Catbird

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I love the early morning sky as I listen to the bird songs and watch the colors of the day emerge from the rosy/fiery sunrise into the clear blueness of the day. But last night at 2:45am, albeit technically morning, the sky was dark and obscured by clouds. I was up with my dog and as I walked out onto the deck fully expecting the deep silence of the night I heard a lone Catbird singing his mashed up song in the oak tree of my neighbor’s yard.  It did not seem to matter to him that the sun was still sleeping or that his voice was the only voice carrying into the darkness. The name Catbird must cause some crisis of identity.  To live labeled with your arch nemesis name attached to yours seems somehow unkind -CATbird. Even his song is not his own, it is a combination of mimicked sounds he has found appealing, snippets of random songs of other birds; he is the DJ of the bird world.  None of this deters him, still he sings into the night.

I trundle back to bed hoping the Sandman will be kind to me for at least a few more hours.  When I reawaken I hear the song of the Catbird once more.  The day has come and he continues to do what he does best, sing.  His cares are not of the human kind even though he lives among us.  His world is of the boundless sky, the trees and the song.  I envy him for he does not worry his day away, he does not wander recklessly into the future of “what ifs”, he stays in this moment and he sings.  His song brings me joy and hope and I am ever grateful for it.

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A Mother’s Love

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There are many hard things in life, but to me saying goodbye to your child is probably the hardest. It is not something I have experienced directly although my youngest child has been at death’s door twice due to his epilepsy he has returned to me both times.  When I was a toddler my aunt lost her daughter of six to cancer, she was someone I played with on a regular basis and so I felt her loss deeply as well as my aunts.  My aunt has a smile that reflects her hidden pain, she is one of the best huggers I have ever met, she knows the feel of one last hug. I believe this experience in my life is the reason I became a hospice nurse, it colored my world with deep greens and blues, the colors of healing and sorrow.

This past weekend I accompanied my dear friend to the ICU 2500 miles away to bear witness as she said goodbye to her youngest son.  He had been a brilliant young man who had made his own way following his dreams until alcohol slowly destroyed his life. It was not for a lack of trying; he had been through multiple rehabs but ultimately was unable to come out the other side of sobriety.  There is no shame, no judgment; there is just life and choices.  We are all God’s children, perfect and whole in his Light.

He had called to his mother in a dream earlier in the week, he needed her, and so she went to be by his side in his last moments.  A mother’s love knows no distance.  A mother’s love is unwavering.  A mother’s love finds the strength to endure the unthinkable.  He needed her to help him let go and move into the loving arms of his father who had passed several years earlier and this is exactly what she did.

As we stood on the street outside the hospital a crow silently landed in the tree above us.  She said she thought it was the sign of death, yes but I said the Crow brings with it the sign of Faithful Love.  It is perhaps little consolation in such a momentous moment, but it was a beautiful bittersweet gift of spirit, as a mother’s love is unconditional and ever faithful from this world to the next.

 

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Child of God

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We spent last week in San Francisco, a place where I truly leave a piece of my heart every time I leave. In the past year our family has faced addiction, rehab and recovery, relapse, recovery, the death of a childhood friend from addiction and the harsh reality of a life unlived. This year we began with a new light, a new life has entered our world, bringing back a spark of JOY and WONDER.  There is an intensity to the JOY that perhaps would not have been as sorrow has opened our souls to hold more, reshaping our perspective of gratitude. A blessing is a blessing doubled when you have been visited by the dark night of the soul.

San Francisco has a huge homeless population because it is such a temperate climate.  Walking into the grocery store I see a young man in his thirties, if that, begging for change.  When we return an hour later he is swaying, eyes closed with an empty six pack next to him.  He is unaware of my observation, being a nurse I am always assessing people’s health status, it’s just a part of my being.  He is young, well nourished, smooth skinned individual who is definitely in need of a bath.  We place our groceries in the car and I grab a bottle of water and a few pieces of fruit.  I approach the young man, I place my offerings next to his disarray of personal items softly speaking to him, “You might be thirsty or hungry later, it’s not much, but it might make you feel better.”  It’s not much; it’s just a small gesture, one I give in love and compassion because I know in my heart he belongs to someone.  Someone brought him into this world and held him and loved him and now he sways to the rhythm of his alcohol haze.  He is someone’s child, brother, friend and he is a Child of God no matter his choices.  I know that his Guardian Angel is standing beside him forever loving him and offering him encouragement.  I do not profess to know what his journey is about, but I do know this,- someone is missing his once bright smile, the sparkle in his eye and the sound of his laughter.  Somewhere there is a mother with a broken heart, and so I send this young man love, a mother’s love, because it is a small gesture that I hope he feels and someday heals from the sadness that sent him here.  And I know that but for the Grace of God that could have been my own broken heart.

 

 

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When Death Becomes Personal

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In hospice I work on the edge of this world, often peering into the vast unknown of where my patients eventually transition to: the Great Beyond.

This past week my youngest son brought up the subject of MY death, what would happen if I died, how would if affect his world, his brothers’ worlds…. I listen.  Twice we had this conversation, and twice I assured him I was in no hurry to leave, although the allure of ICE CREAM is ever prevalent. (see my previous post).

