Posted in Moving forward, Randomness

Unretired.

Kindred Hospice Staff

When I tell people I retired from hospice, the atmosphere changes around us. Things get quiet, more somber, and they invariably say thank you. But it’s not like that. Hospice is the best place I’ve ever worked. You hear, ‘You have to be a special kind of person to work in hospice.’ And when it comes to those doing patient care, I would have to agree. It’s definitely not for everyone. I’ve seen quality staff members come and go in a matter of months, some of them walking off the job leaving us and their patients high and dry saying, ‘I can’t do this.’ I’ve seen tears of sorrow and frustration as well as the ‘aha’ moments that make it all worthwhile. The ups and downs of this job in this hurricane-prone area are abundant. I will be the first to admit that not all hospices are created equal, but mine set the bar quite high.

The hospice care team consists of a Medical Director, a registered nurse, a social worker, a spiritual advisor, and a CNA. It is an interdisciplinary team, and they are remarkable. These special people go into patients’ homes, with all the dynamics you can imagine, and they go above and beyond. It’s not easy. Sometimes a patient’s family members are in denial. “Don’t tell my husband you’re with hospice.” Sometimes they are demanding and high maintenance. “I need at least six more packs of wipes!” But sometimes the patient is alone.

I worked in the office coordinating care alongside my Manager of Patient Care, a veritable dynamo in her own right. I learned about a level of compassion and empathy I’d not seen before. I was amazed at the number of staff who had lost a child of their own now working in hospice. I became accustomed to the quirky humor that comes out of nowhere adding a macabre levity to the scene. These people are different, but in a way that slowly and permanently endears you to them in a most profound way, and they would do everything in their power to fulfill a patient’s end-of-life dream.

This job can burn anyone out even if you are that special kind of person. And that’s not taking away from anyone who tried it and chose to work elsewhere. I’ve worked with people who have been with hospice 25, 30 years. To me they’re angels on this earth doing God’s work in an atmosphere where sadness and grief can be the tenor of the day. At any time of day or night, any one of the care team will stand a bedside vigil while someone takes their last breath. There may be family members present with questions to be answered. Or there may be no one, with only our hospice team member there with them so they’re not alone at the end. These people will attend funerals, send cards, and check up on the family in the ensuing days.

So many don’t understand the hospice philosophy: “At the center of hospice is the belief that each of us has the right to die pain free, with dignity, and that our families will receive the necessary support to allow us to do so.

Having hospice doesn’t mean you’re going to die in a week or a month. There are certain criteria to be met before one can even be admitted to hospice care. And you don’t have to be in a hospital or facility. You can be home where you’re most comfortable and the care comes to you. It can go on for many, many months or even years, depending on the case.

If you have a problem, you’re covered. Any issues are covered, and it’s such a relief. It has taken a lot of grief out of our life…Don’t look at hospice as a last-ditch effort; they are there and can help well before the end. ~Larry, Kindred Hospice patient

My manager asked if I would be interested in coming back part-time to help her. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.

Posted in Randomness

High Flight

I miss it

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor ever eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God
.

By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Posted in Childhood

Cats, cars, and hope.

I love cats. I’ve always loved them, from newborn kittens with their eyes closed to the goofy teen-cat to the disdainful adult. I think cats are probably the least understood domestic animal there is. But if you’ve ever had a cat, you understand what I’m saying.

We grew up in the country with dogs and horses, but I always wished for a cat. My parents knew I loved them, and even though my dad hated them, they actually got me one for Christmas one year. I can still see it in my mind’s eye. All of the many presents had been opened when my dad came in from the kitchen announcing, “Maureen!” He had a darling brown tabby kitten hanging from his hand, and I received what was probably the best Christmas present of my young life. I named her Daisy.

She lived both inside and out. I loved her to death and worried when she wasn’t with me. She was goofy, like all young cats are, and everyone seemed to enjoy her. By the time she was maybe 10 months old, she was a part of my family even if she wasn’t a part of theirs. And then one day she disappeared. I was distraught, and I cried and searched for days, calling her name inside the house and out. My mom finally said that cats are wild animals, and perhaps she simply ran away to be with other wild cats. And so I went back to yearning for another cat of my own.

