The sun came up today

The sun came up today

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A life that matters...

I went to a funeral last Sunday.  It was one of those funerals where the church was filled and the family was strong.  They got up and read psalms and readings and said wonderful things about the guy. 

He was a regular guy.  He was the father of 5 kids, husband of a wife of 50 plus years and I think, had it all right.  I mean, probably not all right but mostly.  He loved his wife dearly and daily and it seemed to exude from him.  Not in a loud, talkative, all over her type of love...but a quiet respect, a knowing look and a small smile as he looked her way.  They were a team.  

He was ill for quite a while.  He struggled daily to be and do what he wanted to and he kept the fight on for years.  His kids rallied to help their mom and he remained faithful and kind.  

The funeral was really nice and the readings were great and I began to drift into my "funeral" know, when I die, I will have this song and this pastor and blah, blah, blah.  Then one of his friends and coworkers got up to talk.  He began with the standard fair and then talked about how his life mattered.  

This man did not live a flashy life.  He lived in a small house, he had tons of kids, he did what he could for others...and as I listened...was a lot.  The coworker talked about how every person he came in contact with understood that they were special.  He didn't do it the same way every time but he did it.  He worked in a "group home for boys" and these were the boys that needed a guy like him.  He was in the perfect place. 

I began to think about our relationship and how he made me feel like I was special.  Many years ago, his daughter and I played softball together and he and his wife came to every game.  I had three little kids, and his daughter had two and we were having the time of our lives.  He and his wife would sit right behind home plate and give advice.  As I remember it, every time he was at my game, I would hit a shot out to right field that would turn the fielder around.  I would trundle around the bases and get a triple and sometimes I would make it all the way home.  From then on,  he was my good luck charm.

Fast forward 15 years to a man who was considering Hospice care and by the grace of God, I was in the office.  When I saw his name, I told the girls in the office he was my "good luck charm" and I had to take care of him.  I related the story to them.  

When I arrived to begin my care for him, we talked about the old days and I thanked him for coming to all of my softball games to see me play.  I told him that I used to wait for him to walk up the sidewalk and I knew I was having a great night at the plate.  As we visited, his daughter (who is my dear friend) informed me that he was coming to see her play, not me...and that was that.  I disagreed with her and told her...all these years, I was sure he was coming to cheer me on...sure he wanted to watch you play but he was there for me.  He made me feel like my little old softball game was important to him and he was there to cheer me on!

I spent the next few weeks caring for him and it was a joy to be able to give him a little of the love back that he gave me over the years.  But, even when I was the one offering the care and love, he never let me leave the house without a prayer.  I would pack my nurse bag up and he would say..."we have to have a prayer" and we would hold hands.  Then, true to his form, he would thank God for skills and having me with him as he was on his journey.  

I left the funeral thinking I want to be like him.  I want to live a life that matters...a life that is remembered well and lived well.  I muttered that to my husband a few times when we were driving home.  Then, I asked, what is a life that matters?  I would imagine to some, it is having an awesome house, great body and handsome husband.  I have 2 out of 3 there and it still doesn't seem to make me content.  So what else makes for a life that matters?  Is it stuff, is it great vacations, more money than time?  Is it a job that you love and great people to work with?  

I think it is all of that at different times in life.  I know that when I had three little ones and they didn't bite or get in trouble at school, I was living a life that matters.  Then I went to Juarez and Nicaragua in the 90's and saw poverty and thought going there and building was what was going to make my life matter.  And, it did...but I couldn't do that every day or every week or even every year.  As I hit the second century of my life...I couldn't figure out what makes my life matter.  I believe end of life care makes my life matter but I always end up getting more love and wisdom than I try to give.  Does that take away from what matters?

I learned on Sunday what makes a life matter...meeting people where they are and letting them know they are special...letting them know that they are special to me and that my life would not be the same if they weren't part of it and...not to use words but use actions and behaviors.  You see, my friend didn't come to every game and tell me that he was there to see was in his smile for me, his words of encouragement and his funny smile when I thanked him for coming to see me play.  He could have said he was there for his girl...but he didn't and it made my softball nights for many years and still makes me warm up inside when I think of him.

