After caring for his wife 24/7 our dad had to admit her into the “Old Timer’s” unit of the complex where they live. It’s been a brutal transition for Hedy. She feels trapped and misses her hubby. And she is very angry with him. They say it’s normal for them to be angry at the one they love best.
When she first sees him, she waves him away, refusing to look at him. The other day we went to find her as they were at a sing-a-long. Hedy saw us and waved her hand as if to say “go away” and pushed our father away as he tried to bring her over to greet us. Dad refused to be put off and finally she took his hands and let him lead her to us.
Twinsie and I hugged and kissed her, and then Tie a Yellow Ribbon was being sung, and suddenly she was in our father’s arms dancing. Her mind overwhelmed by love in her heart. All forgiven for those beautiful few moments where they danced and kissed for all to see. The heart truly does remember what the mind cannot. Love is always alive there.
“Tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree, it’s been three long years do you still want me?…”
So, I get very sad when I see big, hulking Christmas trees in the windows of houses, standing dark like the Ghosts of Christmas Trees past. I have no problem with people who keep their trees and lights up all through January as long as they’re lit. But, when I drive by and that Christmas tree stands there in the window, so forlorn and sad, having been the center of attention for those few beautiful weeks; people gazing at it as they sat together, their eyes sparkling; children watching it with anticipation of brightly wrapped gifts stacked beneath it on Christmas morning–sigh. Depressing.
I know I attach feelings onto inanimate objects, and that’s sort of weird, but I think it’s more the feelings it evokes in me. I don’t like neglect of any kind, and I guess that big old tree, whose luster has been lost to those around it, seems neglected. Why not just take an hour or two and tuck it away till it can reclaim its glory next year? Or God forbid it be real, with needles littering the floor, not to mention the fire hazard that is. Be still my overactive imagination!
When I see lights up on houses and trees lit in windows in January, I think about a family from the tiny town we grew up in. They had older children in a far away country working as missionaries, so, long into January their tree stood in their window brightly lit, presents wrapped underneath, as they waited for their beloved kids to come home. I imagine that amazing celebration now, but as a child, I felt bad for the other kids who had to wait to see what Santa brought them.
Now, I believe that’s the truest celebration of Christmas I’ve ever witnessed and what it’s really about–love, sacrifice, and family. When I see the trees up in windows long past Christmas, I remember them, and my mind wonders if maybe that family is waiting on a loved one to come home, too?
We’ve had a lot of snow and bitter cold, and the lights that shine onto the snow from the trees and houses bring joy to my heart. Because, we never really know who is making their way home.
There is the power of healing even when caring for the very sick and dying. Healing is a word that encompasses much — healing of the heart, soul and body. It’s ministering to all three, and its success is in the hands of those who give the care. But its destiny is in the hands of God.
At the bedside, it was my patient and me and my accountability was to them alone, unseen by others. Many of our patients, but not all, started on our oncology unit newly diagnosed when a sense of hope still prevailed in the days where treatment was not that hopeful at all, and was brutal.
We saw them through those treatments until their final admission. This was during the time when the beautiful bloom of Hospice was just a seed, and people came to the hospital to die.
I was 19 the first time I brushed the hair of a chemo patient off her pillow. She was so very sick, and I sat with her on the side of the bed, holding her body against mine as she wretched, gently rocking her when she was done. Long dark hairs covered her pillow and I reached over to brush them off so that she wouldn’t see them.
I knew in my heart, like many of the women who worked with me, that I didn’t want to be anywhere else, but comforting that woman at that moment in her life. And so it went, patient after patient, relationships formed, and then lost through a deadly disease, or stroke or other illness.
Family became our family, recipes were shared over the beds of the very sick. Homemade soups sipped, special treats tasted. Stories spoken, pictures displayed. Memories shared and made. Smiles spread across our patients’ faces as they watched their loved ones talk. Oh, the beauty of it all.
But, mostly for me, and others, it was our patients and us, alone. The gentle rhythms of dying. They say that hearing is the last sense to go, I would disagree, I would say touch is the last sense, and it was the words unspoken through the hand on the arm, the gentle massages, warm bed baths, caressing soft hairless scalps, and the kisses on foreheads.
This time we shared may have died with them, but has lived on in us, and each somehow clings to our hearts and minds and has become a living and breathing thing inside us. No one ever dies completely, they live on forever in those who loved them. Love is eternal.
