Tag Archives: loss of friends and co-workers

Too Young: In Memory Commander Marsha Hanly, Nurse Corps US Navy

LCDR Marsha Hanly caring for a patient in the ICU of the USNS Comfort 

“Nursing is an art:  and if it is to be made an art, it requires an exclusive devotion as hard a preparation, as any painter’s or sculptor’s work; for what is the having to do with dead canvas or dead marble, compared with having to do with the living body, the temple of God’s spirit?  It is one of the Fine Arts:  I had almost said, the finest of Fine Arts.”  Florence Nightingale

This afternoon I was stunned to learn that a very dear co-worker and friend from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth had unexpectedly passed away. Marsha Hanly was a ICU Nurse who arrived at Portsmouth about the same time I did in 2008. She had just completed a Master of Science in Nursing at Duke with a specialization in Adult Critical Care nursing.  Marsha exemplified all that is good in nursing and was as devoted to her calling as Florence Nightingale described.

I remember what seem like countless times where I stood beside Marsha as she cared for critically ill or dying patients, comforted their families and helped the other nurses and physicians in the ICU. I also cannot count the number of times that she stood by me as I prayed for patients as they lay in critical condition. She was an outstanding nurse and Naval Officer as well as one of the most kind and compassionate people that I have ever met. She was devoted to her husband and children and to the welfare of those committed to her care. She was funny and joyful person who was real. She was a committed Christian, wife, mother and fantastic nurse. She could laugh and she could cry, she really loved and cared for those that she served.

Last year Marsha deployed on the Hospital Ship USNS Comfort as part of Operation Continuing Promise, a medical mission to the Caribbean Sea, South and Central America. While deployed she was selected for Commander in the Nurse Corps. She returned late in the Summer and in November was diagnosed with Cancer. She underwent successful surgery which left her cancer free but in need of Chemotherapy to ensure that she remained so. She returned to work in late April and began her Chemo this week. Her last post on her Caring Bridge blog ( http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/mahanly )talked about how she described what she believed would be the course of her Chemotherapy, side effects and how long it would take. She was looking to the future and even to this weekend with her children. I don’t know the circumstances of her death but imagine that it was a sudden and catastrophic event related to the Chemo in some way.

When I read the news on Facebook, where I keep up with my friends from that ICU as well as so many others in my life I was stunned. As I read the comments of her fellow nurses and my former co-workers, nurses and physicians alike I felt like I had been kicked in the gut. I couldn’t believe it because I simply expected this otherwise healthy, young and vibrant woman to sail through Chemo and completely recover. I am so stunned that I cannot believe that his has happened.

This is one of those times where I ask God “why?” I have to admit that I cannot understand this and I have a hard time with the whole “God’s will” thing when things like this happen to people like Marsha. People that devote their lives to caring for others and raising their young children.  I grieve for her husband and kids, I remember her bringing them in to work sometimes.  I pray for her husband Scott and their two young

Likewise I grieve for those who knew and loved her in the Portsmouth ICU. For those that have not been closely connected with those that labor in critical care specialties like a busy ICU there are few places where people bond so closely. Critical Care Nurses and Physicians work in a surreal world where life is constantly hanging in the balance and as a result have a camaraderie that is much like combat soldiers, police and firefighters. This is not just a job, it is a calling, in a sense a sacred vocation. Marsha exemplified the best of her profession and what it is to be a friend.

Even though I left Portsmouth in October 2010 to come to Camp LeJeune I still count the staff there as my friends. We went through a lot together. Many of them were there for me when I was going through difficult times as their Chaplain. Marsha was one of those people. I cannot imagine her not being there when I go back at some point or not seeing her serving and caring for Sailors, Marines and their families somewhere else.

Last week we honored Nurses during National Nursing Week and the anniversary of the founding of the Navy Nurse Corps. Marsha was the best of both. The Nurse Corps has suffered a terrible loss.

