Last night I called a friend who lives 350 miles away, although we text daily, I haven’t seen him in years. We were talking about the need to give during the holiday season, he mentioned his favorite charities- I mentioned mine, and how a little bit of our money could bring hope to someone else. He then told me on his daily walk he saw a lone man which is unusual as he walks the shores of the Cape in all weather. He offered the salutation of “How are you?” the lone man stopped and replied, “I am struggling, I am depressed. I gave up drinking 20 years ago and the isolation of our times is killing me.”
Certainly not the response my friend had imagined. So, he stopped, staying 6 feet away, and spoke with this lonely soul. He provided what we call in nursing- “active listening”. He listened so the other man felt he was heard and had made a human connection, a dent in his feelings of isolation. The man spoke of his fishing boat and his catches and other seemingly trivial things, most important to him.
During our conversation it occurred to me that my friend was at the right place at the right time to provide a gift of compassion and human interaction, a gift well above and beyond anything money could have done. A moment of recognition, acceptance and common bond was all this lonely soul needed.
Who knows if he prayed for help prior to his walk, but someone somewhere made sure out in the sands of the Cape two men would meet. This moment was spiritually orchestrated no doubt in my mind.
It becomes more and more evident to me how much we need each other, life is messy and unpredictable, and to have someone else hear us, acknowledge our struggles, share a moment is something money doesn’t offer. The gifts of the heart are priceless.
Yesterday a friend called, she was going through a frustrating time and needed someone to vent to, someone she could unravel her feelings with, someone safe who would support her and not judge. She needed a friend. She apologized for bothering me at the end of the call, but honestly, I was happy she had called, and we could share time because she has been there for me. Because of her presence I have a lovely memory of us sitting outside on my front steps this past summer with my dog Abby the night before she took the rainbow bridge. There was an otherworldly feel to that moment, there was peace. My friend and I had stopped chatting and I looked at Abby, she was so content, so absorbed in the moment, just being was enough. This memory has brought me comfort beyond any words could. A moment in time just sharing being here on this earth together, just being.
In our world we are expected to do, to produce, to become, to grow. To have a moment just to be -surrounded by those we love is such a gift. To have relationships whether it is family, friend, or pet where we can express love and appreciation for each other even in silence is priceless.
The holidays pressure us to buy and give gifts as the only token of our love for each other. Gifts of the soul- giving space, silence, nonjudgement, being are just as sacred if not more. Giving someone a memory, a laugh, a hug they can hold onto when they move through life is a gift worth giving.
I am so grateful for all of my friends, each providing me with an opportunity to receive love and give love. Friendship is indeed the best gift of all.
The day before I was slated for a healing session with my favorite healer Anysia Kiel (check her out at Anysiakiel.com) I was walking by the inlet at Island Heights with my boys. It was a blustery warm day perfect for an after-work stroll. My phone rung, it was not a number I recognized so I ignored it and we made our way around and back the water offering white caps as some small sailboats took in the wind. My phone rang again, this number I recognized. It was a patient who had passed in March from ALS, she had been on service a long time, 18 months, that is long in the hospice world. We had many nice visits as my heart slowly broke watching her disease consume her. I had stopped by to see her husband once after her death and had been meaning to stop by in recent months, but life demands kept each day full no matter the longing of my heart. So, I answered the phone- “Hello?”
The voice on the other end was a little annoyed, “You just called this number? Your phone number just came up! Who is this?” Her husbands voice demanding my answer.
“John, it’s me Phyllis-but I didn’t call you- “
“Who?” the wind was causing turbulence in the background.
“It’s me-Chicago!” His nickname he gave me for our mutual love of the band. He rarely called me by my given name.
“Chicago? Oh my?! Did you call me?”
“No, but you have been on my mind, and I honestly have wanted to stop by…” truly this was the case.
“Hmmm, well your number came up on my phone!”
“It must be Marilyn,” I offered
“Yes, it must have been her! Well you know you can come by anytime….”
We spoke for a few more minutes and then with promises to visit I hung up.
The next night I went to my healing session, the energy was crowded with spirit so much so even I could feel it. After the usual spirit appearance of my favorites, Anysia stopped and listened, “You had a woman, a patient that recently passed?”
Now this was a surprise to me, because believe it or not no patient in spirit has ever crashed a healing session. Which always surprised me, I have been doing hospice for 17 years and helped hundreds of people pass and yet she was the first to visit. Anysia described her as being light and airy- which was wonderful after years of being prisoner in her body on the earth plane. She said, thru Anysia’s translation, that I had no idea how I effected people, and how grateful she was that I shared her journey home. She said that I was truly an Angel. It was extremely sweet, and her words made me cry. Her disease is my least favorite, if there can be one, and it took a lot of internal courage to walk her home, it broke my heart often, but I showed up because that was what was asked of me.
