Saturday, December 7, 2013

Thoughts on cheeky babies, acceptance and dying in your love's arms...

We flew from Denver on Sunday before Thanksgiving and on Monday, we set out to work. We met the family that we were building for on paper but not face to face.  On Monday, when Lilian and baby Carlos showed up at the work site, our group stopped and met our new friend.  She was very quiet and smiley...and I could tell she felt uncomfortable with us.

The next thing I noticed was how baby Carlos was in a sling of sorts, close to his mothers heart at all times.  He was kind of a shy little guy it seemed and to be with her, almost always skin to skin made him more comfortable...even happy.  I thought about my kids, now 21, 19 and 17 on the trip with me and what a pleasure it was to carry them around when they were little...to have them close to my heart.  Lilian was no different than me when I was a young mother...but of course, she was.

She and her husband and baby didn't have a house.  They lived in a shack of sorts, and slept on the floor.  I asked her, through a translator, where she and baby Carlos slept and she pointed to the floor and when I pressed her, she said Carlos slept in the sling on her.  Again, sleeping with his momma and close to her heart. 

While I can't say if that is the most comfortable for her, I can say that I envy that closeness.  My three went into a crib across the hall in a warm house that kept out the elements. 

The building, the people and the acceptance and love that we received from the Guatemalan families was wonderful.  A perfect way to spend a thanksgiving week.

When we arrived home to the US on Saturday, I couldn't stop thinking about the good and the bad of the trip.  The water isn't drinkable really, and the plumbing is not good enough to flush toilet paper...the families, a lot of them, live in makeshift shacks and food is scarce most of the time.  There is no getting around it...they are very poor. 

But, I also think they are very rich.  It is obvious that the families adore each other, they seem to accept lives with little and they smile and laugh harder than I have seen in a long time.  The kids run the streets in dirty clothes with runny noses...and are squealing with delight.  Silly games are the best, like an old lady chasing them or sneaking up on them or just throwing them in the air. Momma's nurse their babies when they are hungry and don't have to hide or go into a bathroom to do it.  It is evident that there is a joy in living simply and living in acceptance.

Interesting thought really...acceptance.  To live your life as it is...not to wish it was different or look at other folks and wish you had their lives.  I don't think it's giving up on wanting things to be different...but when you know that the life you have is the life you have...you live it the best way you can...

I admitted a lady on Tuesday that was battling breast cancer since 2002.  It had come back and she was not going to battle it this time. She was going to accept the diagnosis and go on.  We talked for a long time about her battle and her decision and what she was to do now...live as she wants, eat what she wants, take as much medication for comfort as she needs all with the knowing that she is not going to be here with us very long.  Her husband, on the other hand, had some trouble with acceptance.  He wanted her to try another round of chemo, of radiation, or whatever she could do to stay alive and fight...to stay here a little longer.  It was a poignant few minutes when she explained that she was not willing to endure the side effects of the chemo and radiation to put off what eventually is.  With tears in his eyes, and his hand on her knee, he told her how much she meant to him and how he really didn't want her to leave him alone but...it was her decision and he supported her.  It was his time for acceptance.

He called me Thursday morning saying he thought she was gone.  I arrived and confirmed his worst fear.  She was gone.  She had decided she was done, told him before bed night before that she loved him and always would, and went to sleep.  When she woke in the morning, she sat up and died in his arms.  She died in the arms of the man she loved for 35 years and the man who didn't want to let her go.  The sadness and grief of this man was overwhelming.

As we sat and drank coffee in their living room, he and I talked about acceptance...about as much as we wish things to be different, it is the way it is.  He talked about his girl and how he knew she was done...how she had decided that Monday that enough was enough. He recounted how she told the doctor as much when she named a few more treatments she could try.  She was done and as sad as she was to leave him,  he took comfort in the fact that she died in his arms and that he could love her so faithfully until the end.  I took comfort in that too.

Life is never easy...really.  You plan things and they fall through, you get that phone call that changes everything...you sit in a doctor's office faced with the choice of treatment or not.   Those are things that everyone will experience in their lifetime and the things that bring you to your knees.

I guess it's all in the expectations.  If you think that you will have a life without suffering or pain...you probably will be disappointed, even humbled.  But, if you understand that this life comes with pain, sadness and suffering and figure that you can accept that, do the best you can...you can get through it. We are all going to have things that bring us to our knees, be it a terminal disease, being poor and sleeping on the floor, or getting the pain and honor of having the love of your life die in your arms whether you are ready or not...

There is no question that life will be rich with emotion...sadness, joy...probably both.  But to ride that emotion, accept it, and try to slog through the sadness, cherish the joy...that's what makes it a life and for the strength to do that, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy those special times with your gang...the joy and even the sadness.  Cherish those opportunities to love them through it all...
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,


Elizabeth said...

I've missed you for this exact reason: this post. So beautiful. Thank you. And Happy Thanksgiving and holidays to you!

Anonymous said...

Wow, you don't know me and I don't know you and it matters not one bit. This is quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I don't know how you do what you do and then do more but you do. This touched me deeply. Thank you.

Ms. Moon said...

I think this is the best thing you have written. Truly, Terry. Thank you for it. Thank you for sharing what you are learning, what you know, what you feel and how to accept.

Angella said...

Ms. Moon sent me here and I am grateful she did. And now I am sobbing with love and pain for that man who did not want his love to leave, but who held her as she did and now must accept what is. I am humbled by your words here, and strengthened too. I might be poor. But I am rich too. Thank you.

Denise Emanuel Clemen said...

You are doing good work. I thank you for it. If my mother gets to the point of needing hospice, I hope we are blessed with someone like you.

beth coyote said...

This is beautiful. I'm a midwife so I usually see the other side of the journey...except when I don't. Thank you for posting this.

Beth in Seattle