Threshold Akin to opening a new writing pad A new sketchbook Standing in front of a blank canvas atop an easel Inhaling the scent of a pile of new wood, awaiting chisel Feeling the squish of fresh clay through caressing fingers Rubbing your pregnant belly, feeling the kick, the hiccup Moments of anticipation, hope, expectation. The freedom of fresh start, new beginning Releasing self from burdens past – Old wounds, mistakes, from that which feels unsalvageable. Standing at a precipice An entryway The threshold to the future Beginning with now What will cross that threshold? Can we release the past ~ The roles played, the disappointments, the wounds? Can we set them down Creating open hands, open heart free to accept – even embrace That which life now presents? Can we open our eyes to gaze forward ~ Informed by the past But not blinded? Can we open our hearts to love all To share our gifts freely While honoring Our own truths, our own delight? A New Year A Fresh Page. Let us all discover in it Our best selves Fulfill our highest desires And venture forward in love! Our broken world, So many broken hearts, Just might begin to slowly heal One threshold step at a time. Joyous New Year!
A gentle breeze Caressing skin Soothing soul Heart softening, slowly Time Away Nature’s healing potion Applied to weary soul Butterflies guiding our path Flitting to and fro – circling our heads Dancing – for us? Longwing Zebra, Gulf Fritillary Welcoming us home - to our better selves Rejoining pieces Torn asunder – by caregiving, by COVID Tri-colored Heron standing tall Gracefully soaring At peace beside turtle copse Ibis hunting at water’s edge Offering tender, loving eyes Holding gaze Touching soul Palm trees Spreading fronds Sheltering from heat Giving reprieve All is reprieve Salve for wounded spirit Beaten down by so much that is hard So much suffering in our world Now soaking up this healing place Full of glorious, restorative nature. Strong legged alligator Shiny midnight black skin Lying peacefully at water’s edge Threatening only in his sheer size and appearance An alligator after all I am awed by his mere presence Balance, beauty Gratitude for this time of retreat This time of joy Time spent with nature and loving companions I give thanks.
Giving Thanks Giving thanks In times of despair In times of division In times of destruction Giving thanks How can I? Why must I? In giving thanks, I search below the heartache Of loss and hardship I seek meaning In the everyday Finding appreciation – even gratitude. I whisper an alleluia For the beauty Of my garden – now put to bed Resting, restoring While winter settles in. The garden is my delight In the leaf embedded soil I see HOPE I smile As the first snow flies Squalling around my car I utter thanks for my studded snows For the ability to buy them, The work of those who made them, mounted, aligned And balanced them. As I drive, musically now, down the road I wonder if maybe my tires Hold a lesson for me. Might winter quiet Hold moments for me to balance, align? I give thanks for my wood stove Precious are the moments spent Sitting in quiet stillness Knowing the warmth Of flames embracing logs, Creating coals Sharing heat. Giving thanks for the trees, the “wood guy” The hands that stacked and the ability, now, to build a fire Giving thanks For the quiet comfort Moments spent alone and with others. How might I radiate that warmth? Giving thanks. Our winter world is greying now The shroud of clouds Fitting for the empty trees and the brown, leafed oaks I give thanks for the colors The reds of the cardinals, rich browns of the remaining robins The red berries they hunger for I am eager to give them seeds Wondering – have black bears hunkered down yet? Giving thanks For the birds of winter Families gathering for holidays Despite so many holes So much loss Families finding the courage and strength To gather and go on. To share a meal of thanksgiving For all remaining And memories of those past To persevere in life While holding grief and, maybe, ambiguous loss The loss of so much gone But breath remaining Families finding gratitude nevertheless Giving thanks. Friends, Our chose companions Giving thanks Thanks for the laughter For the fun times – Created in a landscape Of loss and fear During this time of Pandemic and political ugliness This time of dangerous division Giving thanks for the love The kindness The loyalty Of friends. Giving thanks For the joy of having a partner A companion for life Giving thanks for my husband For the jars he opens The computer confusion he clears up For the love he shows By supporting my commitment To care for my dad Separating us for so many nights So many meals So many miles Giving thanks. The trees, the birds, the earth Our world The people The People For these I give Thanks It is where I know Love, joy and hope It is where I see God. Happy Thanksgiving!
To Veterans – In Gratitude
I did not understand the full extent of the sacrifice made by servicemen and women until I went on a Tiger Cruise. A Tiger Cruise is an opportunity for family members to join a ship as it returns from war. My son and I were able to join my oldest daughter on the USS Hue City as she returned from deployment during wartime. It was truly enlightening.
My first shock, and reality check, was when my daughter told me I was sitting above a nuclear warhead as I perched on a flat spot on the deck. There were no deck chairs – I just found a place to sit!! I could no longer pretend I was on a cruise ship!
But my true lessons were learned as I sat in what I will incorrectly call the “dining room”. I was privileged to be present during relaxed conversations amongst the men and women. They spoke of family – unseen for months – excitement and, some trepidation for the upcoming reunions. They spoke of young children left at home – some living with friends or grandparents while mom, dad, or both were out to sea.