Marsha touched so many lives. I know that my former co-workers and friends at Portsmouth are taking this hard. It doesn’t seem right and it doesn’t seem fair. I have a hard time theologizing deaths of people like Marsha. While I am sure that the Lord has her with him I don’t understand her loss here.  While I fail to understand I do still pray that God must have a purpose and I do give thanks for the honor and privilege of knowing Marsha and working with her. In times like this I find some comfort in the prayers of the liturgy and find this one from the Book of Common Prayer to be one that I can pray in good conscience even when I struggle.

“O God of grace and glory, we remember before you this day our sister Marsha. We thank you for giving her to us, her family and friends, to know and to love as a companion on our earthly pilgrimage. In your boundless compassion, console us who mourn. Give us faith to see in death the gate of eternal life, so that in quiet confidence we may continue our course on earth, until, by your call, we are reunited with those who have gone before; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Rest in Peace Marsha. Rest in peace.

Padre Steve+


Filed under faith, remembering friends, shipmates and veterans

Yet another Unexpected Death of a Shipmate and Probable Rough Seas Ahead

SCPO3DIn Memorium Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman D’Juana Hayes-Jones

This has been another difficult week at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center.  Once again we experienced the unexpected and unsettling death of a beloved Shipmate. HMCS D’juna Hayes-Jones, the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Director of Nursing Services passed away early Wednesday morning of a massive Heart attack or another sudden catastrophic event.

I was just coming off of duty and conducting the duty turnover when the pager went off.  The chaplain relieving me took the page and came back saying that he had just been informed that we had lost yet another Shipmate and said that he had to go get more information.  I looked at our Deputy Department director and said: “I pray someone that I don’t know; I’m really tired of losing people that I know.”  A few minutes later my friend came back and gave us Senior Chief’s name.  I was pretty tired having come off a night with little sleep.  Initially I looked at him and the deputy and said; “I’m sure I know her but am trying to picture her face.”  We finished the turnover and I started to walk back up to the ICU when I clearly saw and remembered her face, which always had a friendly and caring expression.  I had just seen her and said hello the day before in one of the main hallways.  When this registered I simply said “shit, not another one, damn.”  This was the 5th active duty death that we have had since December.  I had met all five and had a decent number of interactions with three of the five.  Senior Chief was one that I had met a lot in the hallways, had frequent small conversations with and was involved quite heavily with when Senior Chief Pam Branum passed away on June 2nd of this year.  Additionally we had a civilian RN pass away and several civilians in our clinics.  The active duty deaths were all unexpected and tragic.  We have come close to losing a number of other shipmates who were very close to death but have since recovered.  With all the deployments added in we are all showing some strain with the loss of our friends and shipmates, so it is important to take care of each other because we don’t know what tomorrow brings.  With more deployments coming, a flu season that never ended and H1N1 looming on the horizon I fear that this will not be the last shipmate we lose this year.  I pray that I am wrong but my intuition tells me something different.  In the midst of this I am reminded that we must live to the fullest and not waste the life that God has given us. As Marcus Aurelius said “Execute every act of thy life as though it were thy last.”

Losing good people, who care for others, strive for excellence and serve faithfully who are younger than me, is getting old.  Senior Chief from what I had seen and heard was a great leader who really cared for her corpsmen and the nursing Staff.  She could always be found out among her corpsmen on the nursing units and clinics.  She was kind, fair and a caring teacher, coach and mentor to many corpsmen and nurses.  Her loss was met with stunned disbelief by those who knew her and who really have not yet fully recovered from the loss of Chief Branum.  Her death has shaken all of us who knew her, from the most senior officers and Chiefs, to the most junior corpsmen as well civilian staff.  I and most of our other chaplains have spent significant time with our shipmates since this happened.

Senior Chief Hayes-Jones would have had her retirement ceremony on August 28th.  She leaves behind two children, her husband and her shipmates.  We will have a memorial service for her next week; the date is still to be announced as of this post.

God bless you all and take care of each other as we once again walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Peace, Steve+


Filed under healthcare, Military, Pastoral Care