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 me...my 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 think...is 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 house...to 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 family...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 job...my calling...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 well...it'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 hard...motorcycles, 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 year...at 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 plan...to do whatever it took to love each other and the patient through the illness to the end of life...is 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,

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sometimes the tears just come...

For the people who know me or think they know me, I appear strong and even tough.  I am intimidating and as I lose my hearing, much louder than I should be.  Let's face it, I can be hard to be around.  

But often, when I walk into a home where there is suffering, whether it is due to physical pain or emotional pain, I try to slow down, be quiet and be comforting.  I pour out my energy in whatever way a family needs it and when it's over...I am so glad I did.  

Usually, a few days later, the tears come.  

On the first day after I have lost a patient, I am agitated and unsettled.  The world seems a little blurry and I think of the family.  I usually check in with a text or a phone call but I can tell in my heart that I want it to go away...like it was a dream that this person is gone and another family must grieve.  Usually when I come home from work, I snap at my husband...about the stupidest of things...dishes not done, house not staightened up, cat box unsifted.  After all this time, he understands...and offers me food, wine or to sit on the couch and listen to how things went.  I always seem to take him up on the food and the wine but don't always talk about the experience...lest I begin to feel too much too soon.

The next work day, I go back...seeing patients and offering comfort and plans for them.  I never mention my losses and soldier on.  It actually helps me to know that there are still folks that I could help...families that need me and I can respond...so I keep going.  Those after days are hard, not hard in the way a family member feels it when they lose someone but hard in a tender, mushy way.  Hard because although this is a job, it is so much more, and hard because I have a ring side seat to broken hearted people every day.  

When we walk into our office, it is always apparent when one of our nurses spent the night with a family at a death.  We look exhausted, disheveled usually as the phone rings and we throw on our yoga pants and sweatshirt, wash our faces and run out of the house.  When the sun comes up and the goodbyes are said,  we go home, shower and start the day over with the living.

That's how my weekend was...a long night and then a long day with a family.  It was exactly how it was supposed to be.  I checked in on Monday and they were doing the things all families do...gather in and figure out how to go on.  So that's what I did.  I checked on my patients, called doctors, rejoiced when pain medications worked, told funny stories and drove lots of miles.  

Then came today.  I woke up unsettled and went to the gym.  I was so pleased to be back exercising after my injured back and thought that the physical activity would soothe me.  It did for most of the day until I got home.  I sat on the couch and started thinking...about the weekend, about the family and the grief, about how tired my soul felt.  I decided to look at facebook and try to enjoy everyones snapshots of the good life but saw the turmoil over the school board.  I just became more agitated.  All the while, willing myself not to start the tears that always eventually come.

I begrudgingly made dinner and visited with my Howie.  Every time he had a different opinion than me, I bristled angrily.   It wasn't him, it was me.

Then, as I held it together through putting the dinner on the table and reciting our dinner prayer...Jim looked over at me and asked me what was wrong.   "Are you okay," he asked, "You seem like you are upset."  That was all it took...I blinked back my tears and chewed my chicken trying to pull myself together.  I am stronger than this I thought and I'm not that sad anyway...it's my job...but the tears flowed.  

I am sad and I guess it's a good thing to let it go.  It was hard and is hard to watch families care for the people they love and while they get to be at home in the end, being loved...it is heartbreaking.  As much as I put my wall up and "soldier on"  my heart becomes softer,  mushier and the armor of my protection cracks.  I almost always cry with families but not like I want to...I want to wail with the them for the pain that they are feeling and are going to feel as time goes on.  But I can't and I don't.

 So I wait a few days and snap at my husband and son, and then when it looks like I've made it through without the tears...they flow and surprise me with the intensity and depth of the sadness. Then,as they subside I can feel the healing in the corner of my soul so I can go on and care again.

You see, sometimes, I think I am superhuman.  I can care for the dying, not sleep much, care for my family and anyone else who will have me and just go on.  Sometimes I even challenge my 6'1" son to a wrestling match because I think I can take him..."Come on Howie, you wanna go?" 

But we are all human, not superhuman.  We can do many things but not at once and everyone becomes tired and sad when confronted with lifes challenges.  Even the ones that do it as a job, a ministry or their life's calling.  We are all human and so sometimes the tears just come...

Thanks for the peace the writing gives me on days like this and for the folks that read it...

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I want to protect the kids...

I am sure with the title and all that is going on in our city, you thought that this blog would be about free speech and censorship and protecting our rights.  I guess, in a way, it is...

