The Return of the Crow

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I often awaken early to listen to the arrival of the coming day. The birds’ song opens the day with hope and melody, infinite possibilities of what could come, hope for joy, hope for peace, a hope for love on a melody of repetitive notes high in the trees. Today the song is peppered with the cawing of the Crow. This morning I remember a Great Sadness, this time last year a dear friend lost her son, as always too soon back into the heavens.  As we left the hospital that day- she and I were the only two souls on the street corner, a crow stood noiseless up on a lamp post watching us.  I knew it was a sign, “it is commonly accepted from many ancient cultures that The Crow is The Harbinger that guides souls from The Realm of The Living to The Afterlife.” I knew her son was safe.

Fast forwarded a year later, the Crow has returned appearing twice this week. A few days ago, he flew right in front of me as I entered my patients home for the last time. She was in her last hours, peacefully transitioning, I said my goodbye as I gently kissed her on the forehead.  And then again yesterday another patient had slipped from this world to the next in one still breathe, the crow greeted me upon my arrival to confirm his passing-again landing on the roof and silently watching me.

Some would say I am seeing things that aren’t there, but I believe that life is rich with symbolism and signs from the Spirit World.  It brings me comfort and strength to know that at moments of our greatest challenges as human beings that Spirit finds a way to show us comfort in that we are never alone, we are all connected, and our Souls are eternal moving from this world to the next.

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Hope in a lavender sky

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It’s 5am on Friday, the beginning of the end of a very long week.  Several of my patients are standing on the edge of this world, making ready for their transition into the next.  It is bittersweet at best, I find tears in the early morning light that are for me, for my heart is tender in ways I do not share with my families, this is their journey I am only a guide.

The once beautiful model, her face drawn and etched with the little life she clings to, packed her suitcase two weeks ago and said she was waiting for the train.  Physical beauty is revered in our culture, the remnants speak of a stunning young woman, but it is her inner beauty that’s the true jewel.

The Alzheimer’s patient who endured the occupation of her country by the Nazi’s slowly fades.  Her tearful daughter asks me “What am I going to do? I have been taking care of her for so long…”  We talk about how her life will change, how this chapter of her life is coming to a close.  The gift she gave her Mom by caring for her and keeping her home, no regrets.

Then there’s T, a once feisty woman who gave me the stink-eye when I first encountered her only a few short weeks ago.  She has cheated death so often her family is trying to wrap their heads around the fact she is truly dying.  She is weak, still able to speak but spends a great deal of time staring into a place only she can see.  We ask, she cannot verbalize her visions.  I kiss her on the forehead and she focuses her gaze on me, it is full of love, my heart breaks open just a little more. I tell her I miss her stink-eye and she cracks the barest of smiles.

The sun in now rising in the eastern sky, the clouds are shades of lavender, a sky of hope. For all I give in my work I receive so much more.  My patients and their families feed my soul, they give me purpose and an opportunity to stand on the edge of the world.

 

 

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Spring Postponed

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Spring has been postponed for some of us this week.  Yet another snowstorm challenged plans and inconvenienced life as we desire it.  Shovel, salt and sunshine my ultimate weapons. I don’t dislike the snow, its just that my heart and mind have moved forward to thoughts of gardens full of daffodils, lavender, foxglove and trees full of cherry blossoms.

This was also a week of saying goodbye to a favorite patient.  In her last weeks of life she was alert and spent time between the two worlds.  She described to me a beautiful garden in her bedroom doorway.  “Its absolutely lovely,” she reported, “The flowers are just so stunning, and the greens….”.  I could see nothing, just the doorway into the living room.  She was quite sure she would be visiting the garden soon, “It’s waiting for me….” She would then come back to our reality where life was ebbing away, bedbound, incontinent and weak.  “This is no way to live…” She would then start a conversation with someone who she clearly saw as I stared at a blank wall.  “Can we talk later, the nurse is here,” she would cut them off.  This made me smile that somehow my presence was still important to her.  She had been in command of her entire dying process, it was so very important she had control over something so uncontrollable as dying.  I let her tell me when she could no longer get up, when she wanted the hospital bed ordered, when she was ready for diapers.  She called the shots up until she couldn’t. I saw her daily, until the storm moved in and her caregiver said, “No, don’t come today, we’re fine.  It’s too dangerous.”  She died soon after, before Spring returned, when snow blanketed our world.  But I knew, where she was going, Spring is eternal, she walked from our snow-covered world into her lovely garden all in bloom.

 

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Gods Waiting Room

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I spend a great deal of my time in senior villages, one resident recently dubbed it with a laugh, “God’s Waiting Room”. Last week I dreamt of one of my patients who had Alzheimer’s, she had been up for recertification on the hospice program and there was some discussion as to whether she was declining fast enough to meet Medicare standards.  I felt as her nurse that she needed to continue with our program and ultimately she did.  In my dream I saw her young and vibrant, perhaps 32, in her prime with dark curly hair.  She was smiling and talking with her caregivers who didn’t noticed her transformation to her younger self.  In my dream I remember thinking she was in her astral/spirit form….I don’t remember much of my dreams, but I did remember that.