I read recently two things about butterflies, one is they don’t see the beauty of their own wings, but they still fly and the other is we often forget the process the butterfly goes through to become one. Metamorphosis is often messy, caterpillar, cocoon, gooey mixture that rebirths into a beautiful being.
So I do not see myself as an Angel, I am too human at this point, but I do see myself as a butterfly having been through some daunting and messy moments that brought me where I am now. I am learning to see my worth, to see myself as others see me, to respect myself as others respect me.
The thing is this, my patients feed my soul, they help me grow and become a better person, they develop my spirit and allow me to share the Light of God that is in all of us. Whatever I have done for them in sharing their journey the return has been tenfold. I am truly blessed and grateful for a visit from the Otherside.
Before you were born, before you were even a twinkle in you Mama’s eye -God dreamt of you. God’s nature is to create, His love of variation on themes is evident -all aspects of nature, flowers, insects, animals, and the heavenly bodies echo this.
So you are a variation of a theme, God dreamt of you before you knew your name, the sound of your mother’s heartbeat, the warmth of her arms, the love emanating from your father’s eyes. God LOVED you first because you are His child.
God has dreamt a Dream for all of us and often our egos ignore His call. We move ahead with our own agendas and desires until we cannot move any further because we are going against the flow of His dream for us. Each day becomes a battle as we struggle against the current of His desires for us. It is His Divine Plan that we accepted long before we came here, our Divine Assignment we joyously signed up for.
Nursing for me was my back-up plan if the Rockstar thing didn’t work out. Music to me is the soul’s language, it takes me places I cannot go with words. In any case, I am a nurse. One who has songs spinning endlessly in my head, one who sings silly songs to my cats, and sometimes much to the distress of my youngest son I also dance! But I digress…
God’s Dream for me has called me once again to make major changes in my life, it is time and with trepidation and nervous excitement I move into the next phase of my career. I will leave behind coworkers I love dearly; I admire and wish I could take with me, but the Dream demands I go alone.
God knows my heart, better than I do, he rejoices in my soul, his creation- when I more often berate myself for my human perceived failings. God loves me unconditionally and dreams for me a life of service and great soul growth so when I return to the Afterlife I can see myself as He sees me, a child returning home with a wealth of experience and LOVE that his Dream dreamt for me.
I wake in darkness; it is morning before the sun. The cats are sure of it, they encourage my rising if only to use my magical opposable thumbs to relieve their hunger. The sky is thunder black and blue, outlines of clouds ease by. The moon peeks through and whispers, “The day will be upon you before you realize. I have been dancing all night for you and you have barely noticed. The Sun is right behind me, ever chasing me, ever true to her purpose. You will miss the entrance if you are not there sitting on the beach facing the eastern sky, but no matter because the Sun does not long for an audience, she will come. No matter.”
And so, it is, the Earth, the Moon, the Stars, and the Sun all continue in their heavenly patterns despite my human heart. Despite my longings, my brokenness. They know I will heal and grow, they have seen it before, eons of human pain transformed into something more, healed hearts, newly shaped from life. Our hearts need to break open, to shatter, to grieve, to release, to heal. Our hearts become something more every time this happens. We become more compassionate, more loving, until the next time we endure the coming of change and loss.
The mind can process much faster than the heart, the heart needs time, needs nurturing, needs understanding that this is the nature of Love. Big Love breaks you open, and you become more, as painful as it appears, it is a gift to feel so deeply, to long, to wish, to hope again.
The neighborhood dogs are barking this morning, but the choir has changed, a missing voice, silence comes from my house. My house is no longer the world of Abby, she took the Rainbow Bridge this week, reuniting with her beloved Ruby, happily romping in the world of eternal bliss as I imagine. She never got over the loss of her beloved Ruby, every Golden she saw she would run up to whimpering in hopes…Now she would see her again.
I knew she was failing, I watched the signs, but her puppy spirit was ever present and her determination to make it up the stairs each day never failed, even if she had to rest a while on the landing. But then she stopped eating, and more unpleasantness followed, the details I will spare you. By Wednesday afternoon my head was telling me it was time, but my heart wanted to linger.
The boys and I placed her in the back of my CRV, I sat with her, she was as anxious as I was. But I knew she was suffering, and I did not want that, she had been a faithful and goofy companion for over 13 years, her time here was done, my head knew, my heart ached.
I cradled her head in my arms and told her all the things she already knew, I thanked her for loving me when I could not love myself. I thought in that moment perhaps God was a Dog, and He sent her to care for me and my family knowing how hard it is to be human, how tender, and fragile our hearts are. How much we need to remember to bark without biting, to romp and play and enjoy every nibble of our food and when things get rough a nap is the best medicine.
Some people do not understand crying and grieving over a pet, but I can say this- the heart knows no difference when it loves, Love is Love is Love, and the loss is just as great. I am broken open, my heart is raw, it is the price we pay for loving so deeply. Thank you, Abby for choosing us, for being ever present and always loving. Until we meet again.