They spoke of wives – pregnant at home – nearly due now – most of the pregnancy missed – hoping to be there for the birth. Misty eyed, they spoke of babies born whom they would be meeting for the first time.
They were not speaking with bitterness or resentment. They were fully committed to their service – knew for what they were signing up. But, for those whose first deployment it was – they did not know how tough it would be. They spoke of the priority list for disembarking. The order of departing the boat had a specific protocol – I believe the first one off was to be a dad meeting his infant daughter for the first time.
We spent the night on the ship. The gentle rocking of the waves lulled me to sleep in the bunk my daughter had given up for me. I could not believe how well I slept, although, in part, I am sure it was due to being with my daughter returning safely home from war. The peaceful slumber was abruptly disturbed at early hour as helicopters departed the ship from a deck just above my sleeping quarters – again a stark reminder this was not a leisure ship!
As we pulled into Jacksonville, the emotional greeting for the ship was beyond my expectation. A hometown band played for the returning service men and woman. Families were gathered – waving, calling, and holding signs of greeting. Ship’s horns were blowing.
This fanfare contrasted to the solemn departure many months prior when the great grey ship was silently tugged away from the pier – sailors lining each deck standing tall with somber countenance, hands at their backs motionless as families waved while wiping tears.
Now the tears were of joy! My daughter was on duty, so we were very high up on the ship – port not far from starboard. The scene on the pier off the starboard side was so overwhelming; I walked to port side of the ship to get a breath of open sea air – a break from the intensity of emotion.
What greeted me as I approached the port side remains engraved upon my memory. Three dolphins were beside the ship escorting these courageous, patriotic, selfless, loyal men and women back home. It was the ultimate tribute!
I thank you veterans all. I am not sure those of us who have not served can ever truly appreciate your sacrifice. But this veteran’s mom had a tiny glimpse and will be forever grateful!
Happy Veteran’s Day!
The Suffering sprouting from COVID
Extends far beyond the reach of microbes
There are divisions caused by beliefs
Do we shutdown?
Do we mask?
Do we immunize?
Differences grown monumental
Attached to basic beliefs –
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Politicians fanning flames of division
Creating resentment, anger
There is NO denying
Without intentional blindness
Without coldness of heart.
We may lay blame for that suffering
In varied places
On varied shores
But suffering there is.
Suffering of separation
In times of despair, illness
Suffering of illness
Undiagnosed during isolation
Suffering of fear
Stripping our humanity
Robbing our sleep
Blocking our compassion
Suffering of financial loss
Rent, mortgages unpaid
Food lines growing.
Suffering of disease
Loss of breath
At times even death
Too many times.
There are lights flickering in this darkness
Flames I have witnessed
Flames of hope that humanity is not lost.
The kindness of nurses
Irrespective of for whom they are caring
They offer kindness and compassion
Caring eyes above the mask
With tear-filled resolve to keep going.
The courage they demonstrate
By showing up
By being present
By caring, always caring.
The hand on the arm of the grieving wife
Placed ever so gently, lovingly
The confident way they guide
The people so filled with fear and confusion
Families – separated for weeks
As COVID is fought in hospital room
Couples married for decades now apart
Then rejoined briefly
To say goodbye.
I have handed these fragile people
Over to nurses
Confident, caring, courageous, competent nurses
There is no greater honor.
There are flames of hope
In our world,
I stand in testimony and gratitude to nurses everywhere.
I am proud to call you sister, brother,
I am ever grateful for the work you do.
I pray you are given the strength to steadfastly carry on!
His cancer was advanced. There was no cure. His life was limited to sitting in his recliner working hard to breath. He had lost 30 pounds. He could not walk – just shuffle a couple of steps holding onto something. A couple of weeks prior, Joe (not his real name) had been told that he had incurable cancer; possibly treatments could give him more time. (Though as sick as Joe was when we met him, it would be more likely that treatments would shorten his life) In the fall – just 4 months prior, he did not have a diagnosis of cancer or any physical symptoms to suggest he was ill. Nevertheless, he knew time was limited. Wood stacking had been an integral part of his life since childhood. Growing up, his family heated with wood. He carried on that tradition. He had an outdoor furnace – burn wood outdoors while keeping the mess out of the house. He worked all year, felling trees on his land, lugging, chopping, splitting and stacking. He used 4-5 cords of wood (a 4x4x8 foot pile – about 700 pieces) a year. Each piece of that wood would have been touched, lifted by him at least 5 times. As a child, he dealt with his emotions by stacking wood. When angry, upset, he would move a woodpile – often just from one side of a sidewalk to the other. As an adult, he maintained this manner of coping though he did not speak of it as such. He was a quiet, private man. When upset, he preferred to be alone and work out his feelings. In the fall of 2020, in the midst of COVID isolation, without any physical symptoms present, he had a prescient thought. He laid the last log on the wood pile and at once he knew. “I just stacked my last woodpile.” He quietly shared this with us during our first visit to his home. As I left Joe’s home, I felt deeply touched by our encounter. This gentleman, who was at first even reluctant to have us visit, dared to share this profound experience with his family and our team. The words, “I just stacked my last woodpile” spoke deeply to my heart. I heard in them a truth I was