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Friday, May 5, 2017

Writer's block #millenialsareawesome

It's been a long time since I have time to sit and write.  Many things have changed in my life and to juggle all of that while taking care of the dying...almost impossible.

Dramatic huh?  Well, you know me, I have a flare for the drama.   Anyway, last March, about 40 days ago, my daughter was sent home from Peru due to flooding.  The Peace Corps decided that it was too dangerous for the volunteers to be there and put them on planes and sent them home.  As soon as she hit the ground in the US, it was more than obvious that my life was going to change for a month or two.  Jim and I had become pretty good at empty nesting, sometimes not making dinner or speaking to each other in the evenings after a crazy day at work.  We just sat together and finished our day however we felt fit and were okay with that.  Now we had a young adult at home that is our child.  We turned back into Mom and Dad.  I look back now and wonder where I got the energy to work, be the volunteer that I was and played the role of mom...with dinner on the table every night, homework done, cup cakes baked as needed, and didn't pull my hair out.

Well, on Sunday morning, she is leaving.  When I think of it, it brings tears to my eyes.  I am not sure why because it is time.  This kid is 25.  She is in love and she knows everything.  She thinks different than me and she tells me the differences.  I shudder sometimes at how offended she becomes when I say things, but when I sit back and look at how the world has changed, I get it.

She is her own person.  She is an engineer and commands a much larger salary than I every could with my job. She is smart...can speak Spanish fluently, can pick up a book and read directions to anything and do it.  While she was home, she crocheted me a blanket, painted two pictures, hosted a Peruvian night with authentic food, and spoke twice at the high school and once at church about her life in the Peace Corps.   Even after all of that, she went crazy at home not having much to do, so she deep cleaned my house, ran with the dogs, and helped her father with Spanish.  She organized my pantry, watched movies with me and hugged me more than I feel comfortable with. Yes, she is so different from me.

I cannot believe that 25 years have gone by since she was born.  I learned so much from her and am still doing it.  I remember when we brought her home from the hospital and I was so in awe of that little bundle that was dependent on me for everything.  Now, when I walked in the door these last 40 days, dinner was made and she took care of me.  

She would notice how stressed I was with work and urge me to walk the dogs with her.  We would walk to the mailbox and talk about everything...and I could feel my tense muscles relax as we solved the world's problems.  When I had questions about how to lead or how to handle certain issues, her experience of being a female in a man's world helped me understand what I needed to do to move forward.  You know the saying that 'Youth is wasted on the young"?  Well I used to agree until now.  This kid is something...wise beyond her years and energetic and willing to take the chances that we old folks find crazy.

As you know if you read this blog, I work with the dying.  I sit beside people every day that are wondering if it is their last.  I have the honor to listen to them talk...and hear the regrets.  So many of us put things off so we can make more money to do those things we really want to do.  Then, we don't do them because we are too old, too tired, or get a diagnosis that makes us stay in, stay home, or crawl under a rock.

Maybe these millennials have it right.  Work less, make money for the time you are expected to and not a minute more.  Make memories, see the world, get to know the people in it and don't compare or make judgments because someone is or thinks different than you.  Love people, hug them longer and while you know you will see them again, will you?  Make sure you do it right the first time and don't wait until everything is perfect.  Why...because life is never perfect.  Life is life...so messy, imperfect, and amazing.

Those are the things that shook my writer's block.  Those are the things in the last 40 days that I have learned from my Christie.
I am so happy she came home and now so happy for her to go back to her love and her family in Peru. 

My hope is that all her dreams come true.  But, we know how that goes in this life of ours...so I say, traveling mercies, kid, love the journey, God is with you and come home safe and sound.

Remember, your loved no matter what!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,
Terry





Saturday, March 25, 2017

No regrets!!!

It's been quite awhile since I sat at my computer, candle lit, glass of pink wine poured and wrote.  Finally, I am here to say a few things...

The last four months have been a whirlwind.  Health issues, visits to Peru, Holidays, a visit to Phoenix for spring training and trying live my purpose has kept me overly busy.

My house is quiet tonight and I want to  share a few thoughts about what has been rattling around in my brain.