Because he did...he lived a life that mattered.  As I sat in that church, I felt the challenge to step it up and get going.  So, Thank you dear friend and know that you are an example of what matters, or living in a way that matters and I am going to make a daily effort  to make my life special person at a time!

May you rest in peace dear friend!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Saturday, January 10, 2015

It's better to burn out...then to fade away

It's been a while since I have had the quiet brain to sit down and write my thoughts...but as I sit here, my house is quiet, my coffee is hot and my computer is charged so I am going to give it a try...

The other day, I sat at my computer when my boss walked up.  "How are you?" she asked.  "I'm good,  things are just hard right now with my patients" I replied, hoping that she would walk away and not ask anymore questions.  But, because she is an awesome person that happens to be my boss, she continued..."It seems like you have had your share of hard cases lately, and I can tell you are struggling.  You have to figure out how to back off a little so you don't burn out."   It's funny that she noticed because I have been thinking a lot about how to cope these days.  It's been on my mind for a month or two as I begin this new year.

People have been asking me how I do "it" with one of life's hardest times for families day after day, week after week until they are gone.  It is a great do I do it?  One would think that seeing suffering, dying and sadness becomes common place, that it becomes, as my son told me yesterday, "all in a days work."

Not so much...

There is so much in life that is how you look at it, wouldn't you agree?  It's perspective...

Last week, our community lost a father, son, cop and all around good guy who stopped to help a stranger.  It was cold, it was snowy and it was a situation that he could have just drove on and said, "I'm  off and I have other things to do" but he did not.  So in a split second, without notice, he was gone.  No diagnosis, no planning for the future, no pain medication for symptom time to change relationships if need nothing.  One minute here, the next minute gone and life as it was changed forever. 

I tell this story because usually, in hospice care, it is different.  I can't say that a family and patient that sign up don't have emotions and it is all wine and roses...but there is usually time to do some preparation for the changes to come.  There is planning that is offered, spiritual support if that is what the person and the family needs, explanations of how disease processes progress and time to talk, to fight, to love each other... 

There is always some comfort in caring for the it helping them come to terms with the end of life, or stopping the busy life and sitting and talking.  Many families will pull out the old pictures and recall the wonderful times and maybe not so wonderful times together...they comfort each other and understand the love that they had.  They learn things about each other that they didn't know and see each others hearts.  

I like to think that there is a measure of control that they can have back in the midst of the struggle.  They can choose to struggle or choose to stop the struggle.  Hospice puts those decisions in the hand of the person who has the terminal illness.  It takes it out of the hands of the doctors...

And finally, it allows the patient to be at their favorite chair with the dog or cat on their lap or in their bed with their love next to them.  They can sleep all night or be up all night and it is their choice...and that is a comfort unto itself.

From where I stand, being a hospice nurse is a blessing to me.  Oh yes,  my heart aches daily and I am pushing feelings to different parts of my heart but...I can't imagine doing anything else and Lord knows I've tried.

These thoughts leave me with two questions to ponder.

1.  Isn't living life the the fullest and living on the edge of "burn out" all just how you look at it, your perspective?

2.  When bad things happen to good people, and they do...people become softer, more loving and are ready at a moments notice to help...wouldn't the world be a gentler place if we acted like that most days?

I have no monopoly the "right" way to live or for that matter, die.  I just drive from home to home and family to family and ponder these things...hoping to be what each family needs at the time.  And some days I have the greatest ideas for helping that are epic fails...But, I try and to most people...that's all that matters.

So I'm gonna burn out I guess...continue to try to care for folks with my whole heart and deal with the fall out when I have time.  It's what I would want if the nurse was caring for my loves in my life...

Let's all burn out together from helping each other in this hard world...maybe soften it a little for someone else and each other!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Important things...

