On Friday a remarkable event took place. My mother, Cassie Arthur, retired from her job. It was remarkable for several reasons. First, we weren’t quite sure she was ever going to retire. Two, it marked the end of 46 years working as a laboratory technician. Will anyone of our generation work 46 years in one particular field? It will certainly be rare. So today I am celebrating my mom and 46 years of impacting the world one biopsy slide at a time.
My mom’s story in her field really starts back in high school. By the time my mom was 17 she was essentially on her own in the world. She grew up raised by her grandmother on a farm, on top of a hill, in the middle of nowhere West Virginia. For most people in these circumstances the daunting challenge of finding your way out of such a place is too much to overcome. The cycle of poverty in West Virginia is testament enough to how difficult it is to emerge from such a place. So despite being a senior in high school and essentially being a social orphan, my mom just started working to find a way out. After graduating high school she needed to find a job to provide for herself and ended up going to laboratory technician school. I don’t know that she thought at the time this would be part of her the the next four and a half decades of her life, but a journey was begun.
The journey out of such humble beginnings is a slow journey of determination. It is a grind. It is about perseverance and sacrifice. My mom found herself working as a lab technician in a histology lab. Histologists prepare tissue slides for examination. If you get a biopsy in a hospital or have a growth removed, the histology lab takes that sample. prepares it and analyzes it to understand it. The volume of slides that a histology laboratory in a hospital can face in a given week is remarkable. These slides are measured in the tens of thousands. So for 46 years, in a number of different laboratories, in 4-5 different states, working for a variety of hospitals, my mom patiently and with great dedication to her craft worked to prepare slides and assist in the care of patients.
How many slides has she worked on? That answer is surely measured in millions. Think about that for a moment. Consider the dedication and the long slow journey to helping millions of patients in hospitals. It takes a lifetime. It takes 46 years.
What has truly set my mom apart in her field, however, is that this has never just been a job to her. My mom has always been very committed to her work. She is committed to excellence. That has been recognized everywhere she has worked. Her work has been praised and rewarded. She is committed to people. As a coworker, employee and manager my mom has displayed the grace of God to those she has worked with. The light of God has been a constant glow surrounding her work. My mom is also committed to providing for those she loves. For a long time her job has been not just about lifting her out of poverty and making her way, but also ensuring that her children and grandchildren would never face that same challenge.
As I reflect on my mom’s amazing career I am not sure which part of her legacy stands out the most. Everything I have in my life, each ridiculous blessing, is in someway tied to millions of patients she served. I have never known want. I have had the most supportive environment possible in which to grow and thrive. The abundance of my sister and mine’s existence is the gift of my parents diligence and work. Beyond our family’s blessings, however, are so many individuals who have been impacted by her work. Many of them have known my mom and been blessed to work for or alongside of her in her field. But so many others never knew who it was that was serving them. They were anxiously awaiting test results that would change their life. They didn’t know my mom was working with skill and conviction to help them in their moments of need, but she was there doing whatever she could for them.
So for 46 years of dedicated work and service I celebrate my mother Cassie Arthur and rejoice in all she has accomplished. I am even more excited for this next chapter of her life as she gets to enjoy the fruit of her labor far more than she has allowed herself these many years. May it be a season of grandparent days at school, quilting, random day trips to the beach, visiting old friends, making new one, and the satisfied rest of a long journey completed. Thank you for working so hard for our family, your coworkers and those you did not know. It is a legacy of love that the rest of us can only hope to emulate. I love you and couldn’t be prouder to call you my mom.