I hear a lot the theory that everyone is forgotten eventually, but I don’t buy it. I think the carbon of their lives were imprinted on those who loved them forever. These were mothers, fathers, grandparents, sisters, brothers and friends. They were my patients, and the patients of the other ladies and men who worked with me. They were not famous, they just loved, and were loved, and that was/is enough to honor their memory forever.
I know talking about this is sad for so many, and we baby boomers are now facing the final sighs of our parents and grandparents and maybe even a child or a grandchild or sibling. We weep for the dying and for those who have gone before us.
A friend of mine tragically and suddenly lost her brother a few years ago. She was going to visit his wife and decided to check Google to make sure she had the right address still. She went to “street view” and watched as a car turned into the driveway of his house. She could clearly see her brother in the car, she saw the white shirt he always wore.
Dying is like that image for my friend, we never forget, we can hear their voices, see their smile, hear them singing to that song we loved so much. We taste their love in the soup we make, or see them in the dress we wear. We smell them in the summer heat on the water, or the icy cold.
I know my husband’s grandmother, and carry her love in my heart, even though I never knew her. She lives on in me through his and my sister-in-law’s memories, through the recipes passed down, and the wooden turtle she gave my mother-in-law for a wedding gift that sits on my table and is called Lucy, after her.
Sorrow must have its day, no doubt, it might have to have its months and years, because sorrow is so very personal to each of us. But eventually all that love will be the healing balm and will live on for all eternity.
Some fellow bloggers started out the New Year with blogs that started with “x (amount) of things you didn’t know about me”. I was intrigued, and found their answers interesting. I’m not sure if it was a challenge from wordpress that I may have missed, but I’ve read a few blogger’s “things you don’t know about me” and I thought I really didn’t want to do it, because I feel like I’ve been pretty open about who I am and what else would you guys really need to know, right? But, I thought it might be a fun write, and it might get a conversation started, so what the heck. The typical number of things is 15, I’ve decided to go with 10, because quite frankly there are some things you don’t know about me, and I don’t want you to.
10 things you didn’t know about me that I don’t mind confessing to:
1. I cannot cross my eyes. I think I used to be able to cross my eyes, but I no longer can and it bring gales of laughter from my husband and grown children. It’s so annoying.
2. I like complete privacy in the washroom, seriously. I do not want my husband’s last vision – as he goes off to work or to sleep or to sit in his chair, whatever – to be me on the toilet. I think there should be some decorum of modesty and mystery in a marriage.
3. I love sardines.
4. I can barely whistle. Another very annoying thing. Sometimes I can get a good whistle out, but mostly, not, and if I do, it’s horribly off tune.
5. I almost always have painted toenails. I just like to look down and see pretty toe nails year around.
6. I have a tattoo on my foot of a star, and like my toes, it’s for me to love and enjoy.
7. I take a bath almost every single night, and I can turn the water on and off with my big toe.
8. I pray almost all the time. Seriously. I am praying for you, if you need prayers; I pray for the world; when I hear an ambulance I pray for the persons rushing to the scene, and I’m praying for the person(s) needing care, or the fire trucks racing to the fire. And if I’m naughty, I’m asking for forgiveness and if I’m on my bike riding with the wind and the scents and the beauty of the earth around me, I am giving thanks. I pray. A lot.
8 part b… I almost always start crying when I pray aloud with my family and say anything but the common prayer, which, also brings gales of laughter. I just feel so blessed that I cry.
9. I worry about very few things except one. I worry that I may have messed up my kids, and I always tell them I’m proud of them, and ask for forgiveness regularly just in case they should suddenly decide that I have messed them up. I ask them to forgive me my flaws, but never for how much I love them.
10. This is a huge confession, but I absolutely LOVE to watch the Bachelor or Bachelorette, not that I don’t cringe…come on! I just love the idea of people finding love, and I can’t wait for tomorrow for the series premier. I owe this to my twinsie whom I teased endlessly about watching such a stupid show, and then a few years later I watched an episode with her and now I never miss. Thank God for my DVR (see? Still praying.)
Today the cure begins! I just love doing the January Cure from Apartment Therapy. Join me and thousands of others. You will love what you have, and be more organized than ever. It’s such an amazing experience! Come on! Join me!
These photos are a just a few of the places inspired by the cure inside our home. Allowing me to mix it up, share my vintage finds, PAINT it! Inspiration galore!
BC was Bladder Cancer, then it became Beat Cancer, then it became Be Calm because I don't want anyone to worry. Any other beneficial comments? (If you leave a comment, it will appear after I approve it.)