Yesterday went well, really, if I think of what could have happened.  I started off seeing my dear patients and ended up dancing at  "The Little Bear".  In between, I got to have a day like no other, with profound moments of love and pain weaved with profound moments of contentment and joy!

My patients are holding their own.  Hopefully as I write this, they are in bed with their loved ones feeling peace and comfort as they journey through the last days of this life...

As for cup is full.  Last night, I headed out to drown my feelings in some adult beverages and look at the lights of the season.
 For the last 4 years, a group of us have been meeting and drowning in honor of a dear friend whos husband was killed in Afganistan. That year, in 2010, we sadly visited wondering how she will go on and how we could support her in her grief.  This year, we drank to her and her strength and his memory of the love that was so intense and how we think of him now with honor and love.   Needless to say, the Maker's Mark was flowing!!!

Interestingly enough, my "of age" daughter and her roomates joined us.  I looked down the table and felt a rush of thankfulness and peace to have the honor of these amazing twenty-somethings choosing our group to hang out with.  Jim and I were humbled and proud to be on the short list on a Friday night!

We danced...we talked and we solved the worlds problems...and when the night was over, I had quite a few extras crashing all over my house.  They slept in beds, on the futon, fell where they were and were under my roof.  In the morning, a few left to go skiing, but a few stayed around and we put up the Christmas tree.  

They stayed the morning and went off to live their exciting 20 something lives.  I remember being that age and how exciting it was to be finishing college and planning a future.

When they left, the house was quiet and I didn't turn on my music.  I just fell into my head and thought...

As I cleaned the house, I remembered a moment yesterday that got me .  My patient, a favorite, is starting to "turn inward" which is a fancy hospice term...and what it really means is that he doesn't care about the things that don't matter.  He sits with his wife and children and they talk...almost too much that I worry he is getting tired, but he wants them there and close.  He cares deeply that they are by his side and that they remember him well.  But, if the phone rings and it is not a person he wants to talk to, it is easy now for him to just say no....not talking today.

We talked about that...his willingness to let things go.  He told me that he wished that he had the wisdom of dying twenty years ago... That so much of life really doesn't matter...the day to day things that we worry about.  He told me that really all that matters is your loved ones...the people you love and the time spent with them letting them know that.  As his time here with them is limited, and he he gets reminded daily with his symptoms...he feels like he wasted some precious time worrying about stuff that just doesn't matter.  I watched as he sat in his chair and smiled as he imparted this important wisdom to me.    

Finally, it was time to go and I bent over in the recliner and put my cheek on his and then kissed his cheek.  I felt the stubble of the days of not shaving and cherished the feeling.  I thanked him for his wisdom and time with me...time he could be sitting with his daughter that is my same age...

Makes me anything about life easy?  The day to day stuff that we struggle with and forget the important stuff...

I am happy to say that this morning, with my house full of college kids, I took a moment to look around and feel the sweet contentment of human connection and a quiet heart that was full.  My college girl was putting ornaments on the tree, my son's roomate was cooking breakfast for whoever wanted it, and the rest of them were drinking coffee in my livingroom.  I was happy....almost ecstatic.  I thought of my patient and imprinted this picture so I could tell him how much his time  and advice means to me...

This kind of stuff is a perk of being a hospice nurse...working with those who are dying.  As people ask me how can I do it...I counter in my head, "how could I not?"  Yes, I do some drowning occasionally with adult beverages, but honestly, who gets to work in a job that keeps the important things in life front and center?   Who gets to kiss their patients after every visit....Do you know every cheek has it's own warmth and feeling?  And who gets to be loved and hugged daily and told how much you mean to them?  I bet you don't.  Especially at your job...I mean, I get paid to do this? 
I knew I wanted to be a nurse but never dreamed I could have this kind of human love and connection when I chose this field.  Honestly, I wouldn't trade it for the world....

So tonight, what do leave you with?  A question....what if you had a short time on this earth... with the people you love and adore?  What would you change?  Anything?  