Yesterday on my way to see my first hospice patient I am driving more attentive than usual because of these previous conversations.  It’s easy to relax your attention and daydream but this morning I am watchful.  Someone is whispering in my ear… And then I see it! A car coming head on towards me with his blinker on indicating he wants to make a left hand turn in front of me but there’s no place for him to turn.  I slowdown and stare- possibly not the best response- but it does give him time to swerve back into his lane.  As he passes by me he glares annoyed and waved his arms at me as if I am in HIS way…oh my!

Something prompts me to look at the next car- on its license plate is the name AZRAEL- the name of the Angel of Death. I have spent time with this Angel, he and I know each other well. He is an Archangel whose name means “He whom helps God”. I do not see the driver, but the car passes me without incident. I realized if I hadn’t been paying attention this could have had a very different outcome.

With all the Divine Intervention in my life I am still amazed when it becomes undeniable that the ANGELS and my SPIRIT FAMILY are watching out for me.  I give up a prayer of gratitude. My day is uneventful and I am ever grateful for that.

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Spinach and Ice Cream

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Yesterday one of my patients I have been seeing for about a month opened up and asked me the big question I often get asked “When?” “When will I die?”  I always answer honestly that I do not know, it seems to come as a disappointment that being a hospice nurse I am not privy to insider information.  But it does open up the conversation to larger things, exploration of one’s beliefs, sharing of stories to allay fears and the opening up of the soul, the remembering.

This gentleman had been somewhat reserved in my prior visits, mostly due to his disease process, I would always look deeply into his eyes when I cared for him because I felt he had much to say but an inability to express himself, yesterday was different, with a bit of patience he was able to ask that burning question, “When?” It is truly unanswerable, perhaps if we came into this life with a barcode stating our entrance and our exit dates we would live differently, but that is not the case, so each day presents itself with Divine mystery, what miracles, what challenges will this day bring?.

I like to speak in analogies because it makes profound questions easier to digest.  So I offered this to my patient and his wife who was holding his hand: Life is like spinach –it’s good for you and makes you grow stronger. Death is like ice cream-it comes at the end but it’s delicious, sweet and puts you in a happy place.  We laugh, indeed we have all stared at that lump of green on our plate knowing we must consume the challenges life brings but always leaving a spot for ice cream!

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Signs from the Universe

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Today was a day of frustration, having received my work assignment in the morning only to have it changed three times in fits and burst over a course of the morning hours until finally I stood in front of the door to my ultimate destination.  I knocked on the door but no one was home, hmmm, I turned back to get in my car.

But let me digress, many moons ago, I had a vivid dream, one where I stood in a small wooden boat on a calm body of water, alone.  Out of the water off in the distance a figure emerged from  the watery depths.  He hovered upon the water in a deep purple and golden robe, in his hand he held a staff, on his head a conical hat.  I recognized him as someone of spiritual importance.  He zoomed towards me- his feet barely skimming the surface of the water coming closer and closer.  He stopped a few feet from my boat and held his palms up towards me, indicating to me that the power of healing was in my hands.  He did not speak, he did not smile, but his eyes sparkled with a deep wisdom and then he vanished.  It was a dream I held close, one I wished I could revisit as the richness of the details have faded over the past 25 years, still the emotions it summoned remain with me.  Not long after this I found a picture of Thoth, also referred to as Hermes Trismegistus a combined God of ancient Egyptian and Greek origin.  He was known for many things but especially as the God of writing and alchemy. Interestingly Thoth was also considered a psychopomp:. A guider of souls into the afterlife.  In a word, he did hospice.

So how does this fit into my crazy disorganized day? As I stood by my car wondering if I was where I was supposed to be, both literally and figuratively,  my gaze caught a cluster of mailboxes, only one name was visible, in golden letters, THOTH.  Doubts dissolved as the Universe spoke to me.

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Four Crows and Car

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Yesterday my car refused to start after I left my second visit of my hospice day.  I was sitting out front of the house asking my Angels to start it again, I admit it had been sputtering for a while but every time I asked the Angels to intercede they would and I’d be on my merry way.  Today was not a day of intercession- well not of that kind.  I was sitting in an adult community of about a thousand and half houses. Now I knew a friend of mine had moved there, but I didn’t have a clue where she lived. Let me define “friend” for you-this was someone I had an active relationship with 30 years ago when our kids were small, and since have run into each other in the field as we are both nurses.  It is always good to see her, I have a genuine affection for her, but our lives are so busy we don’t spend time.

So I give in and call AAA, which I know will be a wait. (Once when my car broke down my middle son suggested we call AA- so they could come fix the car….but that’s another story entirely). So I am sitting in my car and I ask the Angels, ok- so apparently I am suppose to sit here….WHY? Then I see four crows circling and then landing on the house across the street.  I watch them and think about their symbolism of FAITHFUL LOVE.  I notice a car pull up and a woman hurries into the house followed by her mate.  I think to myself, she looks a lot like my friend…. I sit a while longer and the man comes out and I realize it is my friend’s husband! I am sitting across the street from their very house! I get out and we exchange hugs, he takes me inside and there she is! So the Angels wanted us to reconnect….

I adore this couple; they have been married forever, weathering the storms of life as a team, best of friends.  FAITHFUL LOVE.

The tow truck arrives, the driver is grumpy! I say to him, “What a great job you have rescuing stranded people!” He looks at me sideways as if I am a little nuts.  But my heart is full, in the midst of a losing half a day’s pay, incurring an unexpected expense, I am happy to have seen the Crow again and witnessed what is truly important, Love. Faithful Love.

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