evading for some months. It was time for me to acknowledge the same. It was 50 years prior to that visit that I had touched my first patient when I began my career path as a candystriper (I have some funny stories for that phase of my journey which I will save for another time!) As I drove down Joe's driveway, past his woodpile and wood burning furnace, I turned to the nurse with me and said, “I’ve just stacked my last woodpile.” – there’s a poem in that. Later she told me she thought it would be better as a title for a book. What both of us experienced, was the profundity of the words spoken. The wisdom Joe imparted was unintentional, as most pure wisdom is. The wisdom of the knowledge that life truly is short and can end when you least expect. I knew that – having cared for very sick and dying patients for many years. That day, though, it became personal. What I heard was, move on - Write that book you have longed to write. Dare to change your life – dare to follow your heart – instead of holding onto the safety and security of a paying job! Dare to leave the career you have loved for decades. Dare to believe in yourself and pursue the dream you have had for a time longer than memory. Joe’s sharing of this very personal truth, opened my heart to hear my own truth. Joe ended up choosing to remain at home – to live out the remainder of his natural life in the nest he had created. He chose to forego cancer treatments, knowing time was short and precious. Instead, he chose to focus on family, comfort and peacefulness. We called in hospice and he was able to have his wishes fulfilled. He needed a good bit of encouragement to take medication for his symptoms. He was a stoic NH man, who was struggling with pain, anxiety and shortness of breath (SOB) when I first met him, on a telehealth visit as he did not anyone to come out to his home. At that initial contact, he reluctantly agreed to try a little bit of morphine for the shortness of breath and pain. His quality of life improved greatly with the morphine, thus he began to trust and allowed us (palliative care and his nurse navigator) to make a home visit. When we arrived at his home - a simple ranch out in the country, we found Joe sitting in a recliner beside a large "picture window" looking out on his front yard where birds flitted from feeder to feeder. A mug of coffee and ashtray by his side, he spoke of some anxiety separate from that caused by the SOB. This was anxiety he would have treated by stacking wood, but now could barely life his coffee cup! He was open to trying a little bit of Ativan for this and found it quite helpful. When we visited next, Joe was weaker. His family was gathered in the living room. They spoke of their sadness, but support of Joe's chosen path. Tears, smiles and some laughter embodied the love filling that space. A few weeks later, having not left his home for any appointments, tests, or treatments, Joe died peacefully in his recliner in his living room with his family by his side. He did it his way. Joe was one of many patients who touched my soul. There were two others who I saw that same day who were also instrumental in my decision to change my life. I shall write about them in future posts.
Carol Died This Morning. . . Carol died. Carol – my dad’s neighbor The loving woman next door – Who said, “Just knock On your dad’s bedroom wall If you need us.” Who let us know just a couple of weeks ago That she had heard a thud – Worried that Dad had fallen He had – but was okay Her bedroom was closer than ours. Carol died. Carol – a warm, generous soul. I shall never eat berries again Without thinking of her and smiling. When I was visiting, she often brought or sent over Fresh berries – washed and ready to eat. Carol died. Carol – an authentically caring person Not fluff, mind you Carol was brash, funny And completely sincere I heard she ran a hospital gift shop which was shut during COVID On her own time, She opened it during the holiday season For employees to shop. I worked in a hospital during COVID At times, we would duck into the gift shop Just to browse for 5 minutes Maybe buy some happy socks To feel normal For a few minutes A shelter from the maelstrom Carol gave that Carol cared. Carol died. Carol also lived She lived knowing life would end Who creates a blue onyx tiled shower? It is gorgeous She got to enjoy it for a couple of weeks But her philosophy about it was profound in reflection “You can’t take it with you, may as well enjoy!” She declared with a big smile! Carol, in my limited time in your presence, I came to know you as A vivacious, take charge, pragmatic person Generous and caring. Now COVID has claimed you Shortened your life Taken another person Left yet another void Sadness permeates our world Holes are left in so many homes Hearts broken with painful, jagged edges Sadness, for some, morphs into anger Anger to hate. People pick sides Find someone to blame Something to fight about Because it is scary and hard to feel sad But sad we must For Sad we are. Sadness cloaked by anger Does not soften Does not go away It only destroys COVID has created untold suffering It is not merely numbers Though, sometimes, we cannot fathom the lives So we merely hear the numbers. Carol died. I am saddened for her family Her friends, her neighbors And our world. I pray that Love find a way to comfort Find a way to unite I pray that COVID ends ENDS That it be no more No more death, suffering, dividing, isolating NO MORE Carol died this morning I am sad I am thankful to have known her Even the short time that I did The world has lost another Beautiful human being.
I must begin with crumbs
I must begin to believe
My crumbs are of value
My crumbs can be spoken
Can be given
Arms raised, hands outstretched
To You creator of the universe
I offer myself
held within my crumbs
I offer in faith.
Within these crumbs
Given to the author of life
of all that is good
and kind and holy
I have faith
You will take these crumbs
and continue creation.
I implore You
Holder of all love,
Grant me the wisdom and courage to
allow creation to continue
to put forth my crumbs.
Help me, guide me, open me, heal me.
I offer my crumbs.