Enter Pansy, my new outdoor cat. I remember finding a litter of brand new kittens huddled together in the hay in the barn, eyes still tightly shut. My mom was worried they would be too cold, so she let Pansy bring her babies inside, up the stairs and into the linen closet to keep them safe from kids and dogs. I was ecstatic! Eventually, after the kittens got older, we had to box them up and stand in front of the Kresge store with them. I was able to keep one, Buttercup, and I felt the luckiest girl alive. Oddly enough, weeks later, Pansy left us to find the other wild cats, and then it was just me and Buttercup.

We all know of some of the issues with indoor/outdoor cats. They will proudly bring you their kill. They will experiment with their claws on your curtains to see how high they can climb. They will slowly and surely shred the legs of your upholstery with complete disregard. But they will also calm you as they slowly press their soft paws into your chest purring loudly, eyes half closed, content. They will rub up against you, claiming you as their own. They will lie on your puzzle to be where you are or, if you’re reading a book, their paw will rest on your arm as it sleeps in your lap.

The last experience of my childhood cats ended with the following story:

As my dad tells it, he’d had it with Buttercup. So with the planned cover story of yet another cat running away to the wild, he put Buttercup in his car to take to the pound 30 minutes away. He lowered the top on his convertible and drove off. When he arrived at the pound, he discovered there was no cat to be found. Thinking, I’m sure, that she must have jumped out, he was no doubt relieved that he didn’t have to enter that complex with yet another unwanted feline. He went about his work day and arrived home that night only to put the top up on the convertible and discover that Buttercup had hidden herself in the well. She jumped out and made a beeline for the house. Within a month she had run away to the wild.

I was never the wiser until much later when, as an adult, I heard him recount this story, laughing hysterically at the outcome of the day. To say I was shocked and appalled would understate the realization of what I’d learned. As an adult, I suppose deep down I understood that they hadn’t meant to hurt me. I had accepted what they’d said and, as a little girl, it probably did make the loss a little easier thinking perhaps those cats had found their place in the wild. But I can’t dwell on it too much. I now understand why it took me so long to bond with another animal. I was in my mid 30’s when my own kids found a kitten and I was finally able to connect with an animal. We had Cali for over 15 wonderful years.

I’d love another cat. David, well, not so much. But maybe . . . someday. I won’t abandon that hope just yet.

Posted in Childhood, Family

Close to heaven.

When my sister and I were in our early teens, we were lucky enough to have horses. Well, a horse. We boarded several, but we owned Clancy, a sable-brown thoroughbred with the temperament of a big lab. He was tall and gentle and surprisingly patient with a couple young girls learning to ride bareback through the fields around our home. Our neighbor friends boarded a couple of their horses, as well, and one of them was really smart. Clipper could open the door to his stall at will. Thankfully there was a paddock around the small barn that housed him and the others. But every once in awhile, it didn’t matter.

More than once the phone would ring in the middle of the night, and the convent nuns would be calling to tell us our horses were in their field again. Mom would come wake Kathleen and me and tell us to go get them. We lived in a very small town at that time, quiet and rural. This particular summer night, Kathy threw on some shorts under her PJ top, and she and I, in my kelly-green baby doll pajamas and tennis shoes, walked the half mile, bridles in hand, to the church yard where we found our two errant horses nibbling away on the green grass.

I have the sweetest most vivid memory of she and I atop those two horses climbing the hill towards home, hooves slowly sounding their ‘clip-clop’ down the dirt road. It had to be near midnight, but we didn’t need flashlights. Back then, with few lights for distraction, the dark sky had set off the brilliant stars and the Milky Way, creating an atmosphere so peaceful, I never wanted it to end. Letting the horses find their way, our heads tilted back looking at the deep, vast, star-filled sky, it was probably as close to heaven as I’ve ever been.

Posted in Thoughts

The unexpected gift of 9/11.

Ground Zero

September 11, 2001. We all remember where we were and what we were doing when the towers came down. I personally remember being at work prepping for a day of hearings when someone came in and said a plane had hit one of the World Trade Centers. We all jumped up, went to another room, and then watched in horrified silence as the morning unfolded, barely wanting to believe what our own eyes and ears were telling us.

Know what else I remember? I remember the days, weeks, and months post 9/11 and the feeling in the air in the communities around us, in the media. We suddenly seemed kinder, not so quick to cut that car off in traffic or perhaps allowing someone to get in front of us in the checkout. Whatever else our enemies were hoping for when they planned this attack, what they least expected was what actually happened. Instead of an America divided, we were an America united regardless of race, religion, or gender. We weren’t left or right. We were united Americans, and we were proud of it.

