Category Archives: compassion

It’s that time of year …

not for celebrations and parties.  Not for get-togethers with good friends and people you may know.  Not shopping for bargains and gifts, not meeting up to have a good time and not for having a nice glass of wine with like-minded folks.

Well, actually, it is that time of year, but not for everyone.

For some, this time of year means eating a cold can of beans alone in an empty room without power because the electric bill wasn’t paid.  It wasn’t paid because the baby needed medication and there wasn’t enough money for medication and electricity.

For some, this time of year means standing on the street, in the cold, wearing street clothes and house slippers because there wasn’t enough money for rent and if there wasn’t enough money for rent, there certainly wasn’t enough money for a coat and shoes.

For some, this time of year brings memories that are bitter and hurtful; thoughts of years past that ran, one into the other, with no happiness or joy.

For some, this time of year means nothing.  It is simply the passing of time while watching the world go by, just like the year before and the year before that.

For some, this time of year means family, food, friends and fellowship.  It is these people who embrace the season and enjoy it as they always have, together with the people they love and are comfortable with.

But what about all the others?

Who, when they set down to their family table laden with food, surrounded by family, warm, cozy and perfect, think of those who have nothing, expect nothing and know nothing different from the emptiness they feel every year at this time?

I and many others call ourselves followers of Christ.  We say with our voices  how much we love and want to be like Jesus.

We sing praises, bless our food and continue on in the same traditions we have followed for years.  We praise Jesus and say we want to be like Him but prove time and again that we recite words we believe but don’t, deep down, mean and we fail the very Jesus we say we want to be like.

He wants us to share what we have; not just home, warmth, family, friends and food, but the very word that would bring others to love and honor Him.

Invite a stranger to Thanksgiving dinner.  Invite several strangers.

Let’s bring someone homeless to our home and make them, for one day, family.

Let’s show them that Jesus is real and that they are loved.

This time of year is our time, the Jesus follower’s time.  Our time to put our money where our mouth is.  To be hospitable, to offer shelter and food for those who are hungry and the ones the world calls outcasts.

It is our time to take in everyone, despite everything, and to show them Jesus.

If we, who claim to be the hands and feet of Jesus don’t show love to the oppressed, be certain that the evil one will.

He will entice and enchant them, then make them slaves to his depravity and hatred of all things good.

Don’t give the devil the satisfaction of beating us to the punch.  Let us be the Jesus we claim to want to follow and lead someone to Christ by being the hands and feet of the Savior.

Make no mistake –  Satan is working hard to win the souls of the lost and if we don’t work harder, he will win because he doesn’t give up if he doesn’t get a response on the first pass.

Be Jesus to the world and don’t give up just because you can find an excuse.  Having an excuse doesn’t excuse us, but overcoming excuses and finding a way to be Jesus to the world shows our true alliance.  We are with Jesus or not with Jesus.  It is as simple as that.

Everyone reading this post is welcome to Thanksgiving Dinner at my mom’s house.  You, for one day, will be our family, you will be warm and your bellies will be full.  Must love, or at least tolerate dogs, though, because our place is lousy with them!  🙂

There is nothing like a meltdown …

to put things in perspective.

And I had one.

A good, old-fashioned meltdown complete with crying, sobbing, pacing, stomping, ranting, raving and, to make it an official meltdown not just just a casual break in stride, ended with the impressive sound of breaking glass.

What is it about breaking things that culminates  the entire process to tie it all nicely into a neat little package that leads, oddly enough, to the return of sanity.

I didn’t actually intend, when the meltdown started, to break anything, but throwing that heavy candle-holder dead on into my bathroom mirror and watching the shatter … well, that pretty much made my day.

That sounds nutty, right?

Of course it does.

At this point, you are doing one of two things:  nodding your head in agreement or shaking it in disbelief.

Those are the two choices.

There are no gray areas when it comes to the breaking point.  You either do, you don’t; you are glad you did or you wish you hadn ‘t.

I’m glad I did.

My mind is as clear as a bell.

The photographic celibacy I’ve been in for the past few weeks has passed, the writer’s block has been shattered just like that bathroom mirror.

I don’t use the mirror anyway.

