Twilight and Evening Song…

Twilit sky and evening cricket chorus…

Darkness is falling earlier and earlier in my corner of the globe.

My sister and I are now consistently sharing our evening walks with the songs of the crickets and the erratic flight of bats. Tonight, the evening breeze was gentle…. playing with our clothes and brushing our cheeks — it still carries the scent of summer’s-end blended with the river — even as it’s now bearing the first falling leaves, brown and crisp… Autumn is arriving soon, and already the trees are preparing to prepare for the coming winter. 

There is something healing in these evening walks — and yet, they are just natural occurrences — just two “bookend” sisters , the oldest and the youngest 13-years apart — walking a road they’ve know their entire lives. We visit a neighbor’s goats — feeding them if we have anything to share, even if that means laughing like schoolgirls as we try to reach apples on a nearby tree, or picking the giant blackberries in the bushes along the road. I am in my 40s but might as well be in my early teens on these evenings. :) The goats think we are there just to bring them treats, and object loudly if we happen to pass by with empty arms…
We point out rabbits and  instinctively duck if the bats swoop too close…The chorus of crickets waxes and wanes as we walk along, passing one group and moving on to the next — the river a constant presence just behind their tall-grass homes under the stand of old trees that border its cliffside-banks. The air is heavy with the fragrance of home…

My childhood and youth are everywhere here. After what seems like decades of chaos — my soul feels like it is standing on solid ground… I remember myself — my voice, my heart — pieces of me that only made their presence known when working in hospice, or stolen moments with written words in this little corner. Words here can bring ridicule from others, but they carry my voice in all its fullness… they are a window into who I am and where I’ve been. Perhaps they will weave for me their own healing spell to remind me of my soul-self after all this…

And perhaps these evening twilit walks are my peace-potion.


#twiliteveningsongwalks
#comingautumn
#peacewalk

The Flow of Time…

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I’ve been away from this cozy little corner for quite a while, and I probably don’t have the time to try to explain where the last few months have taken us, but I’m stopping by anyway. When life itself moves too fast it’s easy to fall behind. So, this nook of the internet will have to forgive me for my periodic abandonment. Time flows too quickly…

We were settled down to enjoy our beach house life when our economic circumstances took a sharp turn. After some prayer and researching, I decided to begin nursing school with the goal of moving from a hospice volunteer to a hospice nurse, and my hubby decided to join me. This means, that while we will be able to keep our home at the coast, we need to be close to the city for school for the next year or so while we’re in school…

Fast forward from my last blog post to this one and I now find myself at the beginning of my second term. I knew when I began that I would enjoy it, but I didn’t realize how much I would love it — or how engaged with the entire process I would be. This is the first time I’ve studied anything and not be “bored” after a few weeks. :) I’m having a blast! Don’t get me wrong — it’s not easy. I might be making A’s, but I’m actually earning them — I’m working hard for my grades. There’s so much to learn in such a short period of time!

Right now, we’re studying for our LPN licenses, which basically gets your foot in the door as a nurse, and then we’ll be able to get jobs anywhere with the health insurance our boys need. Once I’m employed I plan to continue my education and “climb the ranks” of nursing — perhaps even becoming a nurse practitioner at some point for a hospice. I’d actually love to run my own hospice house someday… we’ll see where life takes me… A year ago I never would have imagined I’d be where I am now, so I’m curious to see what my life will be like a year from now.

The boys are hanging in here as their parents are both in school. The Professor’s 2nd anniversary of his head injury passed a couple weeks ago, and it’s been hard not to get discouraged with the healing process. We recently began seeing Dr. Thom again though who has a new plan to try to encourage his healing, and it really helps to have a little hope sent our way. The Philosopher had an MRI recently and we’re hoping to hear some enlightening news about it this next week. He has symptoms that point to a re-tethering of his spinal cord, and mostly we’re just hoping that whatever is wrong is something “fixable”. Thankfully, while we’re away at classes during the day we have plenty of family around to help the boys out. Second Sister has really been helping a lot, and of course, my mama has been a rock. Really, I couldn’t be doing nursing school without all the family support — it just wouldn’t be possible.