This has been a banner week for admissions to hospice care.  One on Monday, one on Tuesday and one on Wednesday...and another possible tomorrow.  When I admit a person to hospice care, it means that they have been told that they have less than 6 months to live with the health problem they have been dealing with.  For some it means they can settle down and just be...stop the fight and turn to living the best way they know how.  Usually it means new medications that they can take as they need and an end to the pain that has been part of their lives since they found out they were sick.

The patient that I admitted earlier in the week has been very sick for a long time...not eating, not doing day to day life and just lying in the bed trying to recover from the chemo side effects that were sapping his energy.  When it was time to see if the chemo was working, the scans showed that it was not...the cancer was still there and bigger than before.  The doctor said those words that no one ever wants to hear..."I think it's time for hospice" and they called me.

When I sat at the kitchen table explaining what we do and how we do it, the patient politely excused himself and went to lay down.  He denied pain but the body language and look on his face told me different.  I could tell he was in pain but it was hard to discern where the physical pain ended and the emotional pain started.  It was just easier to lay down and try to sleep.

After he went to bed, the wife and I talked about the family...kids, how many and what the plan is for them to come and see their dad. The wife was hesitant and wanted to make sure the kids didn't have to "see him this way" for very long...how she wanted to shield them from this whole "situation".

Being a hospice nurse and a guest in a persons home is a fine line. It is not up to me to tell a family how to love a dying person or what they should do.  My job is to help the patient live the best days he or she can with the knowledge and medication we have.  That's it...to be kind, loving and support the family and patient WHERE THEY ARE IN THEIR JOURNEY.  But, if you know me at all, sometimes I can't hold back and honestly, this was one of those times.  

You see, life is hard and death is hard.  Honestly, it's all hard.  Being here and living day to day with illness, worry, loneliness, fear and whatever we live with is hard.  Sometimes it's unbearable and sometimes we all use things to help us get through the day.  I would call you a "fibber" if you say you have a perfect life.  These hard times are when we find out who we are and most of us surprise ourselves with our strength and ability to keep going.

I told her that...when we just cling to our families and love them thought the difficult times the light shines thought the darkness.  When they love their father with care and time, while the most difficult thing they have done up until now, will provide them memories of comfort and peace as they travel the road of life.  I always say, "when you have had the worst thing you can imagine happen to you, like losing someone you love, and survive...you can do anything."  And I believe it.

When I was 31 and my mother lie in the hospital bed in the living room dying, I thought I couldn't imagine anything worse.  But...I sat with her and changed her and made sure she was comfortable.  My whole family did...we knew that she was leaving us and we knew that in a few hours our hearts would be broken in a way that would never be the same.  We all wanted to run away and hope it was a bad dream...but it wasn't.

I called Jim in the very early morning of February 1996 to tell him I was motherless and that I wouldn't have a mother to tell the stories of her grandchildren.    He comforted me from 2000 miles away and told me that it would be okay...eventually time would make the pain duller and I would be so glad I went and took care of her.  At the time, it seemed like he was just saying words...that this deep pain would never subside.  Then, in December 1996, when my Howie was born and I wanted to call her...the stab in my heart was there but mixed with the joy of new life and the comfort of knowing I did the best I could for her at the time.

As much as we want to shield our kids from the hurts of life...we cannot.  We will all die, all get sick, all have bad days that we wish we behaved differently.  The only thing we can to is show them how to get through those times, with humility, grace and love and sometimes honest to goodness anger when it all gets to be too much. 

I told this wife who is losing her husband that she did something right to have her kids fly in to help her...and want to stay.  She raised them right...with the compassion and hearts to bear the burden of grief and loss with her...to cry with her and her with them, to love their daddy out of here through the darkest moments of her life and theirs...and then to love each other enough to be family when its them...just mom and the kids.  

I have always wished that my kids would not know hurt and broken hearts...but now I wish them the wisdom to know that time will dull the pain of the hurt and broken hearts and also, the way you care and love each other during that time will provide incredible comfort as well.

As our county marches for history to be told in books as it was, it made me think about how we all try to change history in our own lives to make it more palatable.  But like in the history of the country and the history of our lives...it is what it is and how we respond to it is what makes our lives what they are.

Love your family tonight and,
We'll tawk tomorrow.
I love you all,

Friday, September 5, 2014

The right way to die...

Signing up for hospice care is a big decision.  Most folks sign up and decide they are okay to stop "seeking" treatment and think that since they are not treating their condition/cancer, they will die...and they hope that it comes quickly.