My hair is too short to do anything but mousse it to stand up and I haven ‘t worn make-up in years.

I did have to buy a new toothbrush, however, as I wasn’t certain I got all of the glass shards out of it and dentists and coroners alike frown on putting glass in your mouth.

People who don’t know me personally are thinking right now that they are better off, people who do know me are singing the hallelujah chorus.

There is nothing wrong with going, once in a while, off the deep end … as long as nobody gets hurt.

This is a big reason why I don’t date.  Can you imagine it?  I’d  have a restraining order against me after the first week … unless, of course, I could find a nice Irishman who liked a donnybrook now and then as much as I did.

But that is neither here nor there.

Be who you are, even when you are throwing things.  That’s my motto.

Even Jesus threw things … remember the tantrum in the temple?    He is as much a part of me when I’m throwing things as when I’m in His woods or writing His words.

I’m His either way and there is magnificent peace in simply knowing that single fact.  I, like the sun, the stars, the moon, the earth, the grass the trees … have a purpose.

And He helps me find it, sometimes by throwing things.

How very cool is that?

Like a moth to a flame, so the fireflies are drawn to the moon of summer.

Like a moth to a flames, so the fireflies are drawn to the moon of summer.

This day started out …

on the wrong foot entirely.

I suppose it is partly because I am a bit of a dreamer and mostly because I am especially susceptible and vulnerable to harsh words.

I found, before I’d really had a chance to begin my day, my feelings hurt, my spirit bruised and my pride wounded.

It wasn’t the first time.

It won’t be the last.

But it always hurts.

Always chips away a bit at the self confidence I work so hard to achieve and hold on to.

Always makes me feel less than I thought I was before.

And so it went.

I cried my tears and kept the ones threatening at bay more to prevent curious questions than anything else.

What am I  supposed to say after all?  I had my feelings hurt?

That answer is met with shaking heads and comments like ‘girl, you need to toughen up”.

Yes.  I know.

I wasn’t going to let it rule my day, though, that I had already decided.  Maybe I was on the verge of tears.  Maybe I did slip away and cry a couple of times during the morning.  Maybe I did berate myself for being the way I am and wishing fervently that I could change it.  But …

I decided right off that this would be a day of encouraging others and lifting them up as I wished to be lifted.

The day progressed fairly normally, with fluffed pillows, niceties exchanged between patients and family members, little touches to encourage those who were ailing; the usual day to day stuff I always do.

None of that, however, prepared me for what I would encounter in the late morning hours.

He was my last patient,  and I knew from research that his wife had been gone for many years and his youngest daughter, the last of three children to die,  had passed away two years before.

For all counts and purposes, he was completely and totally alone in the world.

I went into his room and introduced myself to him.  He looked at me for a long time and I wondered if he understood what I was saying.

Then he spoke, his voice barely above a whisper and said “I thought for a moment that I had died and gone to Heaven.  You remind me so much of my sweet Lacy.”

As it turned out, Lacy was his daughter, his favored child and one who worshiped her father.  He asked me to sit, which I did, in the chair beside his bed, and he proceeded to tell me about her.

She cooked him dinner every night and made sure he had snacks in his kitchen. She took him to the park and on long drives into the mountain when the leaves changed in Autumn.  She had, he related, a way with stories and often sat with him, while he ate his dinner, and told him one story or another.

He focused those tired and aged blue eyes on mine and asked me if I would tell him a story.

I didn’t have the heart to say no.  I told him a story about a rogue squirrel which found it’s way into my sister’s swimming pool and the adventure and hilarity that followed.

He laughed out loud until he nearly wheezed and said it was the funniest thing he had heard in a long time.  He smiled a wide smile, crinkling his wrinkled face until his eyes nearly disappeared altogether.

It was a wonderful moment for me … this laughter on an old man’s face.

I rose to bid him goodbye and he once again caught and held my eyes in his gaze.  He, with sincerity and a love that nearly shattered me, said “I love you, Lacy, you know that don’t you?”

I took his frail hand in mine and after pressing a kiss to his papery cheek, said ‘Yes.  I Know.”

In the few moments I spent with him, the beauty of his spirit helped to heal my bruised one and the harsh words of the morning were forgotten, useless and harmless against the joy he brought to me.

