Monday, August 30, 2010

The goodbyes

My heart is a bit heavy today as the 25 year young man died over the weekend. I will facilitate a celebration of life ceremony on Saturday which I am honored to do. I had hoped that my first memorial service would have been for an elderly person that was surrounded by family and memories. Instead, we will celebrate the life of a 25 year old that loved life and could find richness and meaning in every today. We should all learn that lesson.

There is no such thing as an insignificant or accidental relationship. Every encounter, no matter how brief or profound, is meaningful. So for this young man, he taught others to laugh, to smile, and that most things are not worth fighting about. He wanted to use his energy to reach out to others. And he will be remembered for that. I will always remember the way he would say, "I feel fantastic."

There are 160 volunteers that provide services to the hospice house. They bring pets, bake cookies, feed patients, sit with patients, read to them, clean carpets, hammer nails, sing, make crafts, and just about anything you can think of. And they all do whatever they do with a smile...people love helping others. Sometimes in the outside world and the fast pace of life, we forget kindness. But in hospice care, time slows down, sometimes it even stops, and then you can see the goodness and compassion of so many.

On an easier note, I found Whole Foods in Tampa over the weekend which was great fun. On Sunday, longtime friends from Venice, FL came to visit. Have I mentioned that I love visitors? So Florida is hot and rainy but "fantastic."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24

I'm learning systems and software, how to complete timesheets, the process to get Catholic priests, and personalities of the staff. I am learning some of the arts that are available for the patients such as music, massage, reike, drawing, and volunteers that can do just about anything. However, in the midst of the learning, it is hard to be spontaneous. I am thinking too hard!

I have been meeting with a 25 year young man who has brain cancer. He has the most beautiful smile and is so sweet. He has had many physical challenges in his life but his spirit radiates joy. Here is a 25 year old with brain cancer and in hospice and when I go to see him and ask him how he feels, his response with a huge smile on his face always is, "I feel fabulous."

Another patient that I see regularly is a 50 year old woman who is on a trach and unresponsive. Her husband glows when he tells me how they met and how he loves her. He tells me about meeting on the dance floor. I think that they are still dancing together in some way. I know it is hard for him in many ways, but he hangs on to the words that she said so many times to him. She loves him. Those words keep him going.

So don't forget to let people know that you love them!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day one

Thanks to all the well-wishes. It was a good day...actually a great day. And that is all in the perspective I imagine.

First thing this morning, I listened to a wife tell of her husband's life. It is such an honor to hear and be in such intimate places with someone. The wife wanted to be strong and made excuses for the kids that were not there because they had already said their goodbyes. My guess is that the wife would have liked the kids there for her but chaplains, nurses, social workers can all step in and stand with the loved ones left behind. And so we did.

I met with a spanish speaking family, some that had very limited and broken English. I immediately thought, I need to learn a little spanish. So one of the goals will be to find a way to learn a bit of conversational spanish. I don't need to be fluent but I do hope that I learn enough to not say something really silly that has no relevance.

I met a Greek Orthodox priest who came to give communion to a dying Greek woman. Communion liturgy was done in Greek, so I couldn't understand the language but you could see the comfort in the eyes of the patient. The words of God's love seems to be universal.

I was invited to come into a patient's room to see some acupuncture being done. A new experience. I found out from the doctor that the ear is like the foot in reflexology. The whole body can be associated with spots on your foot or your hand. And today's is true of the ear as well. The patient had pain in his back and the doctor placed 10 acupuncture needles in the gentleman's ear. The patient didn't feel a thing! And it helped relieve the pain in his back. Amazing.

And so for those that were wondering how I survived the day, I did. And it was all good.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Time to start working!

Yesterday was a day of fun...went to see Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts. It was a book that I loved and a story that I can relate to as I have moved to FL. Had lunch had a place called Bahama Breeze that is on the causeway so the view is spectacular and the food excellent.

I start my job at the hospice home tomorrow. I oriented all last week and feel ready to start something new. I know what to do if there is a hurricane - something that a girl from IN would not generally know. I have a phone that can be a walkie talkie but also I can text. That seems to bridge time from the past to now. What would life be without cell phones and texting?

My 35th high school reunion was last night and I missed it! I haven't been to a reunion in all these years and always felt that was okay. Who knew that in 2010, 35 years later, I would have reconnected a little with high school friends on something called facebook. "Listening" to their lives online made me want to see them and laugh with them and remember with them. So for all you high school friends, I missed you last night!

As I thought about the reunion I was missing, I also thought about life since 1975. I don't get another life like the one I had as a 18 year old. And I don't get another life like I have now. I never will play the same role and experience my life in quite the same way ever again. I will never have the same set of friends again. I wil never experience the earth and the world with all its wonders in this time again. So don't wait for one last look at the ocean, the sky, the stars, an old friend, or a loved one. Go look now.

Be grateful for the past, be satified with today, be hopeful for the future.

Monday, August 9, 2010

First day of orientation

My last day in the office for my last job was 5/27. I have enjoyed the freedom of the days since then, but today felt like a new beginning. I listened to overviews of hospice work and some details about programs. I was reminded all over again how much I believe that this is where I am supposed to be.

The Credo on my name badge reads: Our life's work is not just a job - it's a calling. We are ordinary people called to do extraordinary work; to comfort - to heal - to love.

We value the sacredness of each human encounter, and seek to make a difference, one life at a time.

We honor our history and tradition as healers and embrace the knowledge that care of the body means little without ease of the soul. We believe the Hospice experience transforms lives, ours and those whom we serve.

As I found out when I did the internship at a hospice near Chicago, I was blessed in so many ways and I received so much more than I ever could give. For me, hospice is life-giving. To die well, you surely must live well. And sometimes, you just need someone with a unobstructed view to show you the way.

Early on in the decision to move to FL, I had to ask a question, "if I walk down this road, where will it lead in the long run - toward or away from the me I want to be?" I may never quite arrive, but I am on a path toward the person I want to be.