Time is flying don't you think?  My kids are young adults, my husband is going to be 56 years old...looking hard at 60, and my brother in law is going to be 70.  Where did the time go?  It went every day in the minutes and hours that I tried to get caught up.  Caught up for what?  To relax and sit around and admire my stuff?
To compare what I have to the next person?  I say no but what the heck is going on?

If I am brutally honest...probably.  I have come to learn that I am only good at living in the moment when I am sitting by a bedside with a person who's time is limited.  Then, I can sit and look at them and talk about whatever they want to and time goes by and I am in the moment.  Otherwise, I am driving in my car thinking about all the laundry that is sitting on the laundry room floor that needs to be put in the washer, or the cat litter box that needs to be scooped, the charting that is not completed or getting to the gym because I am too fat!

I am humbled because, so many times, I am introduced to family members that have come from points unknown because a person is dying.  The person is not responding to voice or touch, but lying there breathing and very comfortable.  I tell the family that they can still hear what they are saying and that they need to say everything they ever wanted to because this is it.  Then, in a quiet voice, they tell me they were going to come last year but things got really busy and the time got away from them and they really wished they came when the patient was going through treatment to let them know what they meant to them.  I always tear up and tell them it's okay and that at least they are here now and to tell them everything.

You see, we all get busy.  We need the next thing or our kids need the next thing.  Oh, and then there are college funds for the best college there is.  I learned my lesson, I thought,  with my mother as she went through chemo and then died.  I showed up long enough to take her home and let her die in the living room.  Regrets and wishes I could have gotten a do over...

Then, after my father had a massive heart attack and had no heart function, you would have thought it was pulling teeth to visit him.  Yeah, he was hard to get along with because he felt lousy and knew he was dying but you know, I had little kids and they were so smart in elementary school that they could't miss.  Regrets...you  betcha!

Now after those two episodes when I shoulda, coulda, woulda...I try to live my life without regrets when  it comes to those I love.  But, we are human and we are not perfect so we make mistakes.  It is also so much easier to think people are going to live longer than they do.  It helps us live with the fact that we love someone so much and it will hurt when they are gone.

But, we don't know what is going to happen tomorrow even though we plan it out.  Tomorrow is not guarenteed, never has been really. The one who leaves this earth or has the funny pain that takes us after awhile may be us.  Or it may be someone that you meant to call or meant to stop by but never got around to it. 


I have decided that I want to live with no regrets.  I want to make sure that the people that mean something to me know it.  I want to spend time with my husband, my kids and the family that want to spend time with me.  I don't want to show up to sit at a bedside and watch someone breathe for the last time....I want sit with them  with a glass of pink wine and laugh about all the good memories that were made in the time that I was living in the moment with them.

Because, as my sister says "there aren't too many shopping days until Christmas" and what she means is...life is too damn hard and short, so we need to forgive and forget, visit often, and remember the good times.  There will be bad times and suffering and before you know it, you will be old and have regrets.

So, live each day as if you don't have another one and love the people you love and maybe some you don't!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,
Terry



Sunday, February 12, 2017

The new law....

I have written about this before, the " Medical Aid-in-dying" law but I think it is worth having a perspective from someone who works every day with the "dying".  Also, as this idea has become a Colorado law it is on the mind of everyone who cares for dying folks.  I must say the opinion I voice is my own.....from my years of taking care of the dying...and while you may agree or disagree, here is some food for thought...


I work with the dying almost every day.  I want to state the obvious...being declared someone who is dying, and who has 6 months or less even if that is not how it goes, is difficult.  Do you see the understatement of that sentence?  Have you been a part of a person's life that received that edict?  What was it like?  Did you sit there in disbelief with the person or did you just shut down?  Did you want to cry or wake up from that terrible dream?   Were you or are you that person?

I have been there with a person who was told they were dying.  The person was in my family and it wasn't  the "6 months to a year talk", it was the old, "days to weeks" talk.  It was my worst nightmare and then to tell him over and over "yes" when he asked if the doctor just told him he was really going to die.  Have you been privileged to be with a person that was hearing that about themselves or a loved one?  Count yourself lucky if you haven't had to live through that...


In my family, it was exactly that...days to a week.  He was home just a week and he died.  The new law would not have applied to him even if he wanted to take the pills.  He couldn't have given them to himself and that is part of this law.  You have to be able to administer them to yourself.  Research says that many people get the pills and don't take them.  The pills are wasted and the patient experiences a "normal" dying process.

