Monday, February 27, 2012

The memory of you.

Now, when I remember spring,
And all the joy that love can bring.
I will be remembering
The shadow of your smile......

Memories. Some say that it is the glue that makes up our whole entire lives. I know that we all have good ones and bad ones, happy and sad ones.  Memories that make us blush, make us smile and laugh out loud, make us fearful and some that even make us weep at night.  And we cannot avoid them or always keep them at bay.  They seem to have a life of their own.

I was caught up in my own memories recently.  We are moving. A big move; all the way across the country. And one would seem to think that my memories are fond ones that I have had of my life here in New England and the heartbreak of leaving it all behind.

But the move isn't inspiring those types of memories.  Those will come later, long after the ties have been severed.  The memories that my move are evoking live much, much closer to my heart.

Sorting through the stuff that makes up your life can really stop you cold in your tracks. Many do not want to move for that very reason.  Dredging up the past like that is daunting. I understand all of that now.

Going through all those memories reminded me of how much I miss so many people. I do. I just wish I could  have coffee with my mom again. To sit in that comfortable spot right next to the window and chat just like we used to. I miss her so much. There is so much to tell her. And my dad, too. We used to have lunch every week. I miss that. Time does not heal that or make me want it less. It just doesn't.

Funny, too, how we try to hold onto certain memories in odd ways without really knowing that we do it. For example, I had a lovely uncle named Joe.  He was my mother's youngest brother. He was always in our lives growing up.  A second father. A great man. He died way too young from a horrible cancer at age 62. He left us all bereft.

In his living room, he always had this big exercise bike. I would go to his house and sit on it and pedal it slowly all the while telling him about my latest youthful misadventure.  And he always sat there listening gently and offering his support.  God, how I loved him. 

So, after he died, I took the bike. I never really used it.  It mostly sat in the basement. I never used it as any type of shrine and quite honesty, I never paid much attention to it at all. Until now. Now, I had to decide what to purge for the move. And this was hard for me. To get rid of that bike. Somehow, it connected me to a past that I never wanted to see end. I struggled.  But I knew it had to go.

I finally put an ad on Craigslist and said it would be free to a good home. Instantly, my email filled up with dozens of messages. I was stunned. I finally gave it to a nice man in another town who came to pick it up the other day. He just walked in and took my memory. I even called out, "Goodbye bike." It was rather pitiful, if I do say so myself. Then I went to bed and cried.

I didn't cry for the bike. Good grief, my uncle would be laughing at me for even keeping it this long.  I cried because I miss him.  I really just miss him. His death left a hole in my heart that no one can ever fill.  And sometimes having things that we can touch, no matter how silly it may seem, allows us to still be with someone long gone. Foolish I know. But real none the less.

I think that is what is wrong with many of us, especially as we start to lose people to death or to moves or to changes in schools or workplaces. A piece of us stays back there. We miss who we were back then. But we don't grieve. We just merely soldier on and pretend it all doesn't matter.

And then one day we let go of something small, or hear a song or see a face that reminds us.  And we are filled with a melancholy, a feeling of sorrow, a sadness that envelopes us that we may not be able to understand. And we don't know what to do. So we fill up the hole with distractions, or medications or exercise or even prayer.  And we get through it somehow. We have no other choice.

So, the memories stay with me.  Many I have packed up for the long journey to our new home.  They are part of who I am and without them I would certainly be a different me, I know that. 

Some say that memories of those no longer here comfort you.  That you can "let go" and have closure and feel better just for having known them and blah, blah, blah.  I don't know.  I think that is just crap. I think that it is okay to miss people we love.  I think you never, ever really get over losing a piece of your life. And I think that it is okay to visit it once in awhile and allow yourself to grieve for the loss. And I further believe if we did more of that then anti-depressants wouldn't be the most prescribed drug in the market today. But, I digress.

So, let yourself grieve. Even over something as stupid as an exercise bike.

That bike. That damn, stupid wonderful old bike. Gone now. Off to a new life.

Just like me.

And just like you, Uncle Joe. And mom and dad and all the others.

God, I miss you.

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night.  I miss you like hell. 
~Edna St Vincent Millay

Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us.
~Oscar Wilde, "The Importance of Being Earnest"

When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
~Khalil Gibran

Monday, February 20, 2012

Wise words from Maya Angelou....

Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.

Never whine. Whining lets a brute know that a victim is in the neighborhood.

Be certain that you do not die without having done something wonderful for humanity.

From her book, Letter to My Daughter.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The quick, the dead and the judged.

