Do not forget me

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.

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Father’s Day Wink from Heaven

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.

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Last smile

It is 3am and the mockingbird is singing the song of the catbird, the robin, and the sparrow in hopes of finding a mate.  This started two weeks ago, outside my bedroom window- he perches in the cherry blossom tree and sings into the deep darkness offering the song of everyone he knows longing for a reply.  I have come to call it the bird booty call. I am ever hopeful he will attract his songmate and they will fly off into the night and leave me to my slumber, but this has not happened yet.

My heart is heavy this week.  A pt. I have had for over a year and a half is finally making her transition into the afterlife.  She has ALS.  This is my least favorite disease if there can be one.  It has robbed her of every muscle in her body except a few last precious ones, she can no longer swallow, her ability to breathe is shallow and her voice is barely audible.  The rest of her body lies in wait, unable to respond to her mind that would will it otherwise. She has had amazing courage.  We have shared many stories and last Spring my son and I shared her ALS walk in Seaside while she zoomed ahead on her electric scooter.

She opens her eyes and focuses on me.  “Please, make it quick” she requests.  I tell her I will make her comfortable, but I cannot make it quick unless she has bail money, she smiles.  It is a gift, her smile.  It is one of the last muscles to leave her command. It helps me. It helps my sadness.  I know she will be forever healed once she has left us, this is my solace for her suffering.  There is something sacred is witnessing someone else suffering.  Her husband and live-in care giver have shared her journey with love and devotion, he now shadows himself in the kitchen and she is ever present at the bedside. Their love is boundless, I know my pt. feels this.

I tell her the story of my mockingbird.  She has loved nature and spent many hours in her gardens when she was younger.  I tell her how the mockingbird has stolen my sleep. I do not tell her she also has stolen my sleep as I awaken often and wonder if I will see her again in the coming dawn. I tell her how I hope the little lonely bird finally flies off with his love.  She smiles. Her last gift to me. I am so blessed.

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Mermaid and the Moon

I close my eyes, I am standing on the shore, in the foam of the wave she smiles.  A mermaid leans forward and beckons me. “Come with me,” she says as her eyes shimmer and her iridescent tail moves playfully in the surf. “Come, my friend, I have so much magic to show you in my world!”

I confess I hate getting wet.  The prospect of submerging into an unknown world makes me uncomfortable but still she smiles patiently waiting for me to banish my fears. I watch as they wander up to the dunes waiting for me.  My toes step into the surf, the cold shimmers up my bone marrow, yes, you are alive, you are mortal, you are human it reminds me.

She takes my hand and gently eases me into the water, it swirls around me as we go below. “See,” she says,” You are safe! You can breathe!”  We swim deeper into the depths passing curious onlookers, a clam, a crab, a fish,  a whale wonder at the mermaid who glides by with a human in tow. 

She takes me deep where the sand is dark and the seaweed cannot sway, it is calm far below.  “Breathe!” she says.  “You are safe! I am always here with you.  I am the magic; I am the imagination of your childish mind.  I am as real as you wish me to be.”  She dances around me making gentle circles in the sand.  The water is warm far below, this surprises me, I am safe.

Above a light trickles thru.  She pulls me back to the surface where the Moon smiles down.  He is full and bright reflecting the light of the forgotten sun.  He is full and playful, pulling the water’s tides.  He has purpose and is content.

“What is my purpose?” I ask the Moon.

 “To do what God sent you here to do,” he replies. 

“What is that?”  

The Moon smiles, “You my human have the best purpose of all, Love.” He chuckles to himself and all the stars in the sky giggle with him. “But you make it so complicated!”

The mermaid takes my hand and guides me back to the shore, the place where two worlds meet. She places her hands over her heart and says goodbye.

Standing on the shore, alone beneath the wise Moon, I remember myself. I am a child of God.

I am Love incarnate.  It is simple.

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We’ve got this

It is said the we choose our lives; create a blueprint of the journey we are to embark on in life in the spirit world before we are born.  We decide what lessons we need to embrace to grow as a soul.  I believe in the spirit realm when we do this, we have the upmost confidence and optimism that we can accomplish anything.  We see the challenges, as a testament to our commitment in soul evolution, our spiritual growth.  And so, we embark with a great love of life, the physical existence in the human form thinking we’ve got this! Being human is both a challenge and a blessing.

When I sit with my hospice patients, I encourage them to share their life review if that is something they wish to do.  I am always fascinated by the stories, the life journey they have had.  It is far different than mine, older people have lived through different outward times doing the same inner work that we all do.  It is sacred to walk through memories and the emotions they evoke.

