It has been almost two years since I posted anything in this little corner of cyberspace… This catch-up post might take a bit.
Truthfully, I considered just closing this blog down entirely and starting a new one since my life after 40 has been so different from what it was while raising the boys. I am a Licensed Practical Nurse now — in fact, I am a hospice nurse — and I’m so grateful to be able to be part of this sacred work in a much more practical way than before. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to begin an entirely new blog for this new season of my life. However, it is simpler to just use this space that I’ve already created, and right now simple is one thing my current life lacks…
It is April of 2020. I am a hospice nurse during the global COVID-19 pandemic. People are dying daily and the entire world is basically on lockdown in their homes — as of today over 26,000 people have died in our country alone — more than even Italy now. Currently, about 2,000 a day are dying of COVID-19 here, which makes this virus the greatest killer of 2020. We are practicing “social-distancing” — staying in our homes to try and limit the movement of the virus through the population so that the hospitals are not overwhelmed… It’s only been partly successful. The nurses and doctors have limited supplies — we’re all reusing our masks – and people all over the country are sewing cloth masks to try and increase our supply. The bodies of the dead are literally filling hospital morgues and spilling out into mobile refrigerated trailers. Those who are dying of COVID die alone in hospital isolation and families cannot even have the comfort of a funeral to aid in their grief.
Re-reading the last paragraph sounds like something from a post-apocalyptic book — and yet, every day I’m watching it continue to unfold…
In the era of COVID even hospice nurses seeing their normal patients cannot hug or offer the normal comforting touch we are so used to providing. When we enter someone’s home we follow the new guidelines — we reuse our masks and wear gloves. Just wearing a mask feels like such a barrier in this work — but we must keep our patients safe, and there’s no way to know that we aren’t carrying this virus with us when we go somewhere. We go back to our colleagues and vent about our frustrations as this virus impacts every aspect of our work in the field. We are still as present to our patients as we can be… but we can see how the isolation is wearing on them…
The stress and uncertainty of this time is wearing on us all.
The part of my life not taken up by work — specifically the daytime hours as work fills the hours of 5pm to 8am when I am on-call for 7 days, and then my Mister is on-call for the following 7 days — those hours not waiting for the phone to ring are spent studying and keeping our little home a home. Mister and I were accepted into an RN program that began just days before the COVID lockdown. Classes are all online in accordance with “social-distancing” rules, and we’ve managed to get through the first half of the first term this way. I’ll admit — it’s very hard to take school seriously when you’re working in the field during a pandemic. Somehow, getting an A on a test just doesn’t mean much when thousands of people are dying every day and I am on the frontlines when I get called out to see a patient. (I went into my first locked-down COVID building the other night — it was surreal — I had an unfitted n95 mask and a pair of goggles to protect myself…) My mind doesn’t want to study. Sometimes it seems like it doesn’t want to do anything but sit and stare off into space.
The Professor and Philosopher are hanging in here with us. The Professor’s TBI remains symptomatic and continues to limit him. The Philosopher is in need of an MRI and probably another spinal cord de-tethering surgery, but that will all have to wait. The hospitals are not safe places with this virus in play. They continue to work on their projects and hope for improvement… The Philosopher at least has a nice wheelchair to get around the house with now. Pain has become a big part of their lives over these last years and I’m amazed at their patience in the midst of it all. Their Faith keeps them going, and their sense of humor helps us remember that laughter is still the best medicine. They are brilliant, patient, thoughtful young men… and I am proud of all they have accomplished in the face of their struggles.
We are all tired… When I step back and look at the world, the gravity of this situation is overwhelming, but there have been so many beautiful moments shared despite it all. We are all still human, and we are doing what humans do… when faced with a mountain we just climb it. We create beauty out of ashes… we light candles in the darkness… we make music out of the rhythm of silence and storm. As one of my boys said… “We are the creatures that cope.”
I have seen social media alight with music and song as we seem compelled to sing and dance our way through this darkness. We play instruments together with the help of technology that allows us to be “together” from our own living spaces. We sew masks to show we care and fill our social networks with words of encouragement. I don’t know what society will be like on the other side of this dark tunnel… the future is unclear, and even the present is a bit of blur as everything seems to change from one day to the next. But, I know that love will still exist on the other side… as long as there are two hearts left beating, there will be the rhythm of life waiting to become song.
I decided to sit down today and re-enter this little corner because I need to count my blessings again… I need to remember there is Grace in the moments that so easily get lost right now…
With gratitude for the little things…
…stolen moments with my Mister
…The Philosopher singing to himself
…The Professor asking what our favorite parts of the day were
… clean clothes
…we still have hand sanitizer
…chocolate non-dairy ice cream
…finishing a midterm
…masks for safety
…kitten whisker tickles
In the Darkness, it’s still all Grace…