If you are getting blood drawn and levels told to you and you drive many miles to sit in a chair to have chemo dripping in your veins...you may think that you will leave this earth quickly because you are not doing the things to stay alive.  If you take only one pain pill because you might get addicted even when you still hurt alot and could use two...after you get comfortable, you think you may die quickly.  

Here's the deal...you may, but in most cases, you may not.  As a nurse that cares for the living and the dying...I honor what you think you need to do and what you think will happen but honestly, life as in death...things don't always happen as we think they will.

I have a patient that is young and he is very sick with cancer and he was supposed to die 6 months ago...looked terrible and thought it was over.  Then, they changed things around and he is still here, living his life as he sees fit, loving his young wife and living every day.  

I tell my patients..."You can always die, you have cancer/illness that can take you...but for today, you might as well live."  And they do...and they do it well.  I can't change the diagnosis but I can help that person understand that the time they have is theirs and theirs alone...and there is no right or wrong.  

I thing most folks entertain what the end of their life will look like...how they are supposed to die.  I love that movie, "Grumpy old men" when the guy dropped dead and Walter Mathau said..."Lucky bastard" because he didn't know it was coming.  I think that's how I want to go but I know I will probably not go that way!

Anyway, I'm here to tell you that there is no right or wrong way to die...only the way that you do it. When you get that diagnosis and fight the good fight and decide you want to stop the fight and accept, the fight is over but life is not...the living is not.  It's changed and the focus is making the most of every minute with who you want to.  You become the director of your time... If you wake up one day and can't stand the thought of being awake dealing with your life, you choose to take the day to sleep.  Because you are tired, sad and need a mental break...just do it and languish in the comfort of your bed with whoever you want in bed with you and dream sweet dreams.  If you need to get your life in order...do it. Then, you get to rest in the comfort that all is in order for when you need it to be.  Some folks are stoic and don't want to miss a second of time because they need pain medication...okay...but I know when they really need it, they have and will give themselves permission to be comfortable.  Then there are some folks who want and need a dose every time they can have it and that is the right way for them to handle the pain and cherish the time they have.

I am thinking of this tonight for a couple of reasons...I am so lucky to care for folks in their homes...and be with them in the most difficult and intimate time of life.  I get to encourage them to live without limits, to remember who they really are and who they really love...authentic feelings that come when we know time is limited. 

Because I have this honor, it makes me more aware of my blessings, the profound moments in my life and the things that don't matter.  I am one lucky old broad.

So this weekend...love your people, look deeply into their eyes and drink in the moment...laugh at silliness and cry at the sadness...feel it all because we never know when our time is limited and we wish we did that all along.

Just do it!
I love you all...and I do,
We'll tawk tomorrow,

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My kind of church...

Last weekend, a group of us trundled up to the mountains to attend a campout.  It was billed the "Evergreen Lutheran Labor Day Campout" and it was advertised in the church bulletin.  I was the organizer and I worried a little bit about how it would turn out.  

For starters, the weather was pretty bad.  We were in a beautiful spot on a lake but it was cold, rainy and foggy.  The families that signed up had little kids and we were all in tents.  That can make for a difficult and unpleasant time.

The hikers

As the crowd gathered on Friday night, I started to get excited because we had all (or I should say) most ages.  Our youngest camper was 3 and our oldest camper was mid 60's.  We had young parents, school agers, high schoolers, and college kids to round out the group.
The ladies at the pool

We were all a little anxious about how this campout would go.  The group was so diverse, the weather so wet and what we had in common was church...the fact that we had faith.  Whether is was a "weekly attend church faith", or a "I loved the campout last year" faith or the " Terry begged the family to come" faith...we had our church in common.  

The fire was started around the camp fire and the camp chairs began to fill the circle.  The snacks and drinks began to be shared and the smore sticks were unpacked.  The next thing we knew, the guitar was pulled out and the soft guitar music began while everyone relaxed.  As the night progressed, the little ones found laps other than their parents to the delight of us old folks.

Jim and  his little buddy

At one point that night, I looked over at my friend with my heart so content...a roaring fire for warmth and young and old alike visiting, connecting and being together.  My buddy, Sheryl, who has a heart like no one I know said, " this is church" and smiled.  Funny, I was thinking and feeling the same thing.  

I think of the love of my God similar to the deep love that I felt when I had my kids.  The unending love that we experience with the most precious of times...like those moments on the campout.  

