Sunday, March 14, 2021

Road Trip

We are on the road to Kansas to visit family.  We haven’t made his trip in a year.  Not together, anyway.  Normally, we would have been twice since the last time - Fourth of July and Thanksgiving.  But, COVID... and fear that gathering could kill our most vulnerable.  So, please don’t come home in July.  Or September.  Or November.

Vaccinations have been had and a year is well, way too long.  

So, here we are. On I-35.  Party of five.  A party of five, which now consists of four legal drivers (with parents in the car) and a baby who turns twelve tomorrow.  A new permit and an old permit-almost-license, as soon as the driving test is knocked out, because why would you be able to do it the same day as the written portion?

Time is picking up speed.  Even literally.  Today is the first day of Daylight Savings Time.  “Spring Forward’.  Yep, that’s what we’re doin’.  The clocks still say the old time, but we know the truth.  

These trips are going to be harder to come by.  We’re in the “sweet spot”, as a dear friend with a bigger and older family than mine likes to remind me.  Drivers and employees have more responsibilities and no paid time off.  Boys become men (like they should), and their Mom trades in her minivan for a truck because she was never the minivan type, anyway.  

I don’t know where they are going or what they will be, but I do know they won’t be home or all sprawled out in this minivan, like they are Right Now.  

Say cheese.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Cedar Waxwing

Our cat brought a bird in this morning, like cats do from time to time.  Only it was beautiful and looked completely unharmed, except for how still it lay.  We picked it up in a towel and took it outside, hoping it would die quickly or recover enough to fly away.

I googled “bird with red on its wings and yellow on its tail”.  It was a Cedar Waxwing.  Beautiful.  When I went back outside to check on it, wondering if there was more I could do, it was sitting up.  

I unsuccessfully tried to give it some water with a syringe and decided that holding it to give it warmth might be the kindest thing I could do.  And it died in my hand.

Yesterday was a full day of new death and fresh grief, as working in hospice can be.  But this morning,  I am reminded of the weight of it.  The literal and figurative weight of it.  I feel the weight of a single Cedar Waxwing, sadness for this bird, for myself, and the world full of people who are accosted by death, both seen and unseen in its approach.  

At the same time, I marvel at how our final flight looks like lying still, even when you are a bird. 

And I wonder if  “Not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it”, if the same is true for Cedar Waxwings and for me, and for you.  Ones who are not to be afraid because we are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.  Matt 10:30-31

We are the ones who are not to worry about our lives, what we will eat or drink, about our bodies, or what we will wear because life is more important than food, and the body more important than clothes.  “Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”  
Matt 6:25-27  

Yes, we are more valuable.  No, we cannot add a single hour to our lives by worrying.  But, we can be sad when a bird dies and when people die, and remember that God can send hands to hold us as we make our final flight or watch someone else take their's. 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Love Is...

Love is…

Everything.  Never ends.  Forever.  Taking care of him when he can’t take care of himself.  Strength to do what you need to do.  A need.  Learning to love in a different way.  God-given…We love because He first loved us. 

These are good descriptions of love.  But, they gain a shocking amount of power when you meet the ones who spoke them.   Ones who continue to learn daily about a “love stronger than death.”  Widows and widowers.

 They have suffered the deep and unrelenting pain of losing a spouse.  And they would do it again.  100% of them would do it again.  They understand grief as the price of love and they are willing to pay it. 

“Ask any young man in love if the suffering that he has known is worth the hour that it has brought him to, or if he would now forego his love to be exempt from future sorrow.  It is not necessary for me to tell you his answer.  Suppose that God gave every man the choice between a world in which there was no suffering, but also no capacity for love, or a world in which suffering remains, but everyone has the power to love.  Which do you think mankind would choose?  Which would you choose?  Quite certainly the power to love, even at the cost of suffering.” – Caryll Houselander

These men and women inspire and embolden as they live out their answers with their unanimous and resounding YES.

 They show up weekly to profess their love for their spouse and the depth of their grief, which is its only equal.  They take chances on sharing these most-sacred-of-things with strangers who quickly become friends.  Safe friends.  Because they know. 

