Julie Parrish was scrolling through social media when she was inspired to make a difference in the lives of her fellow nurses. A long-time RN at Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital, Julie was pleasantly surprised to learn from a Facebook post that a group called the “Nurses Honor Guard” existed entirely to commemorate the lives of nurses at their funerals. Chapters exist all over North America and honor guard members pay respect to deceased nurses in their communities by performing a special reading of “The Nightingale Tribute,” a poem written by an RN and inspired by the legendary Florence Nightingale. At the end of the reading, the honor guard performs a short ceremony that involves blowing out a lit lamp to symbolically “release” the nurse from her earthly duties as caretaker.
After praying hard about whether or not she was up for the time commitment, Julie decided to launch a local chapter of this special group. Julie’s family tree is filled with healthcare workers and, as a nurse for more than 35 years, she knows just how demanding the job can be. Because nurses often feel compelled to give tirelessly to their patients, Julie sees the “releasing of duties” as a particularly memorable way to publicly acknowledge a nurse’s lifetime of devotion. Thanks to Julie’s efforts, the Rutherford Nurses Honor Guard has quickly grown to 70 members. The local group performed “The Nightingale Tribute” and held the accompanying ceremony at their first funeral on December 14th, 2019.
In addition to making a funeral service more personalized and honoring the deceased’s vocation, the ceremony creates a meaningful bond between honor guard members.