I think about these folks I care for all the time.  I have seen patients that have been able to continue as usual knowing they were in their last days and I have had folks that cannot.  Some fall into a deep depression and living with the knowing is much harder than dying. Some do very well and the only fear is the end and how it will go...  

 Dying people want control.  They have ridden the roller coaster of treatment, feeling ill from it, questioning if it is helping or hurting them more...then worrying about every ache and pain and wondering if it's the cancer.  Many of the patients I care for in hospice are ready to get off the roller coaster.  They are ready to be in control of what they can.  They understand they have a terminal diagnosis.  They know they are going to die and all they really want is some control or semblance of control of the suffering they perceive at the end.  Most folks come to terms with leaving this earth, they just don't want to suffer.  

Sadly, I have been part of suffering at the end of life.   The suffering can come from pain, inability to breathe easy, inability  to care for oneself, or the disbelief that they are leaving and cannot do anything about it.  It can come from leaving too early...little kids that they won't be able to see grow up, or a grandchild in the womb of a child of their own that they will not meet.  I have sat with these people, tried to plan for it, explained the medications to use, and prayed.  Sometimes there is no solution for them but leaving this earth.  The pain is too great.  I believe that people experience suffering in different ways and having a few pills on the beside table to put an end to it gives a person a sense of control to gauge when enough is enough.  

Don't get me wrong, I am a advocate for hospice care.  I have experienced it with my family members and have cared for many a dying person.  I have watched love permeate every nook and cranny of a house while the adult children loved their parents into heaven.  I have seen husbands care for their elderly wives with such tenderness that I could not speak.  I have seen wives climb into bed to hold their husband for their last earthly breath and not be able to let go once they are gone.  That time at home near the end is holy and profound.   If hospice care is nothing, it is genuine, authentic love in action.  It is also soul shaking and one of the most difficult times that this life gives.  I can say that it is always an honor and a privilege to help people at such a difficult, intimate time.  Most families are so comforted by the love they gave and received during those difficult times.

BUT...

There are also times when a disease process has been lengthy and the dying process is tearing a family apart.  The patient is ready, he or she is done, and wants to go.  They have thought deeply and profoundly about all the ramifications of leaving in this way and have made the choice.  They have discussed it with their family and have made the decision to get the medication.  I am sure it would not be easy to do or to decide to do.  Deciding to stop treatment and receive comfort care is not easy and it takes courage.  Think about the courage it will take for the person to swallow the pills that will permanently close their eyes...

Some people who are against this measure say that it is "playing God" and we are not supposed to do that.  I think it is how you look at all of these things...some folks say that stopping treatment for cancer when all of the treatment has stopped working is "playing God."

Thankfully,  I will not be making the decision for the folks I care for.  They will make it and I will honor the decision and give them all the support and the knowledge I have to help relieve their suffering.  I will sit beside the bed and hold their hand and listen, and I will not judge. I will help love them out of this world, and support their family, whatever they may decide.

And, I am more than happy to sit with God when it is my time and explain why I elected to support folks that were suffering and want to use the law instead of talk them out of it.   I will take responsibilities for my "sins" and hope for the best.

Just think about it...

We'll tawk soon, 
I love you all,
Terry

  






  

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Life lessons...

I admitted him almost a year ago.  He was admitted into hospice because he didn't want to go to the hospital and something was going on that wasn't good.  The hospital didn't agree with him and every time he went in, he became confused and needed medications that didn't make him less confused.  He just wanted to stay home and let the chips fall where they may...

I knew it was going to be a long time before he left us and let his wife know.  This may be a long haul, I said, and as he gets sicker, things get harder.  She thought she understood but appreciated the information and wanted to do the best she could.  

We made it through two more birthdays and two more anniversaries...the 63rd and 64th.  It was clear last week that we had finally come to the crossroads of his life.  He was fading...

Throughout the last year, she would sit by his bedside and read to him or watch TV or a movie.  She would tuck him in at night and then sleep with an ear open to hear him "sing-song" her name.  The calling out singing her name came during the last few months when he really wanted her close...wanted to hear her voice and have her in the room.

Sometimes, when I showed up, he would call out for her and she would say, "he has been doing this all day and then when I go to him, he doesn't need anything."  I always thought to myself...he loves her so much after all of these years and just having her close by gives him comfort.