If you were there, you felt it at times.  Maybe not when it was so cold in the morning waiting for our coffee or when the smoke was burning your eyes, or when your feet were so cold in your sleeping bag that you wanted to go home...No, not then.  But I bet you felt it when you looked over and saw your little boy sitting on one of the big boys laps, or when the duo was playing their guitars and singing or when I got to have the sleeping boy snuggle into my lap for warmth...Nothing flashy but spiritual and profound.  I always feel what I sense of the love of God in connections with people, time spent heart to heart even when it is subtle.  Those are the times that stir my soul and fill my tank for all the other times in life when things are hard.

The nice thing about this weekend is that we got together because we attend the same church.  I don't know if we would have if we didn't have a faith or a quest for a faith in common.  I also don't think you have to go to a church to have times like these...but I'm sure glad that we do!

The gang 

Thanks for the memories and the wonderful weekend.

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Thursday, August 21, 2014

You're not going anywhere anytime soon...

My college friend wrote a blog today that is at the core of what I do and why I do it.  Follow this link  blessourhearts.net and read how a when a person gets tired of fighting, and taking care of everyone else it is a gift to support them as they  "let go".  

Letting go doesn't mean that when they sign the form for hospice, they go quietly into their bedroom, lay down on the bed and die.

Actually, for most people, it means exactly the opposite.  For most patients that sign up for hospice, they want to be able to do what they want and can do without driving to an office, getting stuck with a needle only to find that today is not a good day to get chemo. They go home defeated as if they failed a test only to wait for the next week to go an do it again.  Week after week, while the fight is on, the patient gets tired.

As my friend, Mary, so eloquently put it, Kathleen isn't giving up...she is letting go.  She is finding peace and comfort in what is important...what really matters...her family, friends, animals, her home and her heart and soul.  

I get the honor of seeing this when I show up to a home.   When the battle has been called off because the options are even more difficult, I always sense a feeling of relief from the patient.  They are content to stop being stuck, stop being in the fighting mode and feeling ill constantly.  They are at peace with being at home, with their loves, spending the precious time they have loving and being loved.  If they hurt, we figure out how to help that and if they don't, we support them with the decision and take it a day at a time.  We give them back the control they lost when then diagnosis trampled on them and held them down.  

When I talk about them being in control, I mention that they are now the "boss" and get to call the shots.  If they are hungry for something that was forbidden because of the medication, I tell them to have as much as they like.  Often, a wife will ask if the husband can have a beer or a glass of wine at night.."We used to sit on the deck every night and have a glass of wine after dinner, can we do that now?"  I always respond that they can do whatever that want to and then I wink and tell them they can even sit out on the porch without clothes drinking that wine if the neighbors don't mind!   They always laugh and give each other that look that they have cultivated after many years of togetherness in their story.  

It doesn't seem like such a big deal to a healthy person, but when you have been in the fight of your life and had no control...a glass of wine on the deck like you used to do, is such a comfort to a couple that is counting the time they have together.   "Good time" as I refer to it...when I explain how I can help.  Time that is comfortable, in the place you want to be and with the people you want to be with. That, my friends, is time that is precious.

You see, most folks that have had chemo for many weeks, months and years have gotten used to feeling lousy...tired and weak.  They have fought long and hard and bought time.  I can't say that I wouldn't do that myself.  But, when the options are few and the chemo is tougher, and when the person says enough is enough and stops chemo, I have to say, they usually feel much better.  The nausea goes, the extreme fatigue abates and they can taste food and drink again.  They can live.  If they have pain, they take medication and enough to make it tolerable if not go away.  It's a win-win in a scenario that most folks wish was just a bad dream.

So Kathleen, I wish you plenty of "Good time"...on your porch, with your dear friends and family remembering and feeling how loved and cherished you are and the stellar example for all of us on how to handle life through the good, the bad and the ugly.  There is no right way to "let go"...only your way...

So, as I tell all of my patient's from day one..."I don't think you're going anywhere right now, so what do you want to do?"  

We'll tawk tommorrow,
I love you all,

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tomorrow is the big day...

Tomorrow morning, bright and early...and I mean early, we will head to the airport and get on a big United Jet headed to Guatemala. Once we get there, we will gather our belongings, the stuff we packed and decided that we couldn't live without for a week, as well as our hammers, work gloves, tool bags, fat pencils and our measuring tapes.  My daughter will meet us at the airport and we will pile into a bus to go to the small town to begin our vacation.

I started doing things like this for vacation in 1999, when my kids were little and I was hanging with the teenagers at church.  They wanted to do something different and I was all in.  My kids couldn't go because the were 7, 5 and 2...so Jim stayed home with them.  At that time, what struck me was how hard the work was and how difficult it must have been to live in the conditions that they did.  I came home to my big house and felt terribly guilty.  "Why me and not them...why do I get a big, dry house and they live in cardboard boxes, pallets and bed springs for walls?"  I just got lucky...I guess.