Since I’m back “in town” I’ve been able to begin visiting hospice patients again as well — I missed it so much while I was “away”. I simply love being with the dying — being present with them wherever they happen to be in any given moment. I think the hardest part of being a hospice nurse will be not having as much time with patients as I do as a volunteer. As a nurse, I’ll have a lot more patients than just the two that I visit now, and instead of simply being there to spend time with them — to play music and hear their stories — I’ll have to be one of the people who come in to poke and prod them. I’m pretty sure it won’t be easy for me to make that switch, and yet I’m looking forward to playing a bigger part in the care team — with a stronger voice for what I know is best for my patients. A nurse has a lot more “pull” than a volunteer. Don’t get me wrong, a volunteer’s observations are a vital part of the team — we inform a lot of the care that happens for our patients — but a nurse’s opinion simply goes further I think.

I’ll admit that I’m pretty tired though. Nursing school is intense! Plus, there’s so much else going on in life too — I feel like I could sleep for a week… There’s just always something I need to be doing — which means I have very little time for writing or reading… and forget knitting! My life is mostly homework (I swear Pharmacology is some kind of strange mix between Stephen King and Dr. Seuss — completely terrifying, fascinating, and full of made up words)… and it’s hard to maintain a sense of balance.

So amidst all the craziness of life lately, I am trying to keep my focus on my Lord… I am trying to remember that in school, I’m learning new ways to do “small things with great love”. All of this hard work is going to give me more tools to love others with — more ways to show the love of Christ to the world — especially the sick and dying. In learning things like how to do a Head to Toe Assessment I can show compassionate care for someone — I can really listen to them and hear their concerns. This is how we touch lives…

Love makes a difference…

…even in the small things.

 

The Journey of Learning Love

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How long has it been since I was here last? It seems longer than it really was… so much has happened.

I’m surrounded by hectic “do-ings” that must be done, but a lot has been accomplished already and at this moment I’ve stopped to breathe — I’m pausing all the “must-dos” and sitting in the light of the twinkle-lights that have escaped being put away with the Christmas things. :) I am listening to The Philosopher typing away as he works on one of his writing projects, mumbling to himself as the story-line progresses. He has his personal music playlist playing on his laptop speakers as he types away, and the only other sound is the fan of the electric heater as it tries to chase away the winter chill in our living room.

The gas stove we used as our main heat source no longer works (apparently the broken valve isn’t made anymore so it can’t be replaced), so I’m missing its comforting whistle… as well as the heat it provided so well! The poor little space heater does the best it can, but we are going around bundled up with cold toes and noses — it just can’t quite get rid of the chill entirely. Thankfully, the rest of the week is supposed to bring us fairly mild temperatures, and the electric heaters handle our bedrooms well enough… we’re fine… maybe not completely comfortable, but we’re managing. This is just further encouragement for a surprise upcoming move — we’ll probably be getting some good news later this week… So much sudden crazy busyness around here! I’ve had to spend my days sorting our belongings and preparing for an upheaval… it’s kept me hopping, that’s for sure. I’ll go into all that in another post sometime soon-ish…

Today what free-time I had was spent getting off some important emails related to my hospice work, and sending in the first pieces of my packet for the International End-of-Life Doula Association’s Certification process. (I did their amazing training in October of 2016, and I’ve used the skills I learned there in this work ever since.) After some encouragement via email this afternoon, I’ve decided to tackle the certification process.  Tomorrow I have a couple phone calls to make — something I have to prepare myself for since I have a hard time communicating on the phone at this point… It’s so hard to hear what’s going on, and inevitably my phone will cut out and I’ll miss something important — so stressful! (I’m a complete introvert — send me an email or a text message any time of the day, but please don’t make my phone ring!) :) The calls need to be made though…