I would visit twice a week and fell in  love these two people.  We became attached and I was invited for multiple dinners, cups of coffee and birthdays and anniversaries.  If I said no, on my next visit would be the cake saved for me.  I know the boundaries became blurred but I was getting so much more from knowing and caring for them than I could give and isn't that what life is about?


Most visits, we talked about how thankful we were that he didn't have much pain and how sometimes he wouldn't sleep...how he called for her in the night.  I told her I thought he just wanted her close because she was his comfort.  I would often marvel that they were married for 60 + years  and ask her all the secrets.

As the year went on, my entrance into the house became predictable.  I would call out my standard, "hello, it's Terry the nurse" and walk into his room, gently say hello and kiss him on the forehead.  We would talk of what was new, if he was in pain and what his "girl" was doing.  One of the last times I saw him, I told him he looked "extra handsome" and he told me that he couldn't help it.  I agreed with him...he couldn't help it.

Their 64th wedding anniversary passed a few weeks ago.  I arrived to see him all dressed, with his hair slicked back and his "getting out of bed" clothes on.  I asked his wife what was up and she told me it was their 64th anniversary and they had friends coming over to have lunch.  I walked in singing, "Happy anniversary, baby" and he smiled.  While I was asking him the usual questions, she gently rubbed his forehead and bent down and gave him a kiss.  Then she jokingly asked him how many years they were married.  It took a long time for him to answer and then he said, "well...64." I was amazed and she beamed.

He dozed off after a while and I went to the kitchen table and she offered me coffee and asked me if I was in a rush.  I decided I wasn't and out came the wedding album.  I sat and looked at page after page of these two young and beautiful kids that started a life 64 years before.  She told me the stories of their courtship and the ups and downs and how they ended up here.  She had a sparkle in her eye that made her look like that girl in the picture again.

Early last week, as I said, he began to sleep much more and was losing his awareness.  The time, I tell families, " that they have one foot on earth and the other in heaven" and the end is getting closer. These times are when, as a nurse, I visit every day to make sure the family feels supported and strong as they watch their loved one fade.  It is a holy and tender time for the family.

On Wednesday, it was apparent.  He was quiet and comfortable but not responding.  His wife and I sat at the table with our coffee and talked.  We reviewed the plan and all the "nursey" things that I have to do to make sure things go smoothly.  

We sat quietly for a few minutes and I felt the tears well up in my eyes.  I began to tell her how honored I was to stand beside her as she took such good care of her husband.  I was thinking about how much I learned from her over this year about what an enduring love looks like and how to keep going when you're tired.  I watched her keep her grown family involved with letters and cards and visits and care for them too.  She was an amazing example of how to care for a loved one for the long haul.  She handed me a tissue and then took one for herself.  She thanked me for helping her think that she could care for him at home even when she was tired.  She thanked me for continuing to show up and when he didn't need care...spend time with her.  By the end of the visit, we were both feeling so lucky in this difficult and predictable time of life.

He died this weekend after "a long illness."  When I left late Friday afternoon, I told her it was going to be this weekend.  She sat close, held his hand and read to him.  She said she talked to him and thanked him for all the years and life they lived together.  She told him she wouldn't have picked anyone else.  Finally, as she sat, she said she noticed that his breathing had changed and wondered what was going on.  Then, she said, it was so quiet and he just didn't take another breath.  She watched him for a long time after to make sure what she thought was right and then thanked God that she had the privilege of being there and holding him close up until his last breath.

I arrived in the morning to coffee and muffins and breakfast for me.  She was so thankful for his quiet and peaceful passing as well as the intimacy of being with him alone like the beginning of their 64 years together.  It was heartbreaking and joyful at the same time.

I walked into the room and he was gone.  I placed my stethoscope on his chest, kissed his forehead, like I always did, and thanked him for letting me be a part his life.  I made the phone calls and sat with his wife.  I sat quietly while the world and her friends got news of his passing.  

I watched her tell the story with peace and comfort as she knew she did the very best for this man that she could. I reflected over our time together this last  year and hoped that I would  to be able to do the same thing for my husband should I be in the same position.  

64 years of marriage...of love.    From the stories of their life together, it was not an easy love all the time...but it was an enduring love that lasted through it all...and I got to learn and watch and that in the last year. 

