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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

New Years Resolutions

Tommorrow, in the afternoon, I begin my trek to Peru to see those I love and who loves them.  You probably already know, my daughter is in the Peace Corps and is living in Peru.  She has been there for a year and a half and last Christmas, when we visited, we didn't know it at the time...but we met her love.  He is not typical, he is not from the US and he is an amazing man. They are planning a future together.  It is almost surreal to watch your grown children make choices about how they will live when you are gone.  When I hear her talk about him, I can see it, the admiration, his kindness, the attachment and love of family that we have.  It will be something to see...

But, I digress.  I want to talk about today and the few days before that.  It was Christmas eve and Christmas day and my adult children were together in another country.  They were making food and talking spanish and loving each other and learning about being together without Mom and Dad.  A little bittersweet for me because I cannot think of anything better than being all together with my loves and their loves but it didn't happen this year over Christmas.

Instead, I worked.  I saw patients.  I went to homes where folks were looking at illness and death and sat beside them and touched their hands and held "space".  We didn't need to talk if it was up to me, but if they started, I joined in.  It made me feel so honored and almost lucky to be in their home at that time.  To explain to the caregiver what services we offered and that this time is the most difficult time for caregivers but it also shows that person how much you love them...

I saw people who were losing their loved one to  end stage neurological disease, and they wanted to keep them home and safe.  They wanted to make coffee and muffins for them in the morning, even if the patient had forgotten how to chew and swallow.  They wanted that comfort of the things they have always done to keep the familiar, if just to have a glint in they eyes of their love that they remember.  I saw folks that had pain that was unrelenting and offered suggestions and a plan to follow so they could at least feel like they were helping (and they were). Then late on Christmas Eve, I saw a man who was mad...because he had cancer, because he was going to die, and because I was not perfect.  He was so mad and there was nothing I could do to calm him or make it better. Finally, I left his house apologizing and realizing that sometimes I am the perfect person to be mad at and it's okay.  I sat in my car in the driveway and cried...for the patient that could not remember, for the patient who was experiencing pain and for this gentleman that was so angry that he had terminal cancer.

On Christmas day, I did another round of patient visits and it was fine.  Than, in the evening, I got a message from one of my patients families that her mother was in her last hours.  I loved this woman...She was smart, kind, able to talk for hours with me if I had the time and told me she loved me when I left.  I can't say that I fall in love this deeply with every patient, but with her...I did.  I went to her 90th birthday party because she invited me.  On that day, she was radiant and I could hardly believe that she would ever die.  When I visited her, I would pull a chair up to her in her chair and just sit and look at her.  She was 91 and beautiful...in the way that stands the test of time.  When I got promoted, I asked one of my new nurses to take over and she did, but I missed her a lot.  I called her caretaker one day to check on something and I got to talk to her...and found myself in tears because I missed seeing her weekly.

Today, her daughter let me know that she was dying.  I went over and sat with her, told her I was there and what she meant to me. Next thing I knew, I was being handed a tissue by her daughter to 
take care of me.  I stroked her arm, and the coolness of the temperature told me that it was soon.  I told her family how much she meant to me and what an honor it was to care for her, that I got more from her that she from me.  I told them they had done everything right, but her daughter talked about how tired she was and encouraged her mother to go back to sleep in the middle of the night...the human side of caregiving.  Finally, I kissed my sweet girl and told the family it was their time, to be together and wait...  Once again, I cried in the front seat of my car from the emotion and relief and sadness for my patient.

I just got a message that she was gone.  I am so happy that she is "with the Father" as she said but so sad that she is not here on earth with us.  I am so honored that I got to be part of her life, to discuss the end of her life and hear her talk about how her life went.

Now to the resolutions for 2018...Today, when I was thinking about her, I thought "Maybe I will put off going to see her, she has declined before and then bounced back"...  Then I thought about how much I cared and loved sitting with her, how much she gave me in the short time I knew her and how I had to make time to give her one more kiss on her cheek just in case this is really it.  It was a good decision...a great one, really.  