For most of my life after those trips I wondered what I was and am supposed to do.  Am I supposed to sell my house and move to a little one because people don't have houses that are dry in Juarez? Am I supposed to go to nurse practitioner school so I can move down to Nicaragua and take care of a town with my medical knowledge?  Or, do I put my life's work into figuring out water and sanitation for the third world countries?  

In the beginning of my trips, I went to these places thinking they just needed to change.  They needed to do things how we do things in the US with regard to health and they will all be healthier.  In Nicaragua, they need to move their wood burning stoves outside so when they cook, the smoke didn't give the babies asthma.  They need to use birth control and stop having so many babies because they can't afford the ones they have.  In the other countries, they need to stop drinking that filthy water so they don't get sick so much and they feel better.  It was so simple when I started.

Then I went a few more times and grew up a bunch more.  I realized that we are guests in their country, they welcome us and we are there to help.  We are not there to tell them that we have the lock on happiness, health and hygiene and they need to just get going.  It's not so easy to change everything you know and grew up with.

I know in the US, we have a lock on some things.  We have water from our taps that we can drink and we can flush our toilet paper.  We have medication, although sometimes hard to get, and can get it if we really need it.  In other places, if  you or your child needs medicine, you may or may not get it.  But, I would argue that they have a lock on "family."  Generations and generations come to our work site to watch the home being put up...and joking and exuding joy for each other that they are going to have a water tight home.  They carry their babies on them in wraps and those babies don't cry.  They nurse them wherever and whenever that baby is hungry.  Maybe we could both learn from each other.

As I got older, I have come to some pretty deep answers about these things.  I can do what I can do.  I can find a need somewhere, whether it be walking dogs in a dog shelter or flying to a third world country and putting up a house, that I am able to do.  You do what you can do...and maybe a little more.  That's it.   When you get uncomfortable with having so much and watching the suffering around you...you find something and do it.  That's it.  It's sounds so easy, yet is so hard to do it.

So when I land tomorrow in that country, it is not my job to look around and see what "needs" to change and start talking.  My job is to sit back and let them teach me.  If I have been respectful enough to offer advice, and if they want it, sure we will talk but most of the time on these trips, these folks are giving me advice...

Yeah, it's about the house I guess but really it's about the relationships.  It's about being with another human who is very different from you and finding the common ground.  It's about remembering the things we all cherish, such as the love of family and helping provide basic human needs of food, water and shelter. 
It's about basic human connection and being fortunate enough to help another and getting much more than you give in return.  

Oh, and for me...seeing those babies tied to their mommas with big smiles on their faces...that's what it's about for me.  I cannot wait!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Monday, July 21, 2014

Musings of a hospice nurse...

I attended a death of a patient last week...a younger woman with a quick progression from diagnosis to death.  I say "attended" because that's the fancy hospice term for going to the house, pronouncing the person and calling everyone who needs called.  I always feel like that word is too sterile...too formal.

Anyway, this patient was a fighter and she wasn't going to die.  We did not discuss death, dying or anything to suggest that she was not going to live.  From my perspective, there was no question that she  was going to die and it was coming pretty fast.  But, her plan was to be in the 5% that beat the odds and that was the way I cared for her.  

Then last Monday, as I was caring for her, she sat on the side of the bed and said, "Terry, I think it's time to go."   I shook my head and looked up at her (because of course it seems like when those moments come, I am already on my knees) and she asked me if I understood what she was saying.  I told her I did.  "You are tired of fighting so hard, tired of feeling bad and tired of being in pain.  You're ready to die."   As I was talking, her husband came around the side of the bed and began to tell her it was okay..."I don't want you to go, but I also don't want you to be in so much pain as you have been in the last few days" and then he went on " You are my hero...I've never seen anyone fight as hard as you and if you are ready...it's okay to go."  

We settled her into bed, gave her the medication for comfort and walked down the stairs.  We talked about the patient, her strong will, her faith in God and how she had finally come to the place of acceptance.  He wondered if he needed to take her to a hospice facility...or could she stay home?  

I spent the next half hour talking about how he did the hardest care for his wife already.  How she was in pain and he medicated her and how when she needed to be cleaned up, he did that too.  "Now your job" I told him "is to get in bed and hold her and love her until she is gone."

Tuesday came and I called him to check on her.  He said she was awake and talking and that the kids were there and everyone was in the bedroom with her loving her up.  I encouraged him, offered to visit and he declined.  He felt like the family was with him and she was very comfortable...