So again, I am thankful to have been a part of an amazing journey of what is good, right and holy.  

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,
Terry


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Time...

I have been thinking about time, that we have 1440 minutes in the day but there are people who seem to have less time than others.  There is no such thing as less time than others in a day...although when I was raising kids, I felt like I had less than other folks.

So now, I think about time in a life.  I had less time with my mother and less time with my father in this life.  My sister had less time with her son and less time with her husband than she ever wanted.  So then, if you look time from that standpoint, some people have more time than others.

Whats the rub?  Well, we don't know who will have more and who will have less.  We just don't know who will leave earth too soon or who will leave earth well after they were ready to leave.  That's the rub.

That brings me to those who kinda know that time is running out.  I mean, in my brain, I think my time is running out because I am 52 and the years ahead are not guaranteed.  I think about when I was younger and thought that I had so many years ahead to do the things I wanted to do that I felt like it was okay to put it off.  But now, at 52....thinking about my mother leaving at 72 and my brother in law at 59...well then, time is becoming more precious.

I see it everyday in a different way.  I see my patients who have that dreaded diagnosis and have decided they are done with treatment or they have been told that there is no other treatment to have.  They have been given the ticking clock of life and they know time is running out.  

I care for two patient's that are very frank about what is going on.  Most visits, they tell me they are dying and just don't want to suffer.  I had the honor of sitting with one of my patient's for a couple of hours the other day.  Her husband needed to go to town but would not leave her alone.  I looked at my schedule and decided it would be fine to sit on her couch and visit for an extended time...to understand her better and to know how else I can help this family.  At first, we were quiet and watched the Olympics but then she started to talk.  "I know I'm dying, and I'm not afraid, really...." she said.  I just sat and waited..." I just don't want to suffer, is all.  I have pain now and it is okay but I just don't want to suffer."  After waiting what felt like 5 minutes, I asked her what suffering looked like to her...and she slowly answered.  " I don't want to be in bed awake with pain and trouble breathing...If I have to be in bed full time, I want to sleep and be comfortable." 

I agreed and told her that makes total sense to me.   Then I told her how I have witnessed death without suffering and told her exactly how we would keep her comfortable and how we would support her husband.  We finished our conversation and turned toward the Olympics again.  

Her husband called 10 times (no lie) to check on her.  He is her caregiver, her one and only and he will be beside her to the end.  He has put off all of his hopes and dreams, jobs and plans and will stay by her side.  When she got her diagnosis, they made the plan and have stuck with it.  

There are other situations that aren't so cut and dry.  Time is used up with work, caring for families, and doing the things they need to get done.  Or, the dying person feels like a burden and doesn't communicate how things are going.  I have been a spectator in situations like that too.

Jim tells me I have a warped perspective on life and living.  I look at death and think that for whomever is dying...it is "showtime" for the family.  This is it, no do-overs, no way to wish things were different and time is going to move forward and your mother is going to decline and die whether you are with her or finishing the big project on your job.  I remember telling my patient one day last month as she said told me her daughter just got this job that she really wanted and could not come to care for her, "  She is going to get tons of jobs, she's young but she only has one mother...."

Listen, I made a ton of mistakes in that area.  I was too busy while my mother went to chemo and radiation for lung cancer.  I wasn't there...I didn't rub her back while she was vomiting and I didn't get the chance to take her to lunch when she felt good.  I was there when she was dying in the living room, fairly unresponsive but comfortable.  But I wasn't there...I regret that so much you have no idea.  

I could claim that I had two little kids and a job, that they probably wouldn't give me off, that the kids would have been pulled out of preschool, that we didn't have the money...I could claim all of that because it was true.  But you know what, after almost 20 years, I wish I was there.  I do.  I wish I would have loaded up Christie and Mac and took them to Florida and sat on the couch and listened to her complain.  I wish I would have had her yell at my kids because that's what she did.  But again, as my kids used to say, "wishes are life what ifs and they don't happen."  

So you can't get back that time.  I can't and you can't.  But what we can do is look forward knowing that we can use the time we have better.  Learn from our mistakes and make sure that if  you claim that something means a lot to you...you are spending your precious time on that...