I had intended to swing back by to check on him and to tell him how much my visit with him had meant to me, but before the end of my shift, he left this world.

I’m sorry I didn’t get to tell him how he touched my life.  It was my intention to encourage him and yet, he brought me a kind of joy that comes about only once in a while.

Harsh words will always hurt me.  It is my nature.  I cannot change who I am at the core, but the encounter with the man who knew me as Lacy gave me something wonderful to bring up when the tears threaten.

I cried for him, but not out of sadness.  No, that would have been wrong.  I cried because I, not as Lacy, but as myself, never got to say goodbye.

Life unfolds as it should and while some of it is painful, for the most part, it is an incredibly wonderful journey.

I was blessed to know Lacy’s dad.

My Dad ... the man I admire most on this earth.

My Dad … the man I admire most on this earth.

It has been so long since I have watched TV …

that I have no earthly idea where the remote to the blasted thing is.  I wouldn’t be looking for it now if it weren’t required to set the menu up for a favored DVD that I was wanting to watch.

I don’t watch the news and have no clue, unless it is on facebook or twitter, what is going on in the world.  My journalist peeps keep me informed on the pressing stuff and the “Oprah, Fox, MSNBC and just happened to be surfing the web  crowd” keeps me informed (and entertained) on the rest of the goings on.

I am perfectly happy with that knowledge (or lack of as the case may be) in my isolated, yet mostly serene, little world.

On the occasions that people I know feel the need to fill me in on the seedier things that are happening, I find myself cringing and saying things like “ewww” … “stop … don’t tell me anything else” … “OMG, you’re not serious?”

It is true.  I am so close to hermit status that if I didn’t have to work for a living, I would be completely and happily oblivious with a backpack in tow and some flint in my pocket …

Thank you Dr. Blackwelder, for teaching me to make a fire with flint and a few dry twigs.

I could, I am relatively certain, live off the land, and thrive on apples, peaches and blackberries … and if that didn’t work out perfectly, I could, irregardless of hunger and thirst, photograph it and then write about it.

I might go hungry, but I would be happy while my belly growled.

I have learned a great deal from my dad, who is like the mountain man extraordinaire, who knows something about everything that has to do with nature and he, kindly, passed it along to me.

I paid attention and took notes.

It isn’t that I don’t care about people and things that are happening.  I do.  But most, in my experience, of what is considered “news” is the misfortune of others exploited well beyond what is necessary.

When my husband was living, I was current on all the happenings.  He was a news junkie and found it oh-so-satisfying to fill me in whether I wanted to know or not.

I see, in the day to day happenings in my life, family and job, plenty of drama.  I don’t need to know who has been in rehab, who is having somebody who isn’t their husband’s baby or what the name of the new Prince will be.

In all honesty, I could care less about that.

If there is a wildfire or other disaster, I find out from my journalist friends on facebook and then, can pray or curse, accordingly, as the event warrants.

There was a time when I was much geekier than was good for me.  Of this, I am certain.  I was a facebook, twitter and google plus junkie.

I have weaned myself, however, to be only a part-time junkie and rely mostly on my friends and family to keep me informed of current events.

I am grateful that my Jim cannot see this transformation from Heaven as he would simply shake his head and say, in that deep, sexy voice of his “Gina … you need to know what is going on in the world in order to live in the world”.

Well, I have little clue about what is going on and I live a relatively normal life.

Yes, there are goats that randomly come onto my porch.

Yes, a possum, nearly nightly, filches cat food from my feed pans.

Yes, my brother-in-law brings me, fresh from the chicken, eggs that I will never eat.

I may have eaten them if he hadn’t said to me “be sure to wash them first”.  Ick.  I took them, washed them with Dawn and placed them in my refrigerator where they will remain until I either give them to some unsuspecting person or throw them away but I know, without a doubt, that I will not be eating them.

Not ever.

But all of this has little to do with the fact that I really want to watch Lord of the Dance and cannot find my TV remote so that I can do so.

Maybe tomorrow … or the next day.

Eventually, it will turn up and when it does, I will have forgotten why I was looking for it in the first place.