The stories they choose to share, the stories we choose to repeat define who we are, what we feel is important.  I think about this a lot.  When I meet someone what do I want them to know about me first? What is important about me that I want to share?  Often in hospice I will share that my parents have both passed over, that before my mother died, she saw my father (in spirit) standing by her bed waiting for her.  I share the stories that will help others with their current journey.  But my stories are deeper and more complex than that.  If you were to ask, I would tell you that as a child I loved the earth, climbed trees and sang in them watching the birds… that is who I am.

Yesterday I sat with a newspaper man, he can talk. He is full of stories- lots and lots of them.  He shared with me some of his adventures, rubbing shoulders with a President, celebrities and the super-rich.  After some time, he looked at me and said, “I think I made a difference.” It was a simple statement but this what was the most important thing to him.  Being here, knowing you are leaving soon, did my stories make a difference, did they make life better?  Yes, by just being here we make a difference. Yes, by having the courage to live our lives the best we can in the moment we make a difference. 

So, I offer you this, be kind to yourself, you are doing the best you can.  Tell your story with compassion and joy because you my friend are a Child of God and your place in this vast Universe would not be the same without you.

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Two Dozen Eggs

Today I performed the death-defying act of going grocery shopping. I doubt I have to elaborate on how this has become a source of great stress for many of us, a common place chore now one of scarcity, masks and tempers.

I was in the check out line- almost done when I heard yelling erupt next to me.  The customer wanted to buy 2 dozen eggs and there was a limit of just one per customer.  Her angry grew as she tried to coerce the salesperson into allowing her to buy the two she had picked out.  The salesperson was clear there was a limit and that was that.  You could tell by her demeanor she had had this battle many times in the past few weeks.

I quickly pulled the dozen I had just purchased and handed them to the customer- “Here, take mine. Really its’ okay, but you can’t have my toilet paper!” I joked. The customer was stunned at first declining my offer, she wanted to rage, she wanted to vent all over this poor salesperson.  Finally, she took mine, offering to pay for them I declined and said it was a gift.  I wished her a Happy Easter and left. 

I myself have been very angry over the past month, venting to my nursing sisters about what is expected of us, etc.  I realized today anger in general is the mask we wear when we are afraid. Yes, we are all fearful, because we are all human.  I tell myself I should trust in the Divine, that my Spirit family is often sending me encouragement, they send me signs, situations resolve, thus far I have been safe. I struggle with my fears because in my head I know fear is the opposite of LOVE.  I know I should come from LOVE and deny fear it’s desired place in my life.  It has not been easy.  Today I saw myself in this woman, she was really complaining that life is different, that she cannot continue on as she always has, getting what she wants when she wants it even if it’s only 2 dozen eggs.  We all have had to embrace these changes, as the coming days will have changed our lives without a doubt.

I remember I once read that mean people need our love more, our kindness more, because they have just forgotten.  I hope this small act of kindness breaks thru the fear and allows love to grow.  Next time I am angry I will take off my mask and allow LOVE to make its home in my heart where it is no matter what is going on around me. 

We cannot know what will happen, but we win the battle of fear.  Remember We Are Love.

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What is waiting for us

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This past weekend I took a class with Anysia Kiel http://www.anysiakiel.com/. We did a guided meditation of sorts.  It was all at once amazing, powerful and undeniable. Visualizing sitting at the ocean and thinking of our loved ones who have passed over she asks us to stand and turn to our left and start walking.  Then she suggests that these very same loved ones are walking towards us to greet us.

In my minds eye I can see him, he is smiling and running towards me blasting an intense wave of unconditional love as he wraps his spiritual arms around me.  The energy nearly knocks me off my chair and I begin to sob. Even though I know he is always with me- I have missed his hugs, I have missed his physical person- this is the next best thing.  His love envelops me, I feel his smile.  He makes me smile through my tears.

Then a tender energy steps forward, My Mama from another time.  She is also with me in spirit daily but now I feel her sweet tender kisses.

Lastly my golden retriever, Ruby comes bouncing up. She loves the beach, once she even swam on Christmas day, this is her happy place.  I feel her nudges, see her chocolate eyes and feel her joy.

I am consumed by LOVE.  There is a crowd behind them, I cannot even begin to imagine all the LOVE that is waiting for me.

Often, we are so sad when someone passes, our hearts break, we miss them beyond words. So, I offer this, even though they are leaving us behind they are returning to those who went before them.  It is a Divine Reunion of Unconditional Love. Our sadness is not theirs.  Joy awaits them, and they are always always always still with us, if only in Spirit.

