The dog medium

The other day I took my golden retriever Oliver to the dog park for a playdate with a friend’s new dog.  She had adopted Izzy from a local rescue who brings dogs up from Louisiana due to their high kill shelter rate.  Izzy is still a puppy, her past a mystery but she has scars to prove a rough beginning, a healed fractured pelvis.  She is a complete sweetie, high energy dog holding nothing back as she raced around chasing the bigger dogs.  She has no past in her mind, she is in the moment loving life and her new people. Another dog lesson to be absorbed by us humans…

On my way home, Oliver is sitting in the back looking out the passenger side window as we stopped at a light.  The car next to us is an older woman lost in thought suddenly she turns and gazes at Oliver and her whole face changed to one of hopefulness.  I rolled down Oliver’s window as she had rolled down hers, she looks at him and calls out- “Do you have a message for me from my Casey?” It is clear to me in that moment that Oliver has become a dog medium- he indulges her glances as I call out from the front- “Oh yes!” She smiles, the light changes and our days both have just gotten brighter, golden in fact.

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Healing our brokenness

Yesterday my brother visited- we had not seen each other in a long while due to the chaos of the world.  He has spent half his life listening to other people’s pain and helping them to navigate to the shores of healing.  He is a calm and gentle soul. We share a common childhood but as we reminisced, I realized how two people can be in the same environment and have very different experiences and memories. Ours was a household fraught of conflict laced with underlying tones of love. Our parents were broken people who as often broken people do spread their pain.  It tempered both of us as adults we both are in the healthcare field helping others as this in turn helps heal us. As parents we both choose to release the pain and end the behaviors that shaped us, so we didn’t repeat patterns onto our own children- but I am certain we offered them other challenges to navigate.

Our Dad was a complex person- a former Marine, heavy drinking heavy smoking strict man who had a compassionate heart that sometimes surfaced with great acts of kindness –

We were out in the bay in our little motorboat when my Dad saw two men in the middle of the bay standing waist deep on a sandbar that would soon be consumed by oncoming tides.  Obviously panic stricken with no watercraft in sight these men waved to our Dad.  He headed over to them, two men, one was very different to my 4-year-old eyes, he had long curly blond hair and small breasts, the other I don’t recall. This man stuttered his gratitude as my Dad hauled them into our tiny boat and motored back to the shore without conversation.  Safely on dry land dripping wet and shivering they again voiced their gratitude as we motored away.  This incident was never discussed, as an adult I understand the enormity of what took place, two gay men left in the middle of the bay- neither could swim…as a child I witness an act of kindness, a man doing the right thing no matter his views, these were fellow human beings in distress, this was a silent lesson of compassion as many of our lessons were.

Often our brokenness is what tempers us to be the people we were meant to be.  I have long since forgiven my Dad for his, and embraced him as a fellow human being that was often in distress doing the best he could from where he came from.  In the end all that really matters is the love we shared, and the love we keep in our hearts. Once again, Love is all that matters, a silent lesson learnt.

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The choice

As I write this my words are scrambled, and my thoughts are like a tornado of ideas whirling around my sadness. The pain of losing a child is unimaginable – the pain of losing a loved one dedicated to children is unimaginable. Some would say-How can God allow this? We have the gift of free will- He allows us to make choices….

What can we do with our broken hearts? When our hearts are broken open it is an opening for more of God’s Light and Love. Love and Light are and always will be more powerful than fear and darkness.

No baby is born with a gun in their hands, we have an opportunity to make things different. The person who goes on a rampage was once reachable, and probably more than once called out for help, attention, love, and support-but something went wrong-. Clearly, I am not defending their actions, I am just saying, there was a window of opportunity to help heal that person that was missed. And there are more people out there who are that broken and in need of connection.

Here’s what I believe can make a difference-

We can change by starting with our own hearts, first loving ourselves- and then making the commitment on a daily basis to reach out to others in compassion and kindness- making a human connection every day in some small way. Do not underestimate the power of a smile, a kind word, of listening to someone tell you their story-. Connection is the key.

Is it that simple? Yes and no and I don’t know- what I do know is that someone who feels isolated, unseen, and unloved will turn to behavior that puts them in the center of attention even for a brief moment to fill that void. And their void becomes our pain, our loss, a deep sadness for all involved.

I pray for the little souls and the big souls that suffered this tragedy – I pray for the families who must endure this -unimaginable pain. I pray for us that we find a new path through the darkness and hold each other close- so we heal together and come out the other side of fear and darkness to Light and Love.

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A Sister Flies Home

When a hospice nurse dies it reminds us that we indeed are still human despite the work we do everyday at death’s door, one day that door will open for us as well. Most of us push that notion aside and provide care and comfort for others while doing God’s work. Beneath the façade we know its true, someday someone will hold the door open for us and we will walk into eternity…

Yesterday we said goodbye to a sister in hospice nursing. Her family and friends crowded the venue and us sisters of hospice sat at the edge listening to stories of love and laughter about our coworker we were not aware of. It was lovely and bittersweet, she was a force of nature, fiercely loved as she will be fiercely missed. It made my heart full to know that on the other side of her work day she went home to a world of love, laughter, and support.