When I visited her the next day I told her and her caregiver about the dream.  We laughed about the dark curly hair as she now had a mass of white upon her head. The patient did not respond, her disease too advanced. The caregiver was foreign and so I did something I hadn’t done before, I used our language line and got an interrupter.  We always seemed to be able to communicate fine, but I wanted to make sure she understood what I was going to say. I wanted her to know that I recognized her excellent care but that no matter how well she cared for this patient at some point she would decline and ultimately die.  She argued with me, “No, no she is strong, I know her better than you! She will live another ten years.” I told her I hoped she was right and patients make a liar out of me from time to time. She was not comfortable with me after that conversation.  Despite the fact I praised her caregiving, and believe me she was beyond wonderful, she still felt as though I was finding fault.  I apologized for making her feel that way, smoothed the ruffled feathers as I hugged her goodbye.

Today is my day off. Today my patient passed away.  I was surprised and yet not. God has a plan, His plan is not ours.  I am home and someone else was sent to care for the patient and the caregiver, this was God’s plan, I just work in his waiting room.

 

 

 

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Reclaiming calm

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Yesterday I walked into a hornet’s nest of emotion. My patient and his wife were seemingly upset that their regular aide was not available and the agency had sent a substitute.  This aide had done an excellent job as I could see my patient was clean and comfortable, but he still complained, and threw her out of the house! He then moved on to me, and started yelling. I don’t even remember what it was he accused me of, but I simply replied, “I came here to care for you not to fight. I would prefer to have a nice conversation with you while I do my nursing things.” My voice was calm and impartial, because it really didn’t matter what he chose I would still have to do what I came to do.  He immediately calmed down and said, “I miss Joe.”  A neighbor had passed away and he had only found out that morning.  I realized perhaps this was part of his angst and poor behavior towards my aide.  I gave my condolences and we revisited his friendship with Joe, the last time he had seen him, the good times they had shared and soon the anger melted away and the tears were able to flow. I then noticed he was wearing a different hat, it said “Newfoundland” on it. When I asked him about it he corrected my pronunciation, gave me a mini history lesson and said he had family there. He had visited once and remembered how beautiful a country it was. I then told him that my great grandparents had come from there, and offered that perhaps he and I were somehow related, or perhaps had Viking blood coursing through our veins, he smiled for the first time that morning.

In my heart I believe we are all God’s children, we are all connected-if not in ancestry in spirit.

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The Gift of Light

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This time of year the emphasis on gift giving can cause one tremendous stress. It is also a time of deep feelings, some of light and some of darkness.  It is not uncommon for depression and sadness to rear up and visit us when we think we should be happy and joyful- because it’s the season.

Recently I was speaking with a doctor who was surprised by this- he said that many of his patients who had been doing well all of the sudden were unsatisfied with their treatment….not feeling optimal…depressed….on the edge of darkness…

We are creatures of contrast, it is our nature to experience both sides- the light and the dark….because if you only had one you could never appreciate the other.  What if the sun was always in the sky? What if the darkness of the star filled night never came? What if we never experienced the beauty of the sun rising bringing with it the hope of another day here on this wondrous place we call Earth?  If we were always in the light we would miss the beauty of darkness, the deep silence of the night, the sparkle of the stars, the longing the vast emptiness brings with it, and ultimately the release of the darkness upon the return of the light.

Walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, because I know that only LIGHT can make shadows….the light is always with me, even if I think I cannot see it.

In my darkest moments there were others who held the Light up for me, they offered it back to me, letting me know it was always there. These people were my beacons of Hope; they guided me back to where I needed to be. This was a gift of Love that I am forever grateful for.

So when you are unsure of what to get someone you love, remember, LOVE and LIGHT are always in season, always needed. A hug, a smile or a simple phone call is sometimes the best gift of all.

Merry Christmas my friends. May the Light of the Divine fill your souls today and beyond.

 

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The Gift of Time

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When I was 23 years old I returned home to my childhood home on Cape Cod with my 6 month old son in tow. I was going through a major life transition and needed a safe haven to regroup and my parents opened their arms to me.  I spent a year there, working and raising my little boy with their help. My Mom, who although had MS was still ambulatory.  She loved my little guy, as she later confessed she always thought she would have had 5 children…. My Dad was also an avid caretaker, perhaps not as attentive as I discovered one morning when he told me to sleep in- when I appeared an hour later downstairs my Dad was drinking coffee at the table and my son had constructed a sandbox with the kitty litter in the pantry and had redecorated the bathroom in an entire roll of wet toilet paper.

It was a year of growth and healing for me, I saw my parents from an adult perspective and watched them interact with their first grandson as only grandparents can. I realize now that beyond the obvious gift my parents gave to me, I gave them my gift of time, a chance to be part of my son’s first years.

Life is returning this gift to me…Some 30 years later, on the eve of the arrival of my two California boys it becomes clear to me that home is where your heart is.  Last year I spent weeks in San Francisco with them as life had become turbulent. Despite the challenges we faced I loved my time there, not because it’s a beautiful city-(and it is!)  but because my family was together.  They are coming here as they transition into another chapter of their lives.  I am grateful because the gift of time together, no matter the circumstances, is the greatest gift of all.

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