Sharing Clouds II

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Yesterday I sat by the bed of my dementia patient who was actively dying.  He was the one I shared a lucid moment of watching the clouds only a few short weeks ago.  His breathe was unnaturally even like a machine in a holding pattern.  I called his wife and told her I thought it was only a matter of hours.  She had had a bad night, cancer treatment left her sleeping on the bathroom floor and now the love of her life was flying off to the next world.  I put her on speaker phone and she talked to him, telling him she loved him.  She wasn’t sure if she could make it in, she would let me know.  I told her that I would sit with him until our Chaplin came and he would not be alone. In the bustle of a long-term care facility it is difficult for the staff to sit and hold hands, although his nurse was ever attentive with his comfort medications.

As I sat there, I played his favorite music, spoke to him with gentle encouraging words, sent him reiki energy, everything I could think of to make his passing a little easier.  It is harder for dementia patients to pass, there is a spiritual disconnect, their minds are confused, and so I prayed he would find a lucid moment in his passing.  When the Chaplin came to relieve me, I said my goodbye. I had to continue on with my day as my other patients also needed my care.

A few hours later I was driving down the main road and I saw a man on a bike, peddling against traffic.  He had shaggy hair and a moustache, resembling my dying patient.  I wasn’t quite sure it he was real or just a vision as my phone rang.  It was the Chaplin; my patient had just passed -five minutes after his wife got to his bedside.  He had waited for her, he had needed her and she him.

Love, between the hearts and the worlds, love is our final destination.

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P.S. I Love You

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“Sail on Silver Girl,

Sail on by.

Your time has come to Shine,

All your Dreams are on their way….”

Paul Simon is singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” on SNL, I am sobbing on the couch.

This was our song, my Dad and I often played it together, him with his silver trumpet and me on the family baby grand piano.  It was something we shared, music speaking our hearts when we couldn’t. Later in life my Dad became my biggest cheerleader. We shared books on spirituality, I still have the copy of “Autobiography of a Yogi” he sent me. You see, he believed in nothing, that when we died we went into a black void and knew nothing of it.  He said these words at a family meeting when we sat discussing his then recent diagnosis of lung cancer, years of smoking had claimed his body, his breath, his trumpet playing.  I thought those words were the saddest words I had ever heard, in my mind I thought how could there be nothing? So, I started reading and searching and sharing my thoughts with him, and to my delight he shared the adventure.  By the time he passed eight years later he had a different view on death, one of hope, certainly not all the answers because if there’s isn’t some surprise and mystery life and death would not be the amazing journey it is.

As I sat on the couch with tears rolling down my cheeks I felt a sweet soft energy on my head comforting me.  I knew in my heart my Dad was near letting me know how much our love continues to this day, how whenever our song plays the bittersweet memories are a celebration of our relationship as Father and Daughter.

“Oh, and if you ever need a friend,

Look around,

I’m sailing right behind…”

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Winks from Heaven

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This week I lost a patient I took care of briefly, she was well into her transitioning state when I met her, so I had little verbal interaction with her.  Her daughter and granddaughter were her primary care givers, ever attentive, wanting her to be comfortable, and eventually have a peaceful passing.

She was my first patient today, I knew the time was getting closer, but I never know for sure, as the body can prepare the way and the spirit can linger if one so desires. She was resting peacefully, her breathing very automatic, her face relaxed her eyes closed.  Her coloring had changed, for certain it was only a matter of hours, not days.

The visit prior to this one was filled with the exploration of afterlife possibilities.  I shared many of my stories, some I have shared on this blog, others are still close to my heart.  I share because experiences are a wonderful teacher, a kind way to explore what one may believe. I try not to preach, but to share, opening up someone else’s mind to infinite possibilities of what the Afterlife may be. I hope that it brings comfort to those I share with.  We talked about other experiences, books that we read, the concept of Near-Death Experiences, their beliefs.

After I left today I was headed to another patient and my phone buzzed, I had gotten a friend request from a person with the very same last name as the woman who had just passed. I thought it must be a relative but when I got home and looked her up it turned out to be someone who was involved in Near Death Experiences and I had recently commented on a site! Same last name, what are the chances? I felt it was a wink from heaven, a sign. And I know her granddaughter now reads my blog, so this is for you J- a wink from Grandma!

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Sharing Clouds

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I love the lucid moments dementia offers, a little gift in the midst of frustration and sadness.  Yesterday my patient was crying, he was watching another resident wheel down the hallway to an outside door that was locked. The resident banged on the locked door.  My patient looked up at me, “He can’t get out! I want out!” Tears of frustration for the loss of the simple freedom of going outdoors.

I asked the floor nurse if we could go outside, she led us to an enclosed courtyard.  A white fence surrounded the small compound, a few late blooming flowers lined the walkway but the sky above us was enormous. My patient smiled as we settled into a shaded area. He looked up, a bank of clouds, remnants of last night storms, danced across the sky high and billowing.