I knew her only through our work, we supported each other in times of challenges and shared laughter at the absurdity of it all. She shared a little of her personal life, her challenges at home were just that.

I lamented to another hospice nurse that I wished I had known her better and she reminded me that we each have a place in each other’s lives- mine was to be a sister in hospice, that was enough, that was important, that was where she needed me.

It is an incredible bond, there are a dozen plus of us on our hospice team, there is inherent respect and love as we navigate the challenges of the corporate world and the human heart. There is a strength in numbers, we buoy each other with compassion and respect. And we stand together sharing our hearts to say goodbye to a sister who has flown into the world of the angels.

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Saying Goodbye

This has never happened to me; I had a patient on hospice since 12/2018-until yesterday. That is a really long time in my world. I spent the first two and half years as her case manager and the last 6 months as the fill in for her new case manager. Some deaths are quick as the body and spirit align in understanding but with dementia there is a disconnect, the confused mind doesn’t align with the spirit and the dying process can be slow and agonizing for the family to watch. Her passing was peaceful, but just took weeks rather than days.

Beyond her dementia her personality was someone who was stubborn to boot- but mostly she did not want to leave her beloved husband and so she lingered.

Her current case manager had gone on a much-needed vacation, so I was enlisted to daily visits. I knew it was the right thing to do as much as my heart was tender.

When I first met this patient, I was wearing a lime green jacket, she wanted it and let me know every time I visited. So off and on for 2 years it was our little joke, until she forgot about it, didn’t recognize me anymore.

So, this is indeed a sad story- so why do I even bother to share it- first because it is reality for so many- dementia, having it or caring for someone who has it. I will tell you the secret to persevering through this maze-LOVE. In fact, most of our life problems are buoyed and endured by LOVE. We just must remember to stay centered in it.

The other thing I wanted to share was as I was sitting at the kitchen table, navigating the grief of her beloved husband and sons, I suddenly felt the sweetest softest gentlest energy surround my shoulders…she was saying Goodbye!

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Dog Signs #2

Today I went for a long walk with a dear friend who has moved away and was back visiting. We both are nature girls at heart so we strolled though the dirt path and chatted. She is very spiritual and was sharing a dream with me she had the night before she ended it by saying- “We need to keep the Gates open!” She was referencing the gateway between the physical and spiritual worlds.

If you have read my blog recently you have read “Dog Signs” in which I relate the story of what transpired after I put my dear dog Abby to sleep last fall. It is worth a reread as this is what happened today…

A woman was walking her Australian shepherd, I stopped and said, “She’s beautiful!”

The woman, Irene responded, “She already went swimming but she wants to go back again!”

We talked about the breed being an endless supply of dog energy, I know well as my oldest son has Ivy of the very same breed. We exchanged stories and then I asked, “What’s her name?”

“Ruby,” she replied.

I laughed to myself, surely a sign, if not two. I then went on to state we had had a Ruby as well but now we have an Oliver. And this is where things got undeniable.

Irene’s eyes lit up and she said-“That’s Ruby’s last name- Oliver!”

All dogs go to heaven of this I am certain, but they also send signs to us that life on the other side is real and they can send their love to us from beyond the Rainbow Bridge.

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All Is Well

My favorite patient died yesterday- I had last seen him on Saturday and he was status quo- not great but basically the same he had been for months.  He told me his wife Madelyn was waiting for him.  She had been my patient too. She passed last June after many moons on hospice.  I knew I would take care of John when he was ready, and finally this past fall he was.  He lived on gummy bears and Pepsi for months.  He pretended to be a cranky guy to hide the pain he felt.  He died of a broken heart, broken heart syndrome is real, I have witnessed it more than once.  The good news is though we are Eternal Beings and although we may not be in the physical world together, we are always together in the world of Spirit. 

Now that John passed all of us left behind grieve- we will miss him, but in my heart of hearts I know he had an incredible reunion with his beloved and they are now in the Gardens she prepared for him.  She was a master gardener and although her earthly works have become weed ridden, I know in the land of Spirit she has grown Gardens far more beautiful and stunning than anything she accomplished here.

John was my last patient I will case manage, I am still working in hospice but not taking the responsibility of case managing, after 17 years of this work my heart has called out for a rest, and so I step away from this position.  I held fast for John, as did his care givers, Cookie and Nancy – he was well cared for and deeply loved, and I know he knew it.  He affectionately called me “Chicago” for our mutual love of the 70’s band…. Stories I never told him now he knows…. now he is free and easy. 

Bless you both, you have marked my heart for life.

