Sunday, April 24, 2011

Grief. Work.

"How will I ever learn to live without her?"
"I'm fine. Just want to be left alone right now."

My very best friend of 21 years died yesterday.  She's part of me, me part of her.  And, even though I work in the business of death and dying, the grief process remains a mystery to me.  One moment I am totally fine and the next, a mess.  I'm talking to my best friend's husband and I cannot feel.  But when I talk to a distant friend I cry my eyes out.

It's work, this grief.  Sacred work.  Foggy work.  Helpful work.  And it's work. 

How are you living with loss in this moment?

Jesus wept. John 11:35

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Kids Say The Darndest Things

The emergency department nurse let me know that the helicopter was bringing in our third "code trauma" head bonk in as many hours.  Hot weather brings that on.

Each is trauma is unique, but this one really tugged on my heart.  The patient, a pre-kindergartener, fell off a ledge backwards and landed head-first on the cement slab.  She was out, cold, for ~15 minutes.  When mom and dad called 911, they were advised to take her to meet the EMS Helicopter at the rural Fire Department parking lot.  So they did, and then drove like a bat out of hell to get to the hospital when she did.  

When Miss Tyke arrived, she was strapped onto the yellow Helicopter backboard stretcher.  The paramedics unstrapped her.  The nurse called her by name and softly began explaining what they were going to do.  A little poke here.  An IV drip there. A blood pressure cuff on this arm.  A wrist band on that arm.

All the while, she lay there.  Her eyes were as wide as saucers as she took this all in.  "Okay.  Thank you."

She was dazed by all the activity but not distressed.  She simply lay there, observing, watching.  And I observed her.  When we locked eyes, I introduced myself and said something like "Don't worry, they will take very good care of you."  As if she was worrying.  She's too young to know what worry is, I thought. 

When my pager beckoned me to the next visit, I made my exit and came back later.  Mom and Dad were there, holding her hand.  She was droopy-eyed and dozing.  Still red-cheeked from a full afternoon, but clearly doing okay. As the nurse came in to discharge her, she had to wake her up to remove her IV.

All the while, she lay there.  Her eyes were as wide as saucers. Again, "Okay.  Thank you." 

If I had not seen it, I would not have believed it.  This little gal was so innocently grateful for the nurse's kind care of her.  Regardless of mom and dad being present, she simply thanked the nurse.  And the nurse blushed, saying, "You are so welcome.  You are very kind and no one ever says thank you to me when I pull that IV out.  I am sorry it has to sting.  You are all better now.  You can go home." 

"Okay.  Thank you."

This is a lesson in presence and gratitude.  She did nothing but "be."  She simply thanked everyone in the kindest little girl voice possible.  Authentic, sincere, kind. 

For what are you grateful, even when it stings, in this moment?

People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. NRSV Mark 10:13-16

Friday, April 1, 2011

Relative Dementia

She was already suffering dementia before her more-acute decline.

The nursing home knew she needed help with bathing and eating; that's why she lived there for the last year. But during this week, she seemed less lucid than ever. Her daughters began to worry. She used to recognize them, but by the time they arrived in the emergency room, her words slurred together and her eyes wandered. She mumbled something soft and lovely, but even her daughters couldn't make it out.

It turns out that her fall of 6 weeks ago had created a hematoma in her brain and they needed to do surgery to relieve the pressure.

I was struck by how innocent and happy she seemed. Here's a great-grandmother nearing the end of her life and unaware of the imminent surgery. She sort of pointed to her head, as if to indicate some vague headache. Mostly she smiled at everyone, unable to articulate what she thought or felt.

To me, she seemed very much like my mother during her last six months - vaguely unaware that she wasn't right in her head, but somehow spiritually okay with that. A start of letting go. My heart broke for the daughters who watched week by week as their mother began to slip away.

I'm not sure why I reflect on this. My visit with them was touching, light, crisis-free, and holy. In the midst of the emergency department, time stopped in this room. Maybe that's what showed up in that moment.


Jesus, looking at him, loved him ... Mark 10:21a