“I love clouds!” he said. A simple statement of contentment.

“Me too.”

In silence we watched absorbing the beauty of the sky. A dragonfly zipped by perhaps surveying the late summer blooms.

“Oh!” he said as he focused on its flight.

“Ah! A dragonfly!” I state.

A group of crows noisily arrive in the treetops, he startles.  I reassure him, “It’s okay, it’s only the crows.”  They are early, much to early in my estimation.

His wife arrives, his eyes brighten with recognition.  She has brought him root beer and life is good again.

Communication takes on a whole new level with dementia.  You must dig deep, look deeply into a person’s eyes, speak with your heart. There is a person inside their cacophony of thoughts, indeed a soul who is struggling to be understood.  I always speak with my dementia patients as if they can fully understand me and I listen as if I fully understand.

As I say my goodbyes he looks at me and says, “I care for you so much!” Words so sweet my heart melts.

“Thank you, I care for you too.”

One must listen with the heart.

 

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Red Rover

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When I was very young I use to play a came called “Red Rover”. I have a distinct memory of playing with a group of children on the front lawn of the church I often went to.  Two lines of children holding hands face each other about ten feet apart. The opposing team would call out a name “Red Rover, Red Rover send Phyllis over…”  Then my line would release me, and I would run headlong with all my might into their line hoping to break the chain, in which case I could return to my team. If not, if their line held tight and I was caught in their web, I would have to join them.  I think of this game often as it reminds me so much of life and death.  Yes, I think of these things daily. We live our lives with our hands entwined with our loved ones on earth but at some point in time we are called to the Otherside by the loved ones who have gone before us.  Most of us when we are called do not break the chain, we embrace the Afterlife and stay.  But once in a blue moon though we hear of people who have been called to the Otherside only to return with visions of wonder and comfort. In my old neighborhood a young man with brain damage from a car crash told me his story.  He and his friends had been drinking and driving and they crashed, everyone died (stayed) except him.  He distinctly remembers seeing his deceased Grandmother on the Otherside, she explained to him it was not his time and he needed to return to care for his own mother. He spent a long time in the hospital, trached and unconscious, but he did emerge from his coma and now lives with his Mother who is caring for him, as he cares for her in a way only the soul understands.

There is mystery to life and death we will never know, but those who have come back bring with them memories and experiences of their time on the Otherside, when shared can offer comfort to those of us who are still standing yet to be called.

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Finding Love and God

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Some believe that God is Love.  Love is God. That beyond the thin veil of the physical world lies a world of endless Love, eternal Peace and Divine Light.  I am one of those people. I am not preaching, I am just sharing my belief. I often say to my hospice patients and families that Life is the hard part, beautiful, bittersweet and messy.  Life is what breaks our hearts and opens our souls to grow and in doing so we are able to contain more Love.  More God.  It is a challenging business, having these physical bodies.  They are demanding and often damaged -but offer us insight into Love that we cannot have on the other side of God’s creation.  The gift of the physical world has such an allure that we crave to come here, to become more, to rejoice in our pain and suffering because it will bring us closer to Love and God.  Sometimes this is so hard to imagine, so hard to accept.  And I will be the first to admit it.  Yesterday I drove past a former patients’ mother.  I pulled to side of the road, and she did too.  We embraced for the first time since her 44-year-old son died, her husband just three weeks before.  While I cared for her son, he became my boy too, her sadness mine, such a hard goodbye. He now lives in my heart too. Words were difficult to find as we embraced, but she said, “We love you.” And that is what it is about, finding Love in all the good and all the bad and all the moments in between.  Love.

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Blessings

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Work has been a whirlwind this summer and yesterday was no different except for the fact I actually stopped to pick up some lunch.  We are allotted a half hour each day but most of us keep a stash of snacks in the car and never truly indulge.  It was Friday, and for that reason alone I stopped to catch my breathe.  My hospice work encompasses the emotional wellbeing of not only my patients but their family members as well, when I ask someone how they are doing it is not a perfunctory question, it is a door I open and walk through many times a day.  It must be something in my inflection though because when I asked the cashier “How are you?” He very quietly and sweetly responded, “I’m blessed” It took a moment for this to register in my brain, it was not the response I had expected, I looked up and met his eyes, deep pools of brown. In an instant I was reminded of how blessed I truly am. I have three grown boys who are my anchors in this life, a peaceful homelife, a dog and a kitten who think I am the ultimate feeder, friends who remind me of my purpose and a connection to the Divine that sustains me amidst the chaos of this world. All my blessings came into view with his response.  I smiled and said, “Yes, I am blessed too, thank you for the reminder!”

He then said, “So many people forget, you see it in their faces.” His name is Darnell, which means “hidden” and I think he is one of the wisest people I have met in a long time.  Working with the public is a daunting task, the interactions can be so impersonal, but here is a hidden beacon of wisdom ready to remind us, “we are blessed!”

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