The Professor has his last doc appointment for awhile tomorrow morning, and the next day will be The Philosopher’s last one — our insurance ends this month so we won’t be going to the myriad of doc appointments that have been our norm for so long… such is life. I’m trying not to worry…

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You just never know what Life is going to send your way. For the most part, we go through our days thinking we know what’s going on — planning our calendars and daily schedules — but we really have no idea what the next moment will bring… let alone next week. We comfort ourselves with all our intentions and plans — it’s part of the way we stay sane in this crazy world. We design paths for ourselves to walk and set off in the direction we think we should go — but the journey we “draw on paper” rarely fits the landscape of reality. Obstacles appear that we didn’t know about beforehand — sometimes there are big cliffs in front of us that force a sharp turn, and other times a flash flood can wash everything away and deposit us on a completely different path. Sometimes we think we’re on one journey, and then simply wake up one day and discover we’ve been traveling somewhere completely different all along. My motherhood journey has been one of those kind of adventures… a journey you would never be able to plan for yourself because you didn’t even know such a place existed beforehand, and you didn’t know you were even on the voyage until you discovered the place you thought you were staying was actually moving somewhere else! It’s unsettling when Life throws you a curveball and you don’t even realize it until after the fact — sometimes long after the fact… we’re talking innings have gone by and you’re playing an entirely different game than the one you expected to play.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

Being human requires a lot of blindness and a mind-preserving lack of observation, or an intense level of Trust in the goodness of God’s Love in order to maintain sanity in this unpredictable place. “‘I know the plans I have for you’ says the Lord…” (Jeremiah 29:11). As we ride around the sun, hopefully we learn to roll a bit more with Life’s punches. Even though the big ones may knock us out for awhile, hopefully we’re eventually able to get up and continue the fight — at least for the Love of those around us… and their Love for us.

It isn’t easy to walk this planet (wandering-star — doesn’t that make us all wanderers?) — to be so small amid so many galaxies and yet still Love our dear ones so much it doesn’t seem possible that we’re so finite. This is what we’re here for — to learn this common communication of infinite or unconditional Love, so we can understand the language on the other side of Death’s rent veil. We learn it as we serve each other — as mama’s snuggle their sleeping littles and calm wordless fears — as we make each other laugh, and keep each other warm and fed throughout the long winters of life… We learn it in the rhythm of poetry and song — in lullabies and literature shared together after a long day — in sharing what we have with others and being grateful for what we are given, and in creating homes where we know what it means to hold each other in our hearts. We learn it in the play of silence and story, laughter and tears — in life shared with one another in a myriad of small ways. We learn Love from all the lives that touch our own as we wander this road together…

I am so thankful for all my dear ones who are continuing to teach me Love.

I am grateful…

  1. reading aloud to the family in the car during a hail storm at the coast… :)
  2. listening to Kate Rusby together… (particularly this one over and over again) :)
  3. fuzzy socks in the cold…
  4. back to back with hubby at night – warm and cozy as we sleep…
  5. sister hugs…
  6. Little One’s laugh – even when he should be sleeping…
  7. Little Boy learning the alphabet…
  8. listening to The Professor and Philosopher talking late into the night when they think I think they’re sleeping… :)
  9. laughing with my hubby…
  10. wedding bands and lifelong loves…

It’s all Grace…

 

 

 

Awe and Time…

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It’s been a busy couple of months since I wrote last.

The Professor had his 20th birthday. I can’t even… I just can’t… too many feels as my younger siblings say.