Such is the nature of my life.

But it is all good, or mostly so, and it is all part of the whole.  I am who I am and will be who I’ll be.

When every day is like opening Pandora’s box, who, might I ask, needs TV?

Until next time, be well, my friends, be well.

My sweet ride for a couple of hours ... even without the horses, the Jeep was magnificent

My sweet ride for a couple of hours … even without the horses, driving the Jeep on the beach and over the dunes was magnificent

He played like a demon angel ... talent in spades

He played like a demon angel … talent in spades

He looked right at me and I felt his power through the lens of my camera.  I was awestruck.

He looked right at me. I felt his power through the lens of my camera. I was awestruck.

James Taylor sang …

“I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain …” he saw sunny days that he thought would never end.

I feel that way sometimes.

Like the sun will last forever and the foreboding darkness of an impending storm will elude me and deprive me of the comfort that only such an awe-inspiring event of God-created nature can bring.

I found myself today in the company of a family who was waiting for their mother to die.

I have spent an hour or so with them every day for the past couple of weeks and have come to know them, to care about them, to love them.

I’ve seen photographs of their children and grandchildren, of weddings and birthday parties.

I’ve seen faces with smiles that don’t quite reach the eyes because there was worry there.

A sadness.

A knowing.

A sorrow for what was to come.

I didn’t want to go into that room today.  I wanted to be a coward and take the coward’s way out and simply say that they were unavailable.

It would have been a lie, though, even if only to myself.

One that would settle smoothly at the time and then plague me in the wee hours as I remembered the fear, sorrow and sense of hopelessness on the faces that I was trying so hard to comfort.

So I went into the room I didn’t want to go in, sat with people I had come to know and love and waited with them while their mother took her last breath.

It was humbling to be accepted into this place of sorrow and grief as though I was one of them.

I have sat with them, held their hands, cried with them, prayed with them and now, I mourn for them.

It was obvious, when I went to visit them today, that the time was limited.  While I didn’t want to bring negative connotations to an already tense situation, I advised them to call any other family members who should be there to come to be with them.

Maybe I overstepped my bounds.  No, there is no maybe about it, I did overstep them.  But in my nearly thirty years as a nurse, I haven’t always played by the rules.

Sometimes I play by the heart, which often breaks the rules.

But over the years, I have seen death enough to know what it looks like.

I couldn’t live with the knowledge that there were ones that I had met and bonded with before that weren’t there now when the moment they had been dreading, avoiding, rationalizing, but knew was impending, had come.

I felt like a traitor.  Like someone who had come only to say that this is it.

The last hoorah.

The final moments of a life well lived.

I stood in the corner while the family stood around the bed, each one with their hand on the one they loved so dearly, as she took her last breath and left this world.

Before she did, she opened her eyes, something she hadn’t done in days, and looked directly at each one present; saying goodbye, farewell, move on, don’t cry.

Silent tears ran down my face as I watched them watch her as her soul departed from her ravaged body.

I remembered thinking how I wish my Jim had someone with him when he died.  And then I remember how much of a loner he was.  Even with me, he was alone.  I wonder now if he was glad that he was alone when he died.  Glad that he didn’t have to see the fear and sorrow on a face that would wish him to go on when he couldn’t, or maybe simply didn’t want to.

I don’t mourn him anymore.  I think of him and of the life we shared, but I have let him go.  He is a dear and well-loved memory, but not an anchor to weigh me down.  That can bring good to no-one.  And I believe it would sadden him if he thought that his death had broken my spirit.

I slipped out of the room, unnoticed, by the family.  There was nothing else I do, nothing else I could offer; no words I could say to comfort them in that moment.

Trying to do so would be futile and would, I feared, break the trust that they had placed in me to understand them in their moment of weakness.

I had given them my heart, which was now breaking for each one of them.  My tears won’t help them anymore than their own will.

I hope for them, this night, peace in the knowledge that they not only loved, with such passion, their mother, sister, grandmother, wife … but that she knew, with every ounce of her being, that they did.

I like to think that knowing that you gave everything you had to someone you loved is enough to sustain them at their last moments.

I will cry myself to sleep tonight for a family I didn’t know just two weeks ago, a family now broken and irrevocably changed.