The Wednesday visit was hard as she had declined more and was less responsive but very comfortable.  It was all it could be in the worst situation possible...losing a wife and mother so quickly and so young.

The call came Thursday that she was "gone".  I arrived at the house to find the family in bed with her, comforting each other and talking about how peaceful she was and how the end was "good."  They were in tears for the loss and tears for the feeling of relief that she was not in pain anymore.  

Oh good Lord, it was so sad.   When I began my job...I put my stethescope to her chest, put my head down and began to choke up...I was so happy that she was out of pain and she was at home with her family, but so sad that she was gone.  I looked up at the family watching me, embarrased that I was so emotional from the beginning and nodded yes.  She indeed had crossed over...was gone...had passed away.  I looked at her face and it was if she had a little smile and asked the family what they thought.  They agreed and took solice in her expression.

I learned a lot from this family and how they handled adversity.  The patient's husband talked about how he was told by so many people that she had to go to a facility and how she had to admit she was dying.  I, at times, felt like it would have been better to talk about it.  He always said no and politely declined.  It wasn't that he didn't know or didn't want to face it...he was honoring her wishes to fight until she decided she didn't want to fight anymore.  He decided that he was not going to have any regrets and so he went about his last days with her that way.  He cared for her with grace and dignity and kindness and love...and when she said she was done, he helped her through that time in the same manner.

The next day, Friday, I walked around in a fog but wanted to celebrate life, so I invited some friends over.  As I sat on my patio sipping wine, I thought about my patient's husband and the heaviness of his heart...and uttered a silent prayer.  Me, I poured myself another glass of wine and listened to the laughing and banter around my table.

Once again, the lesson is...Life is short, hard and wonderful at the same time.  I only hope and pray that I have less regrets and more fond memories and I continue to live.  I wish that for all of you as well!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Saturday, July 12, 2014

LIfe is hard...

You know what?  Life is so hard!

I told my husband that I was going to delete my facebook because it seemed like everyone was having an awesome time with a perfect life and I was dealing with death, struggle and not looking so good in pictures.

It's interesting because I know I will put up a good picture but one that I have the old lady neck and look like a cow...I forget that picture even though it might have been the best night of my life.  I am so superficial...

Anyway, it has been a week with intensity and sadness and exaustion and goodness and kindness and witnessed strength in the most difficult of situations.  I got to see people much stronger than I am...live life to the fullest.  

I guess I need to take some of my own medicine.  As I used to say when I was a camp nurse... "buck up" and "rub some dirt in it...you'll be fine."

But I have to say...Life is hard...for everyone at one time or another.  I love the t-shirts that talk about life being good...and it is but...it is also hard!

So love the good times with abandon because everyone will have hard times and when that happens...the person you think you are will have the test of a lifetime.

As a husband of one of my dying patients told me this week..." I don't want to have regrets.  I want to care for her and so I don't have to worry that I didn't do a good job...didn't do everything I could do to keep her comfortable and make her know that she is loved."  I told him, " You are doing all that , my friend...you are doing an amazing job."

May you have someone on this earth that loves you that much...in this hard life...

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Dancing Queen...

Being a nurse doesn't usually require much dancing.  As I've said before, I do spend a fair amount of time on my knees but dancing...no.   Yesterday, was different.  I got to dance.  Not only did I get to dance once but I got to dance twice with handsome men. 

I arrived at my patient's house and noticed the front door was open and the light was on in the middle of the day.  I knocked and walked in and noticed that things were in dissarray.  "Helloooo, it's me" I said, "Terry the nurse."  My patient had a scowl on his face and wondered what I was doing there.  He was mad.  I reminded him that I always come on Thursdays to check on him and look at his med minder...and to make sure he was okay.  He still wasn't satisfied.  We spent time talking about what was bothering him, about his sleeping, his aches and pains and if he was eating.  He was doing pretty good but still just mad.  Finally, I asked him to get out of his chair, grabbed him by the waist and began to dance with him around his kitchen.  He quickly took the lead and was stronger and more relaxed than he was since I walked in the door.  "The man is supposed to lead, don't you know that" he told me and laughed.  I kissed him on the cheek and escorted him back to his chair.  I took his vital signs, listened the his heart and lungs and visited for a little bit longer. Instead of being mad, he began to tell me about his  late wife and how they danced all the time and what a good dancer she was.  

I got in the car and laughed...wondering what made me get him out of that chair to dance.  I turned the radio up to one of my favorite songs and headed to my next patient.