I didn't have the sense when I was 32 to know that I would be without both parents at 41 years old...that my kids would be without grandparents.  I do have the sense now to gently help my patients and families understand how lucky they have to be here together at advanced ages, and what an honor it is to be there for your parents when it is there time.  I tell them what an example of love and devotion it is for their kids to watch.  

We all get old, we all die...we all get 1440 minutes in the day.  Now, it is up to us to decide what is important and spend as much time on that because when all is said and done, we don't get do overs and we can wish things were different but often that is not helpful.

Think back to your kids and how they were little and how for most of us, they are big.  That is what is happening to our parents and to us and when it is my time...I can only hope my kids are hanging out by my hospital bed telling stories of the good family times while my morphine keeps me quiet and comfortable.  That is my wish...but I have time to at least do that for others right now with my time!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,
Terry

Monday, August 15, 2016

The life of a Hospice Nurse...

I sat in her living room and we talked.  She had just woken up from a nap.  The medication for pain makes her sleepy at times.  I asked her if she still had pain and she said she did not.  I looked around the living room and took stock of the furniture...a floral covered couch, some older chairs and end tables and coffee tables from the 70's.  It reminded me of my mother and what our living room looked like.

I gazed at this woman who I have fallen in love with.  She is old and dying but at the same time, she is everything I want to be when I get old.  She fiercely loves her children and loved her husband before he passed away.  She is smart and worldly and kind...so kind.  She is a quick wit and she is very compassionate and most of all, understanding.  That is just the beginning of this woman that I have the honor of caring for as she leaves this world.

We talked about life and kids and getting ready.  She gently rubbed her cheek and talked about how hard it was on her to watch her children watch her decline... and how she wanted to spare them of that.  We talked of how hard life is and how blessed she has been to have the time she has had.  But, we agreed,  to stay and worry about pain and fatigue and to feel like you are not living this life...is no life at all.

We cried...because it is time to leave but it doesn't make leaving any easier.  Then we talked about how it does.  How in many ways she is ready to go...but in other ways she is not.

I left the house thinking about how lucky I am to be with her at this time and how I can make sure she is taken care of beautifully....as if she was my mother...

Then I got in my car, took a deep breath and went to the next house.

That is the job of a Hospice nurse....

I am so lucky to be able to be with this amazing woman at this time in her life.

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,
Terry



Sunday, June 26, 2016

A week or two in the life...

It' been an interesting last two weeks in this life.  If you  have a minute, I'd like to tell you about it...

Last week, we had the privilege to drive to Mexico and build a house.   I know you've heard this story before but this one is worth hearing.  Another perspective on life...

This trip was hot...probably 105 degrees daily and the sweat from manual labor made me a little gritchy.  As the week went on and the house was coming together, I noticed that the father of the family, while with us, wasn't helping.  That is an odd occurrence.  When we start building in Mexico, there is no shortage of help from the males in the family...they are helping and having a part in making the house "their" home.  This father was always helpful but for the most part, sat in the shade and watched.

Because I have been on a number of builds, I started to wonder if there was something going on.  The last day, after an amazing lunch they made for us served sitting under pop up tents with cold coca-cola with ice, I got my answer.

Jim, my husband, after lunch wandered over to the family and sat down.  In his best Spanglish, he began to talk to the family and I noticed they were laughing and very comfortable.  I pulled up a chair and joined them and began to try to communicate.  Jim walked away and I was left to sit with them.  The father, Jose', had lived in the US and could speak some english and I could fake a little spanish so we were golden.  After spending a few minutes making small talk, Olivia, Jose's wife, began to talk to Jose'.  Best I could understand, she asked him to tell me why he was so thankful for a new home.  Finally, he looked at her and smiled and began to talk to me.  

He spoke  English very slowly and at first, I thought it was because he was really struggling with the language.  As I looked closer, he was choking back tears.  Around Christmas, he wasn't feeling well and went to the emergency room.  After some rudimentary tests, they told him to go home and get his affairs together because he was going to die.   He was diagnosed with  Lymphoma and he had a week to months.  All he could think about was taking care of his family and that included somewhere for them to live.  At that time, and still today, they were living with his brother and his family in a small place.   While thankful for housing, it was still many family members in a really small place that wasn't his own.   As he thought about getting his affairs in order, he wanted to be able to leave them with a roof over their heads.