No one is perfect and I am sure there are things that we would do differently...but what....and is it something to change now to love your "people" more and better?  

I got my work cut out for me...
We'll tawk tomorrow, 
I love you all,

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Friday routine...

This morning, as I walked into my son's room...I began to think about what lies ahead.  It made me think of the quote, "These are the times that try men's souls"...but in my head it was, "these are the days that try nurse's souls" and woke him up.  He stirred, more like a grizzly bear then a sleeping child and told me he heard me.  I walked out with a heavy heart.

Today is going to be a usual Friday at work in some ways but not so usual in others.  This Friday is most likely going to be the last Friday on earth for a few my patients.  They have voiced there wants and needs, they have said their good byes, they have made the plan.  Now, it's all up to the human body and human spirit to let go.

Sometimes, no matter how badly someone wants to be done with life, it's not time  yet.  They have a strong heart, a strong spirit, a strong will to live even though they feel ready to go. From a hospice nurses standpoint, that is the time when I have to do my best work, my most holy work...helping the patient and family find some peace in the process.

I use the term "process" daily with dying because it is...a process.  People get a diagnosis, stop treatment and are done.  But I can tell you that there is a time for everything whether we are ready or not. But today, I have watched all week as the patient's, their bodies and the caregivers have become ready...

So, today, as Jim says, "I will get all my patients tucked in."  My day will  consist of visits that include teaching...talking about all the medications, and planning for things that come up that aren't planned.  The clinical, nursey things that make me know I am doing the best I can to help the patient with their symptoms. 

Then,  knowing me,  I will spend the most time with the family letting them know they are doing a beautiful thing for their loved one,  and leave hoping that I said enough to calm their fears of inadequacy...their fears that they are not doing enough.  

I'm sure I will be running late all day...on Fridays, families don't want me to leave.  I will drink 5 cups of coffee at the table and honestly have a hard time leaving them.  Interestingly enough, the patients, at this point are good...they give me the knowing wink that after all of these years I have learned means, "take care of my family" and I give them the nod.  When you take care of someone so intensely for so long, it's almost like we can read each others minds.

So today, like other Fridays, I will say my goodbyes...I will hug them and feel their cheek on mine...and tell them I will see them on Monday.  They will give me the knowing wink again which means, "don't be so sure" and I will wink back, but knowing this Friday,  they are probably right.  

When it's time to go I will walk out of the house with the main caregiver and we will talk by the car...saying it all again to make sure they know what to do should this be it...and we hold each other tightly...them caring for me as much as I have cared for them...

I'll get in my car, wipe my drippy eyes and go to the next do it again.  

It's going to be a tough day today...and I want it to be my best day of nursing ever...

May it be so!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ike is home...

I woke up this morning to the howling wind.  The trees are swaying back and forth almost like they are dancing to a slow song while the cold front blows in.  I walked downstairs to make coffee and saw my son's fish, Ike...

Whenever there is a break from school or a summer job that one is not supposed to have a pet, Ike comes home to us.  He sits by the coffee maker and has to have a top of some kind because the cats want to "play" with him.  Mac got Ike in his freshman year of college and I am sure Ike has seen his fair share of antics.

As I spoke to this fish while making coffee this morning, "Oh hello little red fish", I thought about the upcoming holidays and plans that we have...the whole family and I felt a warm rush to combat that cold wind.

My job, profession, calling...ministry has been challenging lately.  Just yesterday, I saw 6 patients and all were in one or another stage of leaving this earth.  Some old, some young and all with families that profess to be ready...but caring for them so lovingly while they are here.  

As knocked on my first door and walked in with my signature, "Hello, it's Terry, the nurse"...I took a breath and wondered what I was going to see when I went up the stairs.  Would the patient be comfortable, would they be in pain, need more medication, have different symptoms?  As I began my nursey routine, wash my hands, pull up a chair or sit on the floor in front of them, I noticed the smile on her face.  She was doing really good this morning...didn't remember who I was, but was comfortable, fed and clean in her sunlit room with the TV on.  She was doing just fine for someone who's days are numbered.  As I visited with the caregiver, I realized that she was an amazing woman...caring for her family day after day and putting her life on hold.  I left the house with a hug to both and went on my way.    