This gentleman has a neurological disease that is slowly robbing him of his movement, language and swallow.  I always have to stop a minute and breath before I walk through the door to his room.  Today, I was interrupting him and his wife getting ready to go to the movies.  "I forgot you were coming today" she said "but I am so glad because you can help me get him ready to go."   I told her I would love to because I had only seen him in bed or in the reclining chair.  We got him dressed and prepared for the transfer with the lift but then she asked him if he wanted to try to stand up.  He slowly replied that he did.  Thinking about how she cares for him, I asked her if I could help.  She showed me where to put my legs and said,  "Daddy, put your arms around Terry and stand up and dance." He stood up and wobbled, but slowly I pulled him closer and we danced into the wheelchair.  Before I could gather myself, his wife combed his hair, straightened his clothes and put a little cologne on him.  He looked fantastic, very handsome and smelled awesome.  I told him he smelled better than my husband and he dances better too!   We rolled him to the car and transferred him in, buckled him up and they left for the movies.  

He was my last patient of the day...and I was feeling thankful.  I though about my paperwork, the charting to be done and the time it would take...and then I thought about how I got to dance.  

As hard as it is to do this work, and lately I haven't been as strong as I want to be...I get such special time with people in their homes on their terms.  And some days...I even get to dance!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Time to write again...

I took a break...a big one from writing.  I wrote, but everything I put on the paper seemed negative and desperate.  I was turning 50, I was taking care of dying people, my son didn't get playing time on the baseball field, my refrigerator is not cold at all and I was behind on my housework.  Other than that, my hair was mostly gray and my face was sliding into my neck! 

I complained and complained to my husband...about all of this...blah, blah, blah...on an on.  I came to a point when I was sick of myself!

My kids came and went for the summer...my daughter was home for one day and left for Guatemala for the summer.  My son, the middle child, was home for three weeks and lightened things up but of course, when he left, the hole in my heart opened up even more. Then, my as my 50th birthday crept up, I was almost inconsolable.  I didn't want things to change and I had no control over it.

Then something happened...a lady that I consider a dear friend went through the most difficult time in her life.  She and her husband had to make decisions that were life changing and scary.  It was the big time in life...when the rubber meets the road and you see who you are and who loves you no matter what.  I watched as they manuvered life terrified but strong.  They made plans that they wish they didn't have to, carried on and made it through.  I am sure in the dark of night, they fell apart...but in the light of day, they handled this crisis with a grace that I wish I had.  

As I sat at my 50th happy hour, I held my breath waiting on the news that their son was out of recovery and it all went okay.  When my friend walked in to join the party and said she had heard and he was good, a chill ran up my spine.  He made it, they made it and now it was time to recover and get going on life.  The night was awesome and I felt so loved and special and came to a realization that this is it.  This is the life we are given, gray hair and droopy cheeks and all.  You can either complain and be negative, sit and wallow like I did for a few months or stop the selfishness and get on with this life!

The next Monday, I went to see a woman with pancreatic cancer.  She had some heartburn on New Years eve and started the maze of diagnosis and treatment.  Now, there isn't treatment left and she is doing her best to live knowing she has limited time.  Two months ago, when I walked into her house, I had my shell on, thinking about "poor" me and the broken appliance and the kids being far away.  In some aspects, it made it easier to care for her because I didn't delve into the hard questions and because she didn't really want to, I just was quiet.  I would be in and out of her house in no time.

Two weeks ago, I showed up with new eyes.  I realized that this is it for her and for me.  This is our life and our time left.  She, sadly, has quite a bit less than I probably have...and she knows it.  I took my shell off before I went in and decided that I would try to help her in any way she needed.  When she brushed me off, I would sit quietly a little longer and see if she really wanted me gone or not.  I ended up at her house for an hour and a half...caring for her.  She sat in the chair for a short time and then she was too tired to keep sitting up.  Her husband took her hand gently and led her to the bed and since it was a tall bed, she had to step up.  She didn't have the energy to do that either.  Then, he gently picked her up and cradled her in his arms and placed her in bed.  He shifted her until she was comfortable and covered her up with a soft blanket.  He got her an glass of cold water and gave her a pain pill.  I stood there seeing this couple for the first time with new, unselfish eyes.  They have been together for 26 years and have kids a little older than mine.  They are in their mid-50's.  

As her husband walked me out, I told him what a good man he is and a gentle man and a wonderful caretaker.  I could see the exhaustion around his eyes and his conflict with wanting her to go and wanting her to stay.  We talked about that for some time without answers or right answers anyway.  I just tried to help him understand that this is all normal when you are losing a loved one.  It just is...