Through the eyes of the only person in the room who has not experienced the devastating and life-altering loss of a spouse, I marvel at them.  I do not know.  And they let me come, anyway.  They welcome me and love me, even. 

 I tell them they are my personal superheroes, and I mean it.  They have lived through one of my worst fears and continue to find and take their next steps, all while not knowing how.  They are the embodiment of courage, resilience, and incredible faith.

 They teach me how to keep going when you don’t feel like it.  They show me how to offer and receive lunch invitations.  They model how to start, build, celebrate, and sustain friendships.  They take chances on people, and they remind me it is the little things that represent the greatest of loves.  A dirty cup lid, because your husband used to wash it, an empty passenger’s seat where your road-trip partner used to be, and a red shop rag in the back pocket of a pair of overalls tell the tale. 

 Happy Valentine’s Day to all who continue to celebrate a love stronger than death.  Your love continues to make the world a better place.  Thank you for sharing it so generously.  May you continue to love well and be loved well, in return.  God be with you. 

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis





Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thanksgiving Ramblings

A friend asked last week about why I hadn’t written lately, and was hoping everything was okay.  Everything is okay.  I do a weekly video for my work, now, so all of my thoughts and creative energy have been funneled into that.  I showed her the link on our Facebook page, in case she was interested.  

This friend is also Native American and a caregiver for one of our patients.  I asked if she celebrated Thanksgiving, as I asked our patient about their Thanksgiving traditions.  She said she cooks the food, but doesn’t participate.  For her, and her ancestors, our Thanksgiving is a day of mourning.  There were no pilgrims and no Squanto.  Just death and injustice.  

I was not surprised that she didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but have never had the opportunity to hear this perspective firsthand.  Have you?

I’m pretty sure I wore a pilgrim hat made out of construction paper when I was in elementary school and I am also pretty sure I have pictures of my children wearing the same.  

I wanted to say I’m sorry, but it seemed too little and too hollow.

It is a little disorienting to lay an idea held for a lifetime on a kitchen table, out of which are borne many, many wonderful gatherings and memories, next to another idea to which it is diametrically opposed and feels instinctively “truer” than the one you’ve been espousing.

I continued to think on this the rest of the day and brought it to my own dinner table that night for discussion.  My husband replied without hesitation.  “History is written by the victors.”  

Ugh.  I really am sorry.

It is mind boggling how these things co-exist.  Or not.  If you are a Native American, “Thanksgiving” is built on a lie.  If you are like me, Thanksgiving just is, and you are grateful for it, just like the name implies, and it is not (or has not been until now) mixed with a tincture of sadness for another version of how it came to be.   

And yet, things that don’t go together at all, occupy the same space at the same time, all of the time.  Like singing a prayer of Thanksgiving to a host of friends missing their spouses, listening to old voice recordings of boys learning to speak while they tower over you and watch you cry at the memory of it, and hearing your husband’s deceased grandmother's voice, wish her daughter a Happy Thanksgiving “wherever you are”.  And that was just yesterday. 

But time just keeps moving forward, and mornings come and little boys lay on your lap and you want to freeze time, but you know you can’t.  So, you just admire the complexity of veins running through his growing body and look at your new Christmas cactus blooming days before Thanksgiving, and realize that life is simple and complicated and time can be a friend if you make good use of it. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

At Your Window

I’m sorry in advance that this is depressing.  But, the reality is stark.  I wrote this poem on my way home from work after doing another window visit today.  

I understand that nursing homes are trying to keep their residents safe, intentions are good, they have to follow the rules that other people make, and the heroes who work there are working very, very hard...

But, they are suffering trying to be all things to all people, and the people they are working so hard to serve are suffering more still.  I don’t know how to change laws or rules, but I know how to write.  And I know how to hope to be a voice for the voiceless as people languish in the silence...

At Your Window

I am standing outside your window

And you can see me there

But I cannot hold your hand 

And I cannot stroke your hair.