They say never forget. But I think outside of the anniversary of that day, most of us do forget. We forget the visual, we forget the fear, and we forget the enemy. Now the enemy is us. Less than 20 years later, what we are now is unrecognizable to just a generation ago. And I miss it. I feel almost guilty because of the horrific catalyst that led to that feeling, but I do. It surprises me to say it, but eventually, we felt good. Perhaps ‘good’ is the wrong word. But we felt changed. We all had each others’ backs. We talked to each other, seemed to trust each other. We were all going through the same thing.

So here we are, 19 years later, unrecognizable as the same country. Regardless of where you think the blame lies, ask yourself, in the end – and I have to say, this may well be the beginning of the end – are any of the reasons for this division so important? What should and will matter is love given and received. That is the measure of a life. How did we treat each other, our families, siblings, friends? Right, left, or middle, in the end, is it really going to matter which side we were on politically?

Stop for a moment and think. What if another 9/11 happened today? What if one of your family or close friends were caught in the tragedy? What if your neighbor or co-worker or even the homeless guy on the corner – what if they simply and suddenly didn’t exist? Would you have regrets?

I think that was the unexpected gift of 9/11. We didn’t want any regrets. We didn’t want any what-ifs. We checked in with our loved ones, expressed concern to strangers, and offered our help. We were united, all of us. My hope and prayer for today is that we can look past the outside cacophony of noise that is being shoved down our throats and remember. Remember the ultimate sacrifice of so many who lost their lives that day. Those heroes didn’t ask the victims where they stood politically. They didn’t discriminate against race or religion or gender choice when they risked their own lives to save theirs. The worst possible disgrace would be if that tragedy was for naught.

Remember that day, and then remember the gift of that day. And be kind.

Divide and conquer: to make a group of people disagree and fight with one another so that they will not join together against one. ~Miriam Webster

Posted in Florida Fun

Labor Day 2020

It’s a lot different celebrating Labor Day when you’re retired. When you’re working, Labor Day means NOT doing the normal labor of your work week. But when you’re retired, it’s more about doing sort of the same things, but with more people and with a ‘reason.’ This is my second non-labor Labor Day celebration. Meg flew in from Richmond, we met up with friends Donna and Mark and Kevanna and family, but we missed our friend Q since she decided to labor instead and make lots of extra money.

We went to what David likes to call ‘Wedding Beach,’ since that’s where we were married. But it’s actually called Bay Drive Park, and it’s really lovely with a pavilion, bathrooms, and lots of less-crowded beach than at Flagler Beach. With canopies up, chairs perched, warm temps and a slight breeze, the ocean beckoned with her 80-degree temps, and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. A cookout later at our place with burgers and dogs then cards and a movie completed our celebration, and we all went to bed too tired and a just little sunkissed.

Posted in Florida Fun

This was a BLAST!

I love Florida. There are just so many opportunities to do things that you can’t do anywhere else. This time it involved the Kennedy Space Center and an event they called, “Launch and a Movie.” Like the name implies, for 50 bucks a car, you can attend a rocket launch at pretty close proximity compared to most other ways to see one, then they will show a movie about the Hubble telescope. As soon as it came into my email I jumped at it. Our friends Donna and Mark were also interested, so after the first attempt was scrubbed, we made our way down there on Sunday afternoon, had a nice dinner, and found ourselves in a great spot for viewing. With chairs set up, we waited for the countdown, not exactly sure where to look but with a pretty good idea.

I’ve seen the rockets go up from our home. The contrail is visible and exciting to recognize. But this was a whole different experience. I wasn’t really prepared for the sound. We were told that if you could somehow withstand the heat of liftoff, if close enough, the sound waves would actually kill you. As that behemoth lifted off, there came a low rumble, then a louder one, and finally, when it was at neck-craning height, the noise resounded through my body. I could actually feel it! Such a THRILL!

Eight minutes later, we witnessed the first stage booster come screaming towards earth. These brilliant astro scientists actually programmed this thing to return to earth and land on an X!

What??

Shortly after it disappeared behind the trees, we heard two sonic booms. Wow.

I wish the videos could give you the sounds we heard. If you have earbuds or headphones on, you can hear it. I can’t wait to do it again. You do have to do some waiting around, but the 15-minutes of sheer awe are absolutely worth it. It was a total BLAST.

The fourth picture below shows a satellite view of our location at the Space Center. We’re the blue dot. The top red circle is where liftoff was. The bottom red circle is the ‘X’ where the first stage booster landed.