As the day went on, I talked about pain medication, signs and symptoms of impending death, of letting the person eat whatever they want, letting the person not eat at all and held the bucket as my patient went through the cycle of nausea and vomiting.  I rubbed his back as the tears ran down his face.  I wrote out plans of how to medicate for shortness of breath...reviewed how to change a disposable "panty" and how to love them out of this world.  I sat in kitchens, on floors, on my knees in front of the toilet, or my knees by the side of the hospital bed...wherever the care needed to take place.  When I left at least three of the homes, they told me the loved me and I yelled back, " I love you too!"

When I drove to my last patient of the day, I tried to still my heart.  The drive from one to another can be as long as 45 minutes and sometimes, I stop and get something to eat or drink on my way...depending on how the day is going.  Yesterday, I stopped and got a giant diet pepsi with ice...thinking of my dear friend Mary Moon and her wise love...

When I knocked on the door, the husky that talks greeted me with a whole conversation.  I hugged the wife and went downstairs to my buddy.  He was in his chair seemingly perfect...not short of breath and denied any pain...until he moved.  I got on my knees in front of his recliner and took vital signs, listened to lungs and belly, checked ankles...all the while listening to the plans for the holiday next week.  We talked about what an amazing cook his wife is and how she is going to take care of him and have his kids cook.  

Then, we began to talk about his kids.  As with any family, there is always water under the bridge that may or may not be dealt with when someone is dying.  A month ago, this family was stiff and measured with each other and trying to figure out how to get along.  Then yesterday, as my patient was remembering  how hard he hugged his daughter and how she melted into him and how good it felt, I smiled and realized all this "work" is worth it.  

My job offers families invaluable gifts.  The gift of time even though we know it's limited.  The gift of forgiveness and reconciliation that leads to heartfelt hugs and love that wasn't the case before.  Through misty eyes that made me look away, I thanked him and his wife for letting me into their home for a ring side seat to their journey of genuine family love.

You see, I get so much from this work.  I learn things that make me ache and hurt and eat and drink...but I also learn that it is true that if you let go of what doesn't matter, love conquers all.  Love can get you through the long nights of illness, the repeating thoughts of the sadness that lurks behind the scenes, and when it is said and done...memories of the love that was shared, worked through and completed.

So me and Ike talked...mostly I talked and he looked out the fish tank at me...

Anyway, I thought about last week, about my days off and about how much gratitude I have for my crazy young adults and my husband...the time I have with them and what that means to me.  I also uttered a prayer of thankfullness for my ministry because I am so grateful to meet all of my patients and try to assist the families love them out of here.  It's worth every moment of time to me and I can't imagine doing anything else.

What if we just let go of things we cannot change...history...sad feelings that impede our relationship?  What if we loved each other for who we are and not who we wish they would be?  What if we loved ourselves that way?  

We are human and we do what we do...but what if?  You think Ike, the wise fish has these answers?  For me, this morning over coffee, he had all the answers...and I am ready to take on the day.

Enjoy your precious time  with those you have...whether you love them or not because some day that precious time will run out...

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all, 

Monday, November 10, 2014

A regular Monday...

Monday mornings always take a little extra to get moving and to get motivated.  Today was no different, especially knowing that winter was coming to visit for the week and it was time to learn how to drive on icy roads again.  Remember, I spend most of my days driving from home to home.

Today was no different as I started the drive out to the country to see a patient that is dying.  He is comfortable, quiet and finishing his long life's journey well.  He is surrounded by his family, his dogs and cats and even the horses in the corral visit with me when I show up.  I am convinced the animals know more than I do at this time of life. 

