A special time of the year…

Several years ago we were leaving a family gathering on a cold December night. Stepping out into the brisk air, a sudden streak of light across the sky caught my vision. Looking up, I saw yet another bright streak of light. “Look at this!” Enveloped in darkness, we gathered and watched the brilliant display of lights dance across the heavens.

According to NASA “Watch the Skies”, the Geminds are the most widely recognized meteor shower. Each year in December, the Earth passes through the trails of dust left by 3200 Phaethon, and we have the opportunity to view this spectacular astronomical display of light. This year, I eagerly awaited December 13th, the first day of the peak display. As darkness approached, I ventured outside and was immediately rewarded with my first sighting. “Come outside!”

Twinkling Christmas lights, streets lights and the ever-present lights from cars driving down my street surround me. The Geminids are best viewed without surrounding light. This year, I was weary. The strain and busyness of the past semester and the past nine months, settled over me and kept me rooted in my backyard as opposed to venturing to the top of a hillside or mountain, far from the light pollution of the city. Yet, there they were. Those streaks of light across the sky were no less brilliant and fascinating than if had I viewed them from the top of Reddish Knob.

As I reflect on this past year, this theme of light resonates with me. From raging wildfires to a global pandemic, it would be easy to focus on the darkness. Yet, we have a choice. Focus on the darkness or watch for that streak of light that pierces the darkness and brings excitement and joy. I choose light and as I look back, I can see those instances of light.

In March, EMU made a quick shift to online learning. At the undergraduate level, faculty were faced with creating simulated clinical learning experiences, and figuring out how to finish out the semester in order to gradate our seniors. Faculty and staff problem-solved, students adapted, and we did it. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t perfect, but we did it together. And at the end of the semester, we were able to celebrate and send another graduating class of EMU nurses into the workforce. In the fall, creative scheduling, virtual simulations, use of a new pediatric high-fidelity simulator (courtesy of a generous donor) and a high-flex learning environment allowed our nursing students to complete their clinical hours for the semester and make up missed hours from the spring. What an extraordinary accomplishment!

The RN-BSN, MSN and DNP programs, being online, did not require rapid shifts in curriculum. Yet the students in those programs, who are practicing nurses, were immediately thrust into the unknown. Extra shifts, furloughs, illness, new and ever-changing demands in the workplace, and barriers to projects quickly became obstacles for students to overcome. Faculty and students worked together and were able to successfully navigate the various circumstances that arose. And they didn’t just survive, they thrived!

The EMU nursing faculty, staff, and students rose to the challenge of 2020. I am continually amazed at the creativity and perseverance of my colleagues, and the adaptably and grace of our students. I am grateful every day to be a part of this community!

There is no question that this year has been challenging. To say that there were no moments of darkness would be unrealistic. Looking back, those streaks of light blaze true and clear.

“Look at this! Come outside!” I wonder if the words I uttered as I gazed on the brilliance of a meteor shower were similar to the words uttered by the wise men 2000 years ago as they gazed upon the Star of Bethlehem.  I wonder what the shepherds proclaimed when the sky filled with the glory of the Lord, and the angel proclaimed the birth of Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah. In John 8:12 (NRSV), Jesus tells us, “I am the light of the world…” As we bring this year to a close, let us remember Christ, the Light of the World, who truly pierces the darkness.

Dr. Melody Cash, Professor and Department Chair