I yell through the glass that I miss you

And I fill your bird feeder

You yell back from your bed

That you feel bad everywhere.

I say that I am sorry

I say “This is the pits”

You lay there untouched and seen

Hoping this is it.

But it’s not and you grow tired

You’re angry they like to say

So the overworked few who can come in

No longer want to stay.

I tell you that I love you

But through the window I cannot climb

So, I turn around and walk away

And again leave you behind.

I hope that some little birds

Will come and stay awhile

Though they innocently flaunt their freedom

May they also bring a smile...

While you lay in endless wait 

For things to open up

You will not die from Covid

You will die from lack of love.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

All In a Day’s Work

Today is a need-to-write-it-out day.  Not that it was a bad day.  It wasn’t.  It was a good day, full of lots of different things that all fall under the same umbrella, which is my job, which doesn’t feel like a job at all.  

It started with a team meeting to discuss plans of care for our hospice patients, just like we do - every two weeks.  

I found myself with an hour to spare before my next visit, so I made an impromptu visit to a friend and recent widow.  She served me lunch and wondered how I do my job.  She encouraged me to use the bathroom before I left for my next visit, not to speed, and sent me with cookies to go.  I marveled at how she was caring for me while learning how to get through a day in her new life.

Next, a scheduled visit to a beautiful home in the country.  (I only sped a little.)  Bath and lunch were finished just in time for a living room concert for mother and daughter.  Conversation about how glad they are to be together in their home, and not separated because of COVID visiting restrictions was a welcome topic between songs.  

This, on the heels of singing Christmas-in-July carols in the rain yesterday with some of my coworkers and volunteers at a couple of nursing facilities - because the residents aren’t sitting in their living rooms with someone they love, and because we can.

Got a call on the way home from a relative of one of our patients who recently passed away.  She taught me a lot about faith and perseverance, and a little secret about making a wish when you see a red bird, and stamping it onto your hand before the red bird flew away - just like her Mom taught her.  I only taught her how to make a paper flower.  Anyway... 

They were cleaning out her room and wanted to donate some things, so I stopped by to pick them up.  I reclaimed the hummingbird feeder I bought for her and the plant stand she no longer needed.  No doubt they will find another hook to hang on and a plant to hold.  They will continue to do their part in bringing the little bit of joy they’re able, which reminds me all of the people I have the privilege of working with and the people that we serve— and know, too, so will we. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

My Husband on Father’s Day

Today is Father’s Day.  I’ve shared a couple of sentences and pictures on Facebook to honor my husband as the father of our children, but I have so much more to say.

I’m sitting on the futon in my spot, as he makes biscuits and gravy - his usual Sunday fare.  He makes no demands, asks for nothing, nor refrains from service on his day.  When asked about his wishes and desires, he expresses his contentment and simply says “Every day is Father’s Day.”

Can you relate to this?  Because on Mother’s Day, I know I am not cooking, I’d like to do something as a family, I want handmade cards, a gift of some kind, and to take a family picture.

This is one of the many reasons my husband is a better person than I am.  When I tell him this, he tells me that that is why our marriage works so well, because he feels the same way about me.

After climbing into bed last night, I remembered that I hadn’t covered the brownies.  He’d already done it.  This scenario happens daily.  He just does what needs doing and he never, ever complains.

He teaches our sons how to drive, how to re-side our house, how to mow and weed-eat, how to build guns, how to shoot, how to paint, how to clean the kitchen, how to clean driveways when spray painting was done carelessly, how to use tools of every kind, how to fish, how to serve, and how to love.

His own father died before he was 6-years-old.  He had to figure things out for himself and gleaned the best of everything from the other people in his life.  And now he is giving it to our sons.

According to John and Stasi Eldridge, the questions children are asking of their fathers are...

For boys:  “Do I have what it takes?”

For girls:  “Am I captivating?”

Thank you for saying yes 1,000 times in a 1,000 different ways.

Happy Father’s Day to my husband, my Dad, and all fathers who grew up without a model, and are rocking fatherhood anyway!