I will photograph the living and mourn the dead.  This is the life, while I may not have chosen willingly, was given to me to live.

If my heart shatters a bit in order to bring comfort to another, then it was pain well spent.

I will live it the best I am able, deal with it when I can, falter when I can’t and then remember, while trying to remind others, that even when it doesn’t seem so, life goes on.

There isn’t, really, any more anyone can do other than the best they can.

And then, you move on, for if you don’t move forward, there isn’t any hope and hope is, and will always be, one of the most wonderful things life has to offer.

Without hope, there isn’t anything left.  So hope.  Seek happiness in the face of sorrow.  Find beauty in the midst of sorrow and disaster and know, beyond all else that hope is a good thing … and no good thing, as long as there are people who remember what was, never really dies.

Love is the most powerful of emotions

Love is the most powerful of emotions

soulful eyes

soulful eyes

fear and uncertainty …

filled his blue eyes, open wide and full of worry.  At first glance, from the hallway, the only visible things were a single foot protruding from beneath a blanket and a partially filled urinal on the tray table.

I wondered, before walking into the room to speak with him, what I would find.  I was already feeling badly for him simply knowing that a container holding his urine sat on a table where soon, his lunch would be placed.

I felt that surely, had there been family present, that would not have been the case and, not to my surprise, I found him alone.

He was worried.  It was evident in his sad, sad eyes.  They were wide open, showing the incredible blueness, wrinkled at the edges from a lifetime of emotion; laughter, tears, anger.

He was a widower.  He had children, but his voice betrayed his attempt at courage as he spoke of wishing to go home.  His blue eyes became even more sad as he spoke of a home that he knew, in his heart, he would not return to.

I felt a wave of righteous fury toward his children, none of whom had been to visit him during his week-long stay in the hospital, as he spoke of having nobody to care for him.

I thought of my own father.  Thought of his sadness were he to lose my mother and be left to live out his days without the woman that he loved more than life.

Many times, and to my mother I have said such, I have prayed that if my parents cannot die at the same time, I hope my dad goes first.  I cannot bear to even entertain the thought of him trying to cope without my mother.  He is strong in body and spirit, but would be lost without her.

She, on the other hand, is tough as nails.  A survivor full of beauty and strength and would, though with sadness and tears, move on and make the best of a seriously bad situation.

While her tears would cut me deeply, tears shed by my dad shatter me.  I would be of little use to him, not that he would last for long without her as he would soon die of sadness.  I know this as surely as I know the sun rises in the East.

But I digress.  I wasn’t speaking of my parents, but of poor, sad-eyed mister who lay in the hospital bed, dwarfed by the room, confused by the lingo, hurt by the antipathy of his children.

He wanted to go home and held, other than that wish, no other ambition or hope.

It would not come to pass.  He would not go home.  Not to the home where he lived for over fifty years with his wife before she died.  Not to the home where his children, who had now abandoned him, had been raised.

He would not go back to where the garden once thrived with vegetables and a myriad of flowers in the summertime, the trees bursting full and golden in Autumn.

He would not walk the familiar halls that had brought him comfort in his time of need.

He would not sleep in the bed that conformed to his body due to years of use.

He would be a stranger among strangers.

It took all of my strength and everything I could dig from the depths of myself to not burst into tears while speaking to him; seeing him old and broken and alone.

His wide eyes, full of worry, filled me with compassion and empathy.  I, in my mind and heart, brought him home with me.  Though there is an unwritten rule among nurses to not become too attached, he has been here, dancing on the edges of my thoughts, since the day I met him.

I have cried for him, prayed for him and inwardly cursed his children for their inattentiveness.   I want, in these last years of his life, happiness for him.

I try no to get too attached, but I am human and I fall in love with those the world has so blithely displaced.  He will remain in my prayers and though I will likely never see him again, his eyes will haunt me.

They haunt me now as do so many others; young, old, suffering, addicted, betrayed, sickened, world-weary souls who need, more than anything else, to be loved.

I have said it before and I reiterate it now … I am too softhearted to be a  nurse.  I always have been.

violinhands

Leviticus 19:32  ~ Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the Lord.