 

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The Sacredness of Chronic Illness

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Chronic illness can appear to be cruel.  My hospice patient who developed ALS is currently unable to do anything for herself except chew, breathe and talk.  She is unable to move her arms and legs or care for herself in anyway as she lamented yesterday- “I can’t even blow my own nose!” She went on to share she felt that her caregiver and her husband were getting tired of caring for her, this was her own perception.  What do you say to this? I took a deep breathe and prayed whatever came out of my mouth was in someway helpful-to back track a bit- before work I invited the Angels to work with me- to guide me and assist me in any way they can- because often I am faced with situations that are emotionally challenging.  These are the words that formed-

“You have a sacred bond with them.  Your illness is sacred and allowing others to care for you is an opportunity for your caregivers and those that love you to develop important things like compassion and patience.  You think you are doing nothing? No, my friend, you are giving them a gift to become more, to grow and expand not just their human side but their spirit side as well. What you are doing is ripe with purpose, a beautiful gift.”

Tears formed in the corners of her eyes; I wasn’t sure if she absorbed my words, but she smiled a little.  “But I am ready! I have packed my bags and I am ready to go!” she managed very very slowly.

“I know, but you are not done.  You have purpose, you are needed here.  Until that is finished you will stay, teaching others.”

After my visit I sat in my car and let the words sink in.  My own mother had a chronic illness, she was a great teacher as well.

She always said, “Patience is a virtue.”

To which I would reply- “I don’t want to be virtuous!”

I have come to accept that all things have Divine Will and Divine Timing woven into the fabric of their existence. Indeed, it is a lesson offered once again in the eyes of a hospice patient.

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Spiritual Tools

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Yesterday my ego got the better of me.  A hospice patients’ husband resumed his tirade of yelling at me for a situation I cannot control.  He has a habit of spewing his anger on anyone, so I wasn’t specifically targeted, but alas my ego was bruised.  My line of work is emotionally intense on any given day and often my human self gets tired of the demands, my Soul knows better.  At one point in his tirade I asked him quite calmly to just stop, he looked at me with disgust as if I was not a worthy adversary and became quiet. When I finished my visit I sat in my car and tried to let it all go, my ego was having none of it, it wanted validation that I didn’t deserve this behavior, I was bringing my heart into a situation trying to help- it reasoned, my Soul knew better- I was learning a Lesson…

Fast forward to a cup of tea and the news, which I don’t often watch, but tonight I was compelled to turn on PBS NewsHour.  There was a segment on a woman, she was the child in the photograph from the Vietnam war that was running down the street naked and burnt from the napalm the USA had dropped on her.

She became an icon. She is a person.

She has endured humiliation, suffering and pain.  Seventeen surgeries and a lifetime of pain.  She spoke of finding the New Testament in the library and turning to Christianity.  She said it helped her.  She began to pray for her “enemies”. She learned about FORGIVENESS and LOVE. She works with children. She walks the walk; she has embraced the teachings of Christ and is living them.  This woman who was violated as a child, her clothes and skin stripped from her, healed herself by applying Spiritual Tools. At the end of the segment She smiled.

My ego was humbled. My Soul smiled. Intellectually I know we cannot control how people behave but now my heart knew it too.  I let the days’ lesson go, quietly I prayed for him, for the woman on the news and myself. I forgive him and send him love but more importantly I forgive myself for forgetting. Ever grateful for the Spiritual Tools I have and the reminder from Spirit to use them daily.

 

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Friends

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Something I adopted this year when speaking to my patients and families-I would address them as “My friend…” with a sincere heart- it made such a difference. There was a shift in perception-we are in this together- friendship implies so many good qualities of a relationship.

Yesterday a husband of one of my patients, both in their 90’s, shared this story with me.  He said he and his wife were driving to South Carolina, an eleven-hour trip, conversation had gotten old and the silence had come. “Out of the blue my wife said: ‘You are my best friend Bob!’ I had never looked at her like this before, I had always just thought she was my wife! It made me think.”  It was such sweet moment.  Her eyes twinkled.

I have come to use this phrase it in many areas of my life-addressing people as “My friend” has built a bridge of commonality and love. In this time where there can be such diversion of beliefs-we are fed a constant media diet of separation- it is nice to know a few well-chosen words can open a gateway of compassion.

We are all children of God, beings made up of Stardust and Love. Let us remember our need to see the good in each other, the need to be friends. Happy New Year!

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