Next Sunday, at this time, I will be in Guatemala with my three children and 8 other fellow seekers. We are going to build a house for a family there and see what is to be seen and for me, feel the spirit. I am so excited that I can't see straight. I get to go to another country and change a family's life in a profound way.
Changing life in a profound way for someone with nothing in return...that's my take on these trips. As I have said in posts before this, I don't want to come in on my high horse and show these folks about Americans...how to be Americans and what we think we do better. I would argue that in the two countries that I think are the poorest, they are also the most loving and caring to each other and their families. I always leave those places thinking that while they don't have the things I have, they sure have the love of family and friends.
This trip is different though. I am going with a group of high school and college age kids...and one other adult. They are all so smart, and so bright and so aware of each other. They come from different backgrounds, religions, spiritual beliefs yet they all agree on one thing...that to change the world, it must be done by them, one act at a time. They all study different things...engineering, international affairs, how to survive in high school, and some are exploring life without college...yet they all have a servant heart cultivated in those different backgrounds. I am going to learn so much from them.
I think adults like me get afraid of doing the radical things that need to be done to change the world. We get stuck...we go to the gym, go to work and make dinner...sometimes not even noticing the hurting in our path. It seems easier to me to go to a third world country to see the need then shut the voices in my head in Conifer and stop and help. Sound familiar to anyone?
Today was a day I never want to relive again. Early this morning, I got a call that scared the life out of me and then had me counting my blessings. Everyone is fine, no one was hurt and everything that was lost is replaceable except for a sense of safety. As I sat in church and thought about the "what if's" of the day, I listened to the sermon, about "accompaniment" or meeting someone where they are and walking with them. It stopped me in my tracks and humbled me because that is what I try to do with my patients...to meet them where they are and be with them until the end.
I drove to Boulder after church to check on my boy thinking about what to say, how to comfort him and help him understand that this episode over and he could be safe again. I couldn't find the words to make it better but thought about doing things to accompany him...to walk with him in the fear and meet him there. We went back to the scary place and walked and talked. I could tell he was okay but not okay and didn't want to dwell on the episode. I could also tell that he was getting stronger and more angry as we walked. Sometimes anger is a healing thing...and I think today it was.
As we got in the car and headed down the mountain, I talked about our trip and how we get to serve a family with no home and be together and all this will work itself out. I told him that things are replaceable but people and relationships are not and he did the right thing, that I was and am very proud of who he is and that none of this is fair.
Sometimes I get full of myself when I think about how I serve people and how lucky they are to have me...today, I realized that no amount of service or kindness or trying to be a good person can ward away the difficulties of life. There is no magic and there is no amount of money that can make things better when they are not better. What there are in this life to make things better is relationships and love and accompaniment...someone who is willing to meet you where you are, be it homeless, angry, poor, tired, or scared and show love to you right there.
I am lucky, I am safe and my kids are too. My kids and our group going to spend Thanksgiving week in Central America counting our blessings loving the folks there. I just hope they can find it in there hearts to accompany us...meet us where we are and love us anyway!
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,
Saturday, November 9, 2013
I had planned on sleeping in this morning...no patients to go visit early, no plans until noon. But, as usual, the other occupants in my house had plans and they weren't conducive to staying in bed. So, I got up.
Sometimes, actually most of the time, sleep offers me an escape from what I am thinking about. I can run from my worries, my hopes and dreams and failures.
Because the holidays are coming upon us, things get busy for me. People want to be home during the holidays, they want to be feeling better and I am not sure why, but they decide they are ready to change the focus of life from cure to comfort and family time.
The days last week were long and unsure as I worked with a family to control symptoms, understand things are happening and helping them understand the situation. The daily visits were filled with tears and "whys" and "what if we did things differently"...the general wishes of a family who doesn't want their loved one to be leaving them. I found myself praying as I drove...for the right words, for the patience to listen, for the family to find comfort and peace with the rest of the precious time.
There are weeks when I cannot understand what else there is to do other than sit at the kitchen counter, drink coffee and listen. I feel as though I have said it all and to repeat those directions...it just doesn't seem like the right thing to do. Many times, I write it all down on a piece of computer paper...how to give medications, what to check for, what do when things happen, and at the bottom, I leave my cell and home number and tell them to call me. As ineffective as that seems...that is all I have for a family that is hurting so much that they can't think. This was a week like that...
Last night, I went home and sat on my couch...didn't say much, but just sat and thought. I thought about this family, about hearing the stories over coffee, about the good days and the bad days and how I wish for clarity as this family negotiates what is turning into the new normal.
My husband asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner and I jumped at the offer...I felt way too emotionally exhausted to cook and the thought of a margarita sounded like heaven. As we drove to the restaurant, he asked me about my week and I felt the tears spring to my eyes...some weeks, doing this kind of work is so hard. As meaningful and special as it is, some weeks, I feel woefully unprepared to be so intimately connected to families at such a difficult time in their lives...and even though I am doing so much to help and comfort them...it isn't enough.
Jim and I sat and made small talk...me trying to talk about something other than death, dying and the kids. They brought out my giant margarita and I took my sip. It was what I think they are going to taste like in heaven. I thought of my patient and family and was hoping they were having a relaxing time together as well.
It was a nice moment in time and I was happy to have it.
A few minutes later, my cell phone rang and it was one of my co-workers. She called me to tell me that she just left that family's home and they had the sweetest time together. They had just done a video and spent three hours reminiscing about the beautiful, messy, perfect yet imperfect life that they all built together. She said there were tears and belly laughs and time spent in the bedroom, all close, all talking and all remembering what they have. Once again, tears sprang to my eyes as I listened to this co-angel-worker that took time on her Friday night to help them take another step in the journey.
I hung up with her, apologized to my husband for being rude and then told him to story...
I am convinced that one day we will all be in the shoes of that family, or we have been once and may have to be again. I know it will be hard, it is hard and we all get through it in our own way. But, as I always say...if we, any of us, can make that journey a little easier, a little less harsh, then we have made a difference to another person.
That, my friends is what life is about...
We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,