the importance of the things that truly matter?
I hope you do.
I do. And I want to tell you about her if you’ll indulge me.
She’s extraordinarily special.
My wife of 26 years, Mariah, is an RN. She began her career as a bedside nurse on an oncology floor in a busy hospital. As a rule, if you were a patient on her floor, your prognosis was poor – and the little time you had left would consist of difficult days filled with chemotherapy, radiation and little reason for hope.
Mariah’s job, ultimately, was to administer medications and be there emotionally for her patients and their families as the inevitable outcomes came to pass. Despite the personal cost of allowing herself to deeply feel in these circumstances, she threw herself into the job, loving and supporting people she had only briefly known with her whole heart, holding their hands as the end neared or sharing tears and hugs with families that she had begun to think of as her own as they dealt with unbearable loss.
It would have been far easier to artificially go through the motions. These weren’t people that had any real place in her life, after all. They were essentially strangers.
But for people like Mariah, blessed with a servant’s heart, going through the motions isn’t a choice that is possible to make.
She experienced every loss as if it were her own. She felt that she owed her patients and their families nothing less than every ounce of her heart, despite the difficulties that would accompany allowing herself to truly experience the constant hammer blows of loss. To offer less would be to fail them when they were most in need of deeply felt human connection. They would know the difference — and she wasn’t about to leave them feeling as if they were somehow faceless or not worth every effort she was capable of giving them.
Predictably, Mariah often came home in tears. She would cry because of the losses that she experienced. She would have difficulty scrubbing from her mind the devastated faces of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, as they looked to her for answers when there were none to give.
Just as often, the tears came from the heroic behavior of patients who had no reason to display it.
She would hear them in their rooms laughing. She would see them for daily rounds and be greeted with enthusiastic ‘hellos’ and unfailing positivity. At a time when they had every right to be the worst versions of themselves, they dared to be at their best.
“Can you imagine the sheer audacity of looking death head-on and determining that you are somehow going to rise above it? That you would start a book with eager anticipation or watch TV and enjoy it or even care for a second about my day or what might be bothering me?” she would ask, incredulous.
Those years changed Mariah. She developed a degree of perspective that few of us are capable of until forced. She learned to value small moments and to find joy in corners where it isn’t often present.
Already a deeply caring and loving person, she became keenly aware of the importance of being there for others in ways that are difficult to imagine:
Being strong when you don’t think you can be.
Being present when aren’t sure you should be.
Being optimistic when you’re certain you cannot be.
Watching her serve this role for others so selflessly and without regard for her own well-being has impacted me in ways I hadn’t imagined it would. It impacted the way I interacted with strangers on 9-1-1 calls. It affected my discourse with fellow employees. It made me realize with clarity the role I could play in the lives of others by not being afraid to show that I cared.
It also forced me to reexamine the way I define what is important daily — and what isn’t.
The depth of Mariah’s concern for people she didn’t know – well beyond what was asked or expected of her in her job – is a daily lesson for me. It’s a lesson for ALL of us.
To care deeply is to make significant differences for people in desperate need of them.
I’m beyond lucky to have Mariah in my life. She exemplifies my favorite quote of all time, as stated by Theodore Roosevelt:
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Let people know that YOU care.
Whether it’s at work, at home or in the company of people who have no reasonable expectation of it.
It will change everything.
About Kris Inman:
Kris Inman is the Director of Program Development for The Healthy Dispatcher. A 29-year veteran of 9-1-1, Kris retired in July 2023 as Director of Springfield Greene County 9-1-1 in Springfield, MO. An awarded speaker and instructor, Kris has delivered standout educational sessions, keynotes, motivational talks and yoga instruction to dispatchers across the country. He is also a long-time college adjunct instructor, teaching courses in communication and public safety leadership. Kris holds a Master of Arts in Communication and a Bachelor of Science in Electronic Media from Missouri State University. He is also a registered yoga instructor.