A few days ago, I saw one of my favorite coworkers, everyone loves him, he is kind and has a sweet smile. Despite the ongoing restrictions I gave him a hug (we were both wearing masks) and my condolences. I had heard his mother had passed away, she lived in another country, so he was not able to travel to her funeral. She died two weeks before she was to move into the home he was building for her. It was sudden. I had heard the story from someone else.
He began, and told me the exact same story, I listened knowing all the words. He was grateful he had returned to his country last year and had been able to spend time with her then as this year’s circumstances made it impossible. He had watched her funeral by phone…. he ended with her age lamenting she was too young to leave this world.
Often people say, “I don’t know what to say!” when faced with another’s loss. I have learnt that silence has a deep beauty, that holding space with someone while they process their pain is truly what they need. Telling our stories to each other is part of making the unbearable real, part of the healing process. Being heard, having the pain recognized is a gift we can give each other. Hugs are really nice too.
One of the gifts of being a nurse- (and all healthcare professionals)- is that we care for people no matter who they are or who they have been. We are not to judge the actions past or present. We provide care for those who need it. It is very freeing not to judge another person, it is an exercise in compassion. It is an act of Love to provide care for those we might not deem worthy of it from our human ego. Yes, we get paid and it is a job, but it is part of our job not to judge. It is not to say we intentionally put ourselves in harms way, although perhaps that is an occupational hazard especially during these times. But not to judge people, but to care for them is a great gift. It has spilt over into my personal life as well. As a younger person I had a vision of how life was supposed to be, what was acceptable, and LIFE has shown me that it is often unpredictable, and some choices are just plain hard.
The choices people had made in their lives perhaps are not the ones I have made for myself, but my life on paper is not pretty either. Life is messy, it is that simple. There is so much beyond our control, and the things we can control can often be challenging. I want to believe we are doing the best we can in any given moment, and when we fall short of that we can offer kindness and compassion to each other because being human is a sacred but difficult task. The Spirit world knows this and showers us with LOVE and ENCOURAGEMENT to go forward, we are never alone.
Yesterday was 4th of July. For me it is “stay at home with your dog to comfort her during the strange booming day”. I was in the kitchen when my phone half rang. I figured someone hung up mid call and if it were important, they’d call me back. Three minutes later one of my favorite home health aides called me. “Did you just call me?” she asked, explaining that her phone had also registered a half ring and my name popped up.
“Ah, no. Where are you?”
“I am so sorry, I know you aren’t working, but Mrs. O is not doing well. I’ve already called for the oncall nurse!”
“Give her my love,” I said knowing what was coming.
I got a texted from her primary nurse a few hours later to let me know Mrs. O had passed. I had been covering this patient for her while she was away. I went to respond and distinctly felt an arm around my shoulders, no one was there- in physical form at least.
Mrs. O was one of those people you just instantly liked. She was salty and stubborn, but it was all show. Beneath she was the sweetest most genuine person. She said what she meant and meant what she said. One of the last times I was there I showed her a picture of two baby deer that had been grazing across the street from her, she was delighted to know and thanked me profusely for sharing this, as her tiny room had become her only world.
I knew she was dying; she knew she was dying but she was fighting to stay, and I didn’t want to intrude on her battle. Dying is a very personal journey and people often with chronic illness die the way they lived. She was going to go down clinging to a life raft singing pirate songs! She was salty and strong and ever so sweet beneath the surface.
She has left her mark on my heart, as so many do but she will always surface in my memory as she died on the 4th of July. Next summer and every summer to come I will smile and remember her if only for a fleeting moment.
I worked hospice Father’s Day weekend. I was on the phone with the other nurse who was working with me and we talked about our nursing school days. We had discovered we were in the same class, but she had had to drop out due to an accident and she finished a few years later.
I was sitting at a stoplight. I told her the hardest part of nursing school for me was when my Father was actively dying the professors told me that if I left to go be with him I would lose the entire semester and have to wait another 9 months to enroll to finish my degree. This was heart breaking for me. My Father lived 350 miles away. I was a single mom with three small boys, and I had to get into the work force asap. My other siblings were at bedside, but I knew my Father was waiting for me. I decided not to go. After he passed a few days later the professors told me to take a week off to be with my family, I was floored. To this day I do not understand their thinking behind this situation.
In any case that was 18 years ago, the guilt comes and goes, and, in my heart, I know I should be kinder to myself. It was an impossible situation on so many levels. I live with the choice I made.
“I’m sorry that happened to you,” the other nurse offered.
“Thanks,” I replied. I looked up to see if the light had changed, and to my amazement the car in front of me had a license plate border that said “Orleans, Cape Cod.” This is where I grew up. I knew in that moment my Dad had heard me, here on Father’s Day, voicing my regret for not being there for him- but letting me know he is with me now, always. The bonds of LOVE are never broken.