Then, upon hearing of his illness, a friend of the family suggested that they apply for a house through Casas por Cristo.  They applied and usually it takes a year to two to be approved for a home.  This family waited about 6 months and a house was to be built. 

Now this "home" that I refer to is small.  It is about 300sq feet, has a door with a lock, three windows, three light sockets, a concrete floor.  It translates into two bedrooms and a larger room to be whatever the family wants it to be.  There is no bathroom or kitchen or plumbing for that matter.  You get the picture, nothing fancy.




But to a family that has lived in places that are made of wood pallets and cardboard and some plastic to try to keep out rain...this is a palace.  And for a man who is looking at the end of his life with a wife and two teenagers with nowhere to live...this is a mansion. 

How would you feel if you were in need and a group of 15 whom you've never met showed up to help?   And would you be able to sit and watch these strangers with sweat dripping off of them everywhere build you a home and ask for nothing in return?  Could you just be thankful?  I am not sure I could but I hope that if I am ever in those shoes, I could accept the gift and be thankful.

Before we say goodbye, we dedicate the house to the family and we offer prayers and good wishes for them in their new home.  We pass the keys and hold them in our hands for a bright future.  Then after that, it's the family's turn.  As we stood, the story came out and we all were so thankful that we could help this family.   Needless to say, there wasn't a dry eye...

We drove 14 hours home on Saturday and it was difficult.  If you wanna know the truth, I hate the drive and I complained the whole time.  Actually, early in the build, I was named the "designated complainer" because I never shut my mouth!

Monday was a new day and it was time to get back to work.  Some of my patients had some issues while I was gone and I was happy to come back to the cool mountains and deal with them.

I have a couple that have been married for 65 years and celebrated while I was gone.  They had a party and all the family showed.  It was a joyous time.  

Sometimes, after a big holiday or celebration, folks who are dying decide it is okay to go and begin to decline.  This is what happened with this couple.  In the mean time, the husband was having some more issues with his health and staying on his feet.  He was starting to fall and needs to go to rehab.  The wheels were put in motion for that to happen and  Tuesday, it was going to be the conversation of the day...sending him to rehab for a tune up.

It was a beautiful day on Tuesday and we just had a hospital bed delivered to his wife.  She was quiet and comfortable and obviously declining.  He was sitting on the couch with his coffee reading a book.  It was very peaceful and honestly, lovely.

My job was to convince him that he needed to go to rehab and needed to get stronger and safer at home.  I sat next to him and held his hand and said nothing.  Frankly, I didn't know what to say and I thought I knew what he was going to say...

Finally, I started the conversation asking him how he felt and letting him know that we were all worried about him.  He looked me straight in the eye and asked me how his girl was doing and if this was "it".  I gently told him that I think her time is coming and it will be soon but not today.  I told him we were going to keep her very comfortable and that she would have no pain or anxiety as she slept.  He teared up and choked out a sob...then told me he wasn't going to rehab right now.  He had been with her 65 years and rehab could wait while he saw his girl off this earth.  Then, he got quiet and stroked my arm thanking me for understanding.  Needless to say, I teared up and accepted the thanks.

Yesterday, almost a week after we watched her begin her decline, she peacefully left this earth in the bed in the sunny living room surrounded by her husband of 65 years and her daughter.  She was quiet and comfortable and right where she needed to be and just how it needed to be.    When I arrived to take care of them, I sat with the husband and told him what a great job he did caring for her until the end.  He teared up again and choked back a sob and struggled to say, "I hope so...."  

We all make decisions in life and after they are made, we hope they are the right ones.  Sometimes we never know they are the right ones until years later and sometimes we know right away.  We have to just decide and then go with the flow.

One decision that I know is right 100% of the time is to love and serve others.  I know it's right because I never feel such peace in my heart as when I am in the middle of things like that.  Does that mean you have to drive 14 hours in the car and then endure the heat and try to speak spanish?  Nope...it means, look at your life and when you see a gap somewhere, fill it.  If it is stuffing envelopes for a cause you think alot of...do it.  If you grown child needs your help with your grandkids....do it.  Whatever you do is good, right and holy if it is out of a giving and loving heart...and I made the rule that you can even complain!!!

As we watch our world crumbling and people become more afraid of each other...the only thing that we can do that is easy...is to love and serve.

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,
Terry