I got in the car and counted my blessings.  I, barring getting hit by a beer truck, will be seeing my kids at the end of the summer and will be fighting with my husband and fighting the hands of time on my sliding neck.  I can guarantee that this lady will not.  

So, for me, it's time to get back to writing, to living, to loving and to being aware of others instead of myself.  It's time to love again...with abandon, saying what is on my mind, good or bad, and taking my licks.

So "I'm baaaacccck" and since I'm fifty now, I can assure you, it won't be pretty.  But, it will be.

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A wonderful day of baseball...

Last Tuesday, my youngest had a baseball game.  He is a varsity player at the high school.  The season hasn't been what everyone wanted it to be...parents and players, but it is almost over.  Needless to say, it's been a tough one in the scheme of baseball seasons.  In the scheme of life...it's an inconvenience and something that is unpleasant.  But in the big pic...(as the cool kids say)...not a big deal.

So Tuesday, I was ramping up to complain and be negative when two of the cutest kids and their momma showed up to watch the "big boys" play baseball.  The baseball team had gone to an elementary school and put on a clinic before the season got going and these little guys had gone to it and convinced their busy mother that they had to come to a game.   Luckily, I know this mom from church and was so happy to see her and spend time with her.  She's one of those "super moms"...works, looks amazing and has the cutest, politest and most pleasant boys.  I am sure she had other things to do but I, with my big 17 year old boy, was humbled that she would bring her guys to see him and the others play.

We sat in the grass and the questions those boys asked took me back to when I had little guys.  "Why is that guy wearing all that stuff?"  "Why is Howie standing on that hill to throw the ball?"  "Why is that guy standing behing the guy who has all that stuff on?" and on and on.  I talked with these two cuties the whole game and their mother let me and I dreamed about being the grandmother to little ones and how precious that must be.

Howie pitched and he did very well.  He is the guy that goes in when the game is out of control and there are loaded bases with no outs and the kid manages to keep the ball down and throw strikes.  But honestly, I was so wrapped up in the sweet boys and the game, that Howie could have totally screwed up and threw belt high strike after strike and I wouldn't have cared. I was so busy looking at those sweeties with their faces covered in lollipop juice and the velco sneakers and the innocent questions about baseball and life. At one point, the little one asked me where my dad was and I had to laugh and ask "you mean my husband?"  He said, "no, the guy you are always with, Mr Jim, your dad?"  As we walked over to Jim, I explained that Mr. Jim was my husband, like his dad was his mom's husband and his father...but it was so freakin' cute and who cares if he got it?  Sometimes, I thought as I explained it to him...Jim acts like my dad and I guess sometimes I act like Jim's mother so I guess he is not that far off.

The game was over and the boys got to visit with Howie and they really wanted to see the catcher but it was a bitter loss and he didn't come out before their mamma took them home.  But, they did get to watch the "big boys" and have a lollipop and I got to have them on my lap and talk about things that really matter.  I got to explain baseball and ask them about their little t-ball team and I got to feel the activity of a couple of busy boys in my lap.  I got to fly them over my head and tell them how fabulous they were and what nice boys they were and how I enjoyed them.  And I did...a lot!  It turned out to be the best baseball game of the year.

I learned last Tuesday a big lesson.  I learned about how some things, while not the way you want them to turn out, are really not a big deal.  I learned that High school baseball is not a big deal and that who you are in adversity and when things go wrong...figuring that out is a big deal.  I also learned that a couple of little boys can make everything right in the world when they are not your own and you can be taken back to when they were.  That time in my life was so hard and so sweet at the same time.  My boys were hard to corral but easy to love and now that they are big boys...I honor that momma and her work and her time that she spends loving these two.  These boys were the cutest guys I have spent time with in a long time and cannot wait to do it again.

In ten years, that mamma will be in my shoes.  She will have big boys, maybe one at college and one in high school.  Probably, she will be wondering where the time has gone because I know she doesn't feel that way now.  Hopefully, she will be sitting at a baseball game and if the season is tough, I hope someone with little boys shows up and returns the favor to her.  To help her see that it is not such a big deal...it's just baseball and even though it's intense, it is not life.    

So thank you Sara...for bringing those cute boys to to the game, for giving me a trip back to when I was you (kinda) and to remember how absolutely precious that time was.  You are doing an amazing job with those boys and any time you need a babysitter...you can call me and my dad, Mr. Jim, and Howie and we would love to corral them, play with them, give the blow pops, and velcro their shoes closed.  It would be an honor.


We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,