We sat at the kitchen table drinking coffee and talking about the end of life...what it looks like and how we will handle it when it comes.  I stopped for a minute and looked at the faces of the daughters gathered around the table before I spoke.  I looked at their eyes and the fatigue of caring so deeply and loving so much as the end is near.  I remember those times's why I do what I do.  

I began to talk about how well they are caring for their dad and how when the dust clears and the time passes, they will take such comfort from their actions.  I told them that they were doing "such an amazing job and that he deserves no less" and they agreed.  They were going above and beyond and they will be so glad they did as time rolls on.  I hugged them all, told my patient that he is so lucky to have these girls and headed to my next home.

It was a long drive to see my next patient and I have to say...I adore him.  He is one of the bravest men I have ever met and selfless at the same time.  No wonder his family can't bear to see him go.  

I sat down and did the usual nursing assessment that I have been doing for darn near 30 years and then I leaned back in the chair next to him and asked, "how are you really doing?"  He looked thin, concerned and I could sense there was something he wanted to talk about.  "I'm fine...really...and if I don't wake up tomorrow, I am really good with that."  I know in my nurses heart that he is ready...but like his family, I am not.  He is funny, intense and one of the kindest people I have ever met.  He absolutely adores his wife and is still so in love with her after 30 years...He worked hard, he loved hard and he lived, friends and life that was happily busy all the time.   A full life...a life well lived and he is ready.

As I was driving home from my day, I began to process what I had the honor to be a part of...and was humbled.  I started early with a family who was going to help their dad "finish strong"...and care for him at home with dignity and sweet gentle love until his very last breath.  Something I hope will happen to me when the time comes...

Then, a visit with a man I admire so...who lived a full and rich life and is now making sure that he dies the same way...with grace, dignity and completion...Not a person walks out of his house without him telling then what they mean to him, including me.

I pulled into my warm garage as the snow was falling and was thankful that I had that to come home to.  I waited for my teenager to make it home and greeted him with a hug and a kiss and thought about next this time, he will be at college.  

Time...something I take for granted until I am slapped in the face...watching a family with no more time, turning 50, hugging my teenager and understanding that his time at home is limited...

I have no answers for these thoughts except a song I hear daily as I drive from house to house that also makes me think of how I live my life...

Take the words to heart and cherish the moments...good, bad, hard and easy...those are the things that make for a life well lived.

We'll tawk tomorrow,
 I love you all, 

Thursday, October 9, 2014


I've been reading facebook about the story of the young woman who has a terminal glioblastoma and is planning her death on Nov 1st.  I am also reading the opinions of what she should or shouldn't do.  As a person who works every day with people who are facing death, I often wonder what I would do or will do when my diagnosis comes.  I think, at times, I know what I would do but when faced with it...who knows.  I always think of the scene in "Grumpy Old Men" when they find out that their dear friend dropped dead...they called him a "lucky bastard."

Don't we all want to just go quick and painlessly...maybe having our affairs in order, not knowing when and doing what we love?  But then, the folks that pass away on vacation...that isn't the perfect way either.

Yesterday, I got to be present with a family that chose to live life with limited time as a profound gift.  Very rarely am I present when a person dies, but get the call after they are gone.  Yesterday was a different story...

I got a call the night before at 9 pm that the patient had taken a turn for the worse.  I decided to go to the house and check on them and see how they were doing and if I could do anything to make them more comfortable as the end of the journey was finally here.

Let me back up.  This patient was admitted to hospice care over the summer with terminal diagnosis.  He had learned of his fate about 3 years ago and chose to continue life normally as long as they could.  They would not go to the hospital but choose home hospice care when the time came.  Of course this family was devastated but decided that they were going to do whatever it took to make it through this tragedy stronger in their love for each other than ever.  Sounds like a pipe dream, huh?  The most stressful time in life when you are losing your best friend and you are going to keep it together...I agreed to be part of the story in any way possible.  

They had an amazing summer with trips and friends and time with family.  Now, it wasn't easy to go on trips, or have friends over as this patient was bed bound and not going anywhere without help and brute strength.  But the family did it.  It was a great summer.

