Giving 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.

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

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!

Pandemic Pondering

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

Even hate.


There is NO denying

The Suffering

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

even death.


Suffering of illness

Undiagnosed during isolation

Gaining strength

Ravaging health.

Suffering of fear

Stripping our humanity

Robbing our sleep

Blocking our compassion


Suffering of financial loss

Businesses closing

Jobs lost

Rent, mortgages unpaid

Food lines growing.


Suffering of disease

Weakness, frailty

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,

Our nation,

Our state,

Our community,

Our hospitals,

Our homes.


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!







I Have Just Stacked My Last Woodpile!

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
That it be no more
No more death, suffering, dividing, isolating

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

Open Palms

My offering

My crumbs

To You creator of the universe

I offer myself

held within my crumbs

I offer in faith.

Within these crumbs

is mystery.

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,

Divine energy

Grant me the wisdom and courage to

allow creation to continue

to put forth my crumbs.

I plead

Help me, guide me, open me, heal me.

I offer my crumbs.