Coughing, sneezing and I’m going to be sick …

seem to be the catchwords these days.  There are, at any given time, several bugs going around that are contagious, HOWEVER, due to the unusually warm weather this winter season, the bugs (and not just the flu ones) are winning the war.  It’s funny how, when someone is sick, all the lessons they learned as a child (such as covering their mouth when they cough) just fly out the window.  I have been coughed on, spit on, puked on and, as of today, hit on (though that is, unfortunately, not contagious hahaha). 

I never really intended on being a nurse, but for some odd reason, I seem to have a knack for it.  I am not a people person.   Might as well admit it.  Through the harsh experiences in my life that God had decided I needed to face, however, I have been given an arsenal of ways to relate to people facing crisis.

I still wake up every morning wishing I could spend the day looking for photographs to take, but that is not the turn my life took.  I went to school and studied things that grossed me out on many, many levels and, got kicked out of the OR by a very irritated surgeon; at some point, though, was able to actually practice (mostly without gagging) what I had learned.  I hate germs, hair and skin cells.  They make me want to run for cover, so I ask myself over and over why I became a nurse.  The answer is one that doesn’t please me, but the truth is often a bitter pill to swallow; I became a nurse because I didn’t have the nerve or courage to be what, in the depths of my soul, I wanted to be.

Ironically,  there is a survey that everyone in the place I work has to fill out.  Thankfully, we don’t have to put our names on it because one of the questions is “do I get to do what I do best every day”.  The answer is no.  I don’t get to photograph nature and life and I do not, on any level, consider making a note in a patient’s chart using medical jargon and words that I am pleased to not only know the meaning to, but know how to spell (such as costochondritis, hyperemisis and macrocytosis), writing.  But even so, I don’t discount the sheer magnitude of the moment when someone who is in need says to me “you have put my mind at ease” or “I am thankful for you”.  Those times almost (not completely, but almost) make me feel guilty for not wanting to be a nurse for the rest of my life.

I have, more than once, as any of my friends can tell you, been in a position where I needed to have my own mind put at ease.  As recently as the last two days, if I am to be honest.  I find that I treat patients the way I want my parents to be treated and often spend more time than I should trying to fix an unfixable problem.  Doing so is like hitting my head against a wall again and again, but I simply don’t have the mindset to do something halfway.  All or nothing, whether I love it or not, is just the way I roll.  It is a blessing to know that, along the way, I can give back what has  been given to me; that I can relate, even in the really bad stuff, and give someone a bit of peace by letting them know that I understand.  And, too often for my own comfort, I do understand.  It is both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because I can bring some peace to a single, solitary soul, and a curse because I often wish, without guile, that I were anywhere but where I am at the moment.

Knowing that I am relevant in peoples’ lives  doesn’t cure the wanderlust or the need to write or the need to see or the need to photograph.  Those things make me who I am and whether I am face to face with the flu bug or dodging vomit, or squinting my eyes shut as someone coughs directly in my face, it doesn’t change what I want to be.  Just because I am good at what I do to earn a paycheck doesn’t mean that I want to keep doing it.  I’ve been saying that for over twenty-five years and my reality, though sometimes skewed by moments of insanity, hasn’t changed.  In my heart, I am a photographer and writer and that will not, even if those particular desires are never fulfilled, change.  I still have my trail shoots.  I still have my blog.  I still have my dreams.  I still have my faith.  While I will continue to do what I do as long as I must do it, there is so much more I want to experience.  Being an optimist, I have no doubt that the chance will come.  Being a Sagittarius, I am just stubborn enough to wait for it.  Being a follower of Jesus, I have the faith and patience to wait.  Being a nurse, I at least know that, while I am waiting, I am accomplishing something that matters to someone.

So all of that being said, I remind everyone to wash your hands several times a day, change your clothes the minute you get home and for Heaven’s sake, don’t eat or drink after people;  that is nasty even when you are well, even when it is people you love dearly.  Remember, germs don’t care who you are, they are just glad when you are gullible enough to bring them into yourself, so protect yourself and run when necessary. Be well, be safe and follow your dreams, no matter where they may lead.  I certainly intend to.

flolicking

Hebrews 11:1 ~ Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.