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Dog signs

I thought I had shared this, but apparently not, so –

Last fall I was watching TMC, or rather it was in the background while I was reading.  The movie was Dodge City, an Errol Flynn cowboy movie, not something I’d watch, but it was on none the less. The voices converse and I hear the name “Abby”. I smile, we had put our beloved Abby down a few months earlier, and I appreciated the “sign”.  When we took her to the vet that day, it all happened so fast, as I held her head, I told her to go to Ruby, our golden and her companion of many years that had passed before her.  Somehow, I knew Ruby would take her to the land of dogs over the Rainbow Bridge, it was heartbreaking -life without a dog is simply different.

As I was musing about hearing the name Abby in the movie “someone” prompted me to go look the movie up- I was missing the entire message.  So, I googled the movie- and there in the cast members were two women, one whose character was named Abby and the other- I kid you not- Ruby!!! Here was my confirmation that my beloved dogs were indeed together.  No more sorrow, no more worries. 

I don’t know how this happens, all that I know is that it does and if we are open to seeing the signs Spirit provides them. 

Fast forward to this Easter, my sons and I are walking in Island Heights.  As we get out of the car, a young woman is walking a Golden puppy. Timing is everything- five minutes earlier or later and we would have missed her. Spiritual intervention, I am sure.  We stop and talk.  I had been trying to find a Golden through various rescues, and nothing was happening.  She tells me about the place she got her puppy and gives me the info.  I reach out to them and they have no more puppies, but- she knows of a litter and gives me that info.  I call, there are 2 males left, I hesitate only because I had committed to seeing another rescue dog that week.  When I finally call back there is only one puppy left, the last of the litter, the last pick, mine.

We pick him up on Mother’s Day weekend, what a gift. He is sweet, and the calmest puppy I have ever encountered.  Life with a dog is so much better because no one loves you so unconditionally. Who else understands you when you are playing tug of war and yell out-

“I am the king of the Rabbit mountain….”

I look forward to the day when I can visit the Land of Dogs and reunite with all the wonderful dogs that graced my life.  For now, Oliver and I will soldier on in this life hand in paw.

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The Detour

There is a saying I am not overly fond of- “Everything happens for a reason”.  Cliches can be so annoying, especially when they are right.  I have returned, back to where I was 6 months ago, but I am not the same person.  I took a job at another hospice lured by a friend by promises of rebuilding and reshaping the current hospice team.  This quickly digressed into a ‘dumpster fire at an oil refinery.’ There were many issues out of my control, and it was prudent on my part to leave.  It was a disappointment for sure, as I had aspired to something greater, but all was not lost.  It was a huge learning experience for me. 

First and foremost, I realized the vast knowledge I had about hospice in general, when you see things being done incorrectly your knowledge pops to the surface and revolts!  I also realized how incredibly difficult a job management is, and if one is not supported it is an impossible task at best.

Second, I learnt about myself, my discontent and where I was able to take responsibility for it.  Healthcare is a business, and hospice is no exception, this is beyond my control.  I was able to see myself more clearly, what was mine and what was not.  I have case managed on and off for 17 years, it is a huge responsibility, one my heart cannot take anymore.  I carry my patients in my heart and my heart breaks over and over again.  I changed my position, and I feel this will work better for me.

Third, Time verse Money.  I am getting older, my priorities have changed, I would rather have more time with those I love than things. 

And lastly, I cannot express the love I felt from my former/current coworkers.  I forget often that I am loved. It is silly of me, I know, but I am so focused on giving love that I forget to receive it.  This was my best lesson.  I am loved, how wonderful is that?

Sometimes we need to change our situation so our vision can become clearer.  I am grateful for every moment as it leads to where I need to be, here, being loved and giving love.

What is better than that? A new puppy …. but that is another story.

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The hat

I was buying flowers at the local market, it’s a lovely place, the colors, the smells, the possibilities of beauty overflowing. I was in a hurry, my time limited and I had so much to accomplish.  I whooshed by an elderly man with a cap on that read “Korean War”- it has other information on it, it was a sign of his devotion to his country. I realized that his hat was his attempt to connect with others, perhaps someone who knew someone who had served, or better yet, that the general public knew he had served, that he, like all God’s children was worthy of consideration and kindness.  He was not just an old man lost amid the flowers. He could not have been more than 20ish when he served- doing the math- 1950-2021- this gentleman had to be well into his 90’s.

 The saleslady was awesome, she was patient and kind and worked with him to make sure he got just what he wanted, 4 hanging baskets.  She acted as though there was no one else in the world except him.  He was apologetic in nature, his first time to this market.  They give you a yellow slip to take to the register to pay so you don’t have to bring all your flowers with you.  I overheard the sales lady explaining this all to him.  Suddenly I am opening my mouth, calling to her- “Here. Give me his slip- I want to pay for him!” She smiles as though she knew this already, she points to me already in line, the gentleman looks at me a little bewildered.  I smile, oops I have a mask on- he cannot see my smile!  So, I blow him a kiss- and he blows one back to me, and our connection is complete.  My heart smiles.  Being kind feeds my soul, I am grateful I am able to do so.

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