Christmas came and its 12 days have passed. I keep planning on putting away all our decorations but I just haven’t had the time yet. There has been quite a few pieces to write for work (one reason my blog is so far behind since all my writing time has been used for work lately), plus trying to keep up on all the rest of the things that need to be done — I’ll admit that removing the holiday decor just hasn’t been high on my to-do list.  The twinkle lights make me happy — I’m about to enter the last year of my thirties… happiness is high on my priority list, and I know a lot more about what brings happiness than I did a decade ago. I’m in no rush to put away the twinkle lights — there’s a good chance some of them will be up when next year’s Christmas Tree arrives. ;)

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My younger sister is about to turn 30 in a few weeks. She was my first baby really — my first real experience with tiny rosebud lips and baby-toes… We shared a bed — I watched her sleep — she heard my first lullabies… My brother was only three years younger than me — perfect for a younger playmate… He rode on the back fender of my bike almost as soon as he could run around outside with me. He was my adventure buddy — the outdoors was our playground and I loved having him to share my imaginary world. We played Mr. Magic Island, Pinecone Wars when we grew a bit older, and spent most of our waking hours living an adventure of some kind… But my first younger sister came along just a few weeks before my ninth birthday. She was my very own living baby doll and I was totally in love. I’ve always had a really strong maternal streak — mothering, nurturing, is one of the things that makes me happiest — makes me who I am. So, I loved being a big sister with such a tiny baby sister to pamper… And she was so spunky!!! (She’s still spunky — her ability to be herself no matter what still amazes me… she is an amazing woman with a deep strength…)

I can’t believe that tiny, beautiful baby girl is closing in on her 30th birthday. 

Maybe it has to do with where I am in my own life, but I’m spending a lot of time in awe of Time lately. Despite how crazy the days are and how insane the world can be — this globe just keeps spinning… morning continues to dawn, day after day after day…

    “…all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be…” (Psalm 139:16)

Aside from wishing the days would just pause so that I could catch my breath — so that I could get used to Time passing and all the changes it inevitably brings — I’m just in awe of how this whole journey of Life seems to happen. One moment you’re a little girl watching the world from your daddy’s shoulders, and the next your little boy is sitting on your lap learning to read… then you blink…

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I am watching another hospice patient wind down his journey through Time… It’s not a surprise, this is where this work gets real — but it’s not easy. It just seems that Time should recognize the permanence of mortality — it doesn’t feel right that the galaxies keep spinning after someone dies — that the next morning comes without even blinking its eye. I think anyone who’s life is touched by a death knows what I mean. Each person is so unique – their distinct blend of DNA and life experiences traveling through Time here happens only once… I wish I could force Time and Space to stop and take notice.

Life is such a sacred mystery… every end should be remembered.

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We are all born for this journey and I am blessed to be traveling it with so many people who love me — my family, my hospice patients, those who walk with me in close tandem and those who pass through my path like shooting stars… flaring brightly as they go by and leaving me in awe of their soul-beauty. This universe is an amazing place to be… As I look forward to the coming months when it appears that life is going to have more twists and turns for me than I expected for this new year, I am learning to trust in the God of Time, and to take comfort in the consistency of the next sunrise despite its unpredictability. The poem says that two roads diverge in a wood and the poet takes the one less traveled by, but the truth is — everyone’s road is unique… we’re all on the road “less traveled” and that is what makes all the difference. Somehow we journey together – each on our own less traveled path – yet still side by side.  Together we keep each other company and learn the language of the far country we’re traveling to — the only language that matters in the long run. Day by day we are learning Love together…

I am grateful…

  1. beach houses…
  2. stormy waves…
  3. hot tea…
  4. new slippers…
  5. family Christmases…
  6. mama hugs…
  7. sister love…
  8. Little One’s first birthday…
  9. sorting boxes…
  10. lullaby memories…

It’s all Grace…

 

Love Never Fails…

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I went to visit my hospice patient today, but when I arrived I discovered he had fallen asleep during his lunch — his meal was barely touched, and he was sleeping deeply. I waited a few moments to see if he might stir, but ended up leaving to let him rest. I’ll admit that my heart dropped a bit when I saw this… something that out-of-character just feels significant, and I can’t pretend it doesn’t. It’s been a few weeks since my other patient passed on, and right now the one I went to visit today is the only one I’m seeing every week. Seeing patients decline is part of the struggle of this work… dying isn’t only hard for the person living it — it’s hard for those who care for them as well… When it’s a family member you’re expected to grieve, but the world often forgets that all the caregivers grieve too.  Volunteers who sit with hospice patients know that it isn’t likely that they’ll be invited to a funeral or memorial — if there is one — we make connections with patients that we know are only for time, but they can still be deep. For them our companionship lasts the rest of their lives… and for us… we carry their stories for the rest of ours.