About three weeks ago, there was a shift in his health and he began to decline.  The family gathered closer and friends came and they sat in his room and partied.  They enjoyed every  minute of the time they had.  Then it was Tuesday night.  He had become less responsive and less aware and caring less about what was going on. In our business, we call it "turning inward" and it is a sure sign that the person is "getting ready" to leave us.  By Tuesday night, he was much less responsive and showing other signs...

I walked into the house to find the whole family in the bedroom.  They were in chairs pushed up against the bed, sitting on the bed and touching the patient.  He was fairly comfortable and I changed a few things, changed his position, and took his vital signs.  He was definitely changing and from my experience told them it was going to be hours but he was dying.

Because this family was who they were and because they decided early on in his illness that they were going to do whatever it takes to love him and each other through it, they sprung into action.  They gathered in closer and hunkered down for the night.  About 1:30 in the morning, I left and told them to call me.  They didn't call me.  I stopped in  at7:30 the next morning to find them sleeping all around him peacefully holding him close.  The peace and quiet of that moment helped me make it through the day.

I went about my day, knowing I would be getting a call but I didn't.   I showed up around noon to find them all there, sitting with him and telling stories, eating lunch and laughing through the tears that were rolling down their cheeks.  

They family told stories, of how they met, of how the kids were born, of the travels of their lives together.  They cried when they told the story of his diagnosis and of the family struggle to cope with a terminal illness.  They told of how lucky they were to have each other and how much they loved their dad...and the hours passed.  He was at the center of the stories and the center of the group with each family member touching him and stroking him and whispering into his ear something when it came to them.  He was peaceful and quiet but with us.

As we talked, we began to notice he was leaving us, with quieter breathing and a serenity that was taking over his face.  One by one, each family member moved closer to him, some on their knees by the bed, some on the bed, holding his hands and his feet and kissing him goodbye.  Through the tears that could not be held much longer, they told him how much they loved him and that they would take care of each other and he could go.  As he took his last breath, I watched his bride of 40 years tell him that she was so thankful for him...her love and her best friend.  As much as the hours sitting felt like time stood still,  he took his last breath and was gone.  Slowly, I climbed up on the bed with the wife and put my stethoscope on his chest and through tears I said, "He's gone."

We all sat there stunned, relieved and sad.  The room was quiet with a resigned peace...probably because they had all thought about this moment, knowing it was coming but not believing it.  They hugged and kissed and cried while I went about my work.  Before I knew it, they were all out on the porch, holding each other close and talking about how they are going to go on.  

When he was gone from the house, I went out and I thanked them for the honor of caring for him and them...for such a loving family.  They inspired me yesterday as they did the hard work of  living for 3 years knowing and then finished what they had promised and did it with such grace and dignity for their dad.  They were committed to caring for him and they did...with a holy love, a sacred love that comes from suffering.  Not so much from physical pain and suffering , but the suffering of wondering what's next, the knowing the end is near and pushing that out of your mind and making the most of the hours and minutes that are right in front of you.

Once again, I called Jim to tell him I had lost another one.  He asked me how I was and the tears flowed...for the loss but also  for the beauty of life in all forms.  For the strength of love, of commitment and the love that I saw with each last touch and last kiss.  

To know that I helped that family follow through on the do whatever it took to love each other and the patient through the illness to the end of a gift to me and gives me the strength to knock on the next door of a family that needs some support for their plan.

I think I can understand not wanting to go through all the pain and sadness that comes with limited time...and to be so young and have to leave this earth.  I understand that.  But, there is joy in suffering and I know there is much love...that becomes sacred and holy love.
And that kind of love often comes when it can't be taken for granted...when time is limited and the end is near.  

So I pray for Brittany, the woman with the terminal illness.  I pray for peace and sacred love while she is still here with the living.  Then, whatever she chooses, I pray for an easy transition and peace and comfort for her family.  

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,