So to put that decision into an action plan for 2018...when someone means so much to you..tell them,  listen to them, hold space, be present...they may be mad at you because you are safe to be mad at...but, when you love someone, you give them time.  You give them your attention, and your love.  That is what I think is important...your time, your attention, your devotion...

That is my New Years resolution, and an amazing reminder of what really matters...thank you my sweet Nanny...you and your family taught me so much.

We'll tawk tomorrow,
Love you all,
Terry

Saturday, October 14, 2017

It's been awhile...

I haven't written since last May...and have been struggling to put my thoughts down since then.

Almost a year ago, I had a life changing, get your act together, learn to live well, love those close to you experience.  I now needed help from others and wasn't the one barking orders, making faces and getting things done.  I needed someone else to do that and to let me figure out what a new normal looked like.  It was time to take care of myself, learn that I too, could use some help and needed to be present in every day!

Well, it's almost a year later and I would love to tell you what I have learned.

*Everyone has the same amount of time in a day.  We have 24 hours of time in each day for our personal use.  We can look around and see that we are running out of time, or we can look around and see that this is the only time we have and use it wisely.

*Everyone has "worries " and it is not helpful to compare whose "worries" are worse.  Sure, we are human and do that but to focus on that is, in my opinion, a waste of time.  Look at your life, change the things that you can, find a way to live with the things that continue to play a tape in your brain.

*The sun comes up every day.  When I was trying to figure out my "new normal" I worried and worried that tomorrow wouldn't come or that it would be just as difficult as the day before.  Guess what?  Time is a healer...does it make the experience that you had go away?  Of course not, but it helps you put it in a place to deal with it...to sometimes forget it and even soften the pain.

*Having an earth shaking experience is difficult but...it makes you appreciate who you have to surround you.  I have come to realize that I am the luckiest girl in the world.  Are things perfect in my life?  You probably wouldn't think so but I think they are.  I am blessed with a husband of almost 29 years that is my best friend.  Could he have married better?  Sure because he has an amazing heart and doesn't look too bad either.  But he stays, he listens, he laughs even though he knows who I am...

*Remember your young adults will make their own life.  My children have made decisions that are different than the ones that I had dreamed about when they were suckling at my breast.  Guess what?  I am so proud of the people they are becoming and felt so supported when they were around.  They are strong, independent and dedicated to service...which is really my dream for them!


*Good friends are hard to come by.  When I was in the fire of worry, I had amazing friends who supported me.  They called or didn't if I asked them not to, cried when I was worried, showed up at Thanksgivng dinner and pretended that I was just fine, and loved me no matter what.  I am sure that this time last year wasn't easy to watch me struggle.  I think we have learned that as we age it is not going to be easy to  watch our friends have things that make them fragile...But with my friends, you wouldn't have known it!

*Being in service to others is the best medicine.  I was promoted to the "Nurse Manager" at Mt. Evans.  I get to support my nurses and make sure they know how special they are.  I watch them care for people who are dying with grace and love that only someone who knows how holy of a time that time is for a family.  I get to help them and make visits when they go on vacation but I am in service to them now and feel so lucky that I get to do that.

*Dying is not the worst thing in the world in my opinion.  I have seen people dying that were surrounded by love and laughter and family that were so thankful for the time they had.  It was beautiful and peaceful.  The folks left behind were so proud of how they cared for their loved one and became the family that the patient wanted them to be after they were gone.

*Life is never easy.  Life is life.  It is really pretty messy if you think of it.  At least, my life is.  I have had the honor to care for families in my nursing career that have had hardships that I cannot fathom and not only survived but were so proud of the way they came together are cared for each other.  No one has it easy...we are human and we are messy.

Being a human is difficult.  Raising kids is hard too...but all of it is amazing and wonderful along with difficult. Just take my advice and don't worry.  Life is short and it is imperative that you live a life that you want to live. I have had the honor to care for folks whose  lives were cut short by disease and tried to make the last days as and peaceful and comfortable as I could.  Life is about loving the time you have with the people you love. For me, it is about sitting at the kitchen table and telling the stories, hearing how my children had fallen in love, and how they have navigated a difficult time in their lives...

Remember, the sun comes up tomorrow,
and I love you all.

We'll tawk tomorrow,
Love,
Terry

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