This work is beautiful and life-changing… but it is anything but easy.

After I left my patient’s room today I went to leave and ended up passing the man who runs the No One Dies Alone program in our state. I did a double take since I wasn’t expecting to see him there, and then called out his name to say, “Hi”. We greeted each other in passing but he appeared busy so I continued on my way — I didn’t want to hold him up. But when I got to my car I started to wonder if he was there because of an impending vigil or something so I checked my email before I turned on the car. Sure enough, he had sent out an alert for a vigil at the facility where I currently was… I called him to ask if there was anyone signed up for a vigil period at the moment and he replied that no one had been able to sign up at all until 6 this evening. My heart squeezed. There were things I had planned to do today after my hospice visit, but I knew I couldn’t just drive away when someone was in the process of dying alone. I had to at least spend a couple of hours with him — I mean, I was already right there at the facility, and the patient I had planned on visiting was asleep! Needless to say, after contacting family members so they would know where I was, I walked back through the pouring rain with my guitar in hand and went to sit vigil for awhile.

I met my NODA “boss man” in the lobby and he took me to the patient who was dying. We talked a little bit, but the patient was already unresponsive and declining rapidly, so there wasn’t much to convey. He was truly alone — he had outlived all his family and friends — it’s patients like these that NODA was really set up to serve. Throughout a vigil the idea is to keep the person who is dying as comfortable as possible, and thankfully I could tell the facility staff was already doing a wonderful job of that — while he was unresponsive he was also at peace. There was no sign of distress of any kind, and I settled in to a chair by his bed while I let him know who I was and that I was there to keep him company for awhile. We know that people continue to hear long after they become unresponsive so I always introduce myself when I enter a vigil space. In the brief hours that I spent with him I noticed his breathing become shallower and faster… a sign that he was continuing his rapid decline, but he remained at rest and peaceful. If he continues on the same trajectory I wouldn’t expect his vigil to last very long… but death is like birth… you can “guesstimate” a period of time when the transition is going to happen, but everyone is different and no one can say for sure when that will be…

When I finally returned home I was tired.

…soul-tired and physically tired…

I did the dishes. I did the laundry. I wrote a piece that needed to be done — I have one to write tomorrow as well — and I just surfed the internet. I’m still tired. Tomorrow I have a final interview to attend, and if I had energy or was in a different head-space, I would be a bit nervous. But days like today are grounding for me… whatever happens tomorrow is what happens. The repercussions of the interview, the mistakes or successes I have, the tasks I accomplish — it will all be what it will be, it will all pass…

I blinked and The Professor is about to turn 20 years old — the next 20 years will pass even faster… the only thing that will be left from whatever happens tomorrow will be the relationships I foster… the only thing that I can take with me when I’m lying at my own vigil is the Love I’ve known. The dear ones who have shared their love with me… who have shared their lives with me… those who are a part of me — their love will not cease simply because my body does — and my love won’t either.

“Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Love never fails.

… and I am grateful…

  1. serendipitous meetings…
  2. surprise interviews…
  3. new kindle covers…
  4. piles of Christmas packages… :)
  5. rearranged furniture for a Christmas Tree… :)
  6. Christmas music on the radio in the car…
  7. windshield wipers!
  8. reminders…
  9. rain on the roof…
  10. a bookstore date tomorrow! :)

It’s all Grace…

(And Also — NODA in Oregon is celebrating its 16th birthday this month – so thankful to be part of this amazing group of people!)