Saturday, January 1, 2011

What the New Year brings.

Last night was New Year's Eve and I worked a 12 hour shift. I admitted a woman to our hospice house whose daughter had to make the grueling decision to stop her mom's dialysis treatments and let her die. The mom has advanced cancer, cannot eat or drink and is in pain. She is 79 years old. The dialysis kept her alive. Now she will surely die and the daughter was in despair.

"This is the worst New Year's Eve of my life," she said to me as she sat in the green recliner chair next to her mom's bed and cried.

I look at her and nodded. No words were really needed. I understood. It was only a few short years ago that my brother and I made the same decision to stop life support for our dad.

"You made the right decision," I told her. And I told her I knew how hard it would be, how she will continue to second guess herself, how she will be sad.

Then she looked at me and said, "So, what will the New Year bring? Where will it take me. I always lived with my mom. What will I do now? Do I start over?"

Good question.

Good question indeed.

We all feel a desire for a new start every once in a while. The New Year promises a fresh start, but it is usually more of the same, even though we make a lot of resolutions. And we trudge on hoping for a change perhaps, hoping there is some magic in the turn of a new year.

But we seldom find it.

So, what does the New Year bring?

I am not sure. I guess it brings new expectations. And that can feel like a burden at times.

So I told her that the New Year has a lot of false promises. We want to have a fresh, new, happy start, but that is not always possible. Actually it is seldom possible. Even in the best of times.

But it does not have to be all doom and gloom. We can just accept ourselves and our lives and and try to love ourselves despite all the bad and despite the unknown. If we want change, it is not going to come more easily if we beat ourselves up over it. Maybe instead of having a bunch of resolutions we will most likely break, we should just resolve to do things we enjoy and that bring us joy, even if fleeting.

I asked the patient's daughter what they normally did on New Year's Eve. She told me her mom always made soda bread and they sat down to tea.

So, we made tea in the hospice house kitchen and toasted her mom for a glorious life well lived. And we toasted the daughter and made a toast to a life that will be sad for a while, but that will have wonderful memories to take along that will comfort her along the way.

She smiled. We laughed at some funny stories.

And the New Year brought joy, however briefly.

“When you wish someone joy, you wish them peace,
love, prosperity, happiness... all the good things.”
~~~ Maya Angelou

“Let a joy keep you. Reach out your hands and take it when it runs by.”
~~~Carl Sandburg

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
~~~Thich Nhat Hanh


  1. Thank you for your posts. I've shared them with friends.