I don't know about you, but I have Whitney fatigue.  Not her music, I will always love that.  Just the fact that she was not even cold yet and they, the self appointed judge and jury, started with the speculations on what killed her. Of course, it was all her fault.  She was to blame. Fingers were firmly pointed.  After all, she was an admitted drug user. Let the slaughter of her character begin.

The same has held true for many young celebrities that have died.  Heath Ledger, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith, Amy Winehouse.  All killed by their own stupidity, or so it would seem.  Good gossip fodder.  Quite entertaining.

And some would say that they deserve to be talked about. After all, they lived in the public eye, so we have every right to talk. And I guess that is true,

But how about the folks we judge that are not in the public eye. Our neighbors, friends and family members. How quick are we to judge them when they die?

Here is the answer.  Very.

I have been around a lot of deaths. And I have heard so many conversations surrounding those deaths.  From family members, to friends and even medical professionals that tried their hardest to save the person's life. And they all are quick to do the same thing, judge.  And blame. 

"I told her to have that lump checked out sooner. If only she would have listened to me,"
"She never followed the treatment protocol. She was non-compliant."
"Did you see how much junk food he would eat?  I told him he would kill himself eating all that junk.  And he did."
"She didn't have a helmet on.  How stupid was that."
"She always drove way too fast."
"I told him to stop smoking years ago."

And on and on it goes. The dead person is always to blame. Except for young kids, the one exception.  Then the blame shifts to the parents. But I digress.

We always try to find some way that the dead person is to be blamed for, well, being dead. Come on, you know we all do it. Even when we read about total strangers who died in a car accident, we wonder if they were driving erratically, didn't have a seatbelt on, etc.  Then we say, 'tsk, tsk' it was their own damn fault.  

Why we do this is easy to understand.  We use blame like a talisman. If we can blame them for their own death, then we somehow protect ourselves from death because we would never be quite that stupid.

It is not that we are trying to be disrespectful to the dead. We are not. But everyone fears death and the more we can distance ourselves from it, the safer we feel.  And wouldn't that be nice if it were only true.

But we all do stupid things every single day. We do. We have just been lucky so far. Unfortunately, for folks like Whitney, their luck finally ran out. And they suffered the ultimate price.

So, next time you are quick to judge, stop yourself for a moment. And instead of casting blame, think about how lucky you are instead. And be sorry that they are gone and be happy that you are still here, for whatever reason, and let it go at that.

Most of us can read the writing on the wall; we just assume it's addressed to someone else.
~Ivern Ball

A man's dying is more the survivors' affair than his own.
~Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

The death of someone we know always reminds us that we are still alive - perhaps for some purpose which we ought to re-examine.
~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why we just don't like Mitt.

I know.  I am a hospice nurse.  I probably don't have the qualifications to be writing about politics on my blog.  But I am a 'people' observer.  And people vote. As do I.  So, in that regard, I am never-the-less going to tell you my spin on why we don't like Mitt Romney.

First off, how do we decide if we like people anyway. First impressions, right?  Sometimes we are wrong and judge people superficially, but many times our first gut reaction is accurate.  We can usually tell instantly whether or not we click with someone. Sometimes, further down the road, we realize our mistake; but many times we are 100% on.

So, what do people think when they see Mitt.  They see this well coiffed, expensively dressed, fit man with a beautiful wife by his side. They know he has been a Governor. They know he is really, really rich. They know he has a son named Tagg. (really, Tagg?)  There are 4  other sons with normal names, but Tagg is the one we know. And they know he put his dog on the roof of his car for a family vacation in Canada.

Okay, let's see. What do we know about his political policies. Well, there's a problem there. We don't.  When he was Governor, he was a moderate.  Now he is trying to be a conservative. So what will he be next?  Stay tuned.

And then there are the stupid gaffes. The one about a ten thousand dollar bet. The one where he says he doesn't care about the poor. The stupid pic of him putting Tide into a washer. Not good.

So, what is it we like about other guys who became president? Like George Bush for example.  Well, he was a C student, we knew his mom, he wasn't that great looking and he talked kind of dumb. And we bought it.  He was elected. He wasn't the best president, but hindsight is 20/20, plus people felt they could have a beer with him.

And therein lies the problem.

No one is going to have a beer with Mitt. No one would even want to.  What would you talk about?  Sports? Stanford? Prep schools? His six houses? Why, we don't even know if he plays a sport, an instrument or has a hobby. He just seems like a stiff guy who has no buddies to hang out with on a Saturday night.

Obama is cool. He sings. He is articulate. He is not perfect and perhaps many do not agree with his policies, but overall, he seems like a really nice guy.

And Mitt does not. So, what can Mitt do to turn the tide, to make us like him.  Hmmm, not sure. But I think it could start by him just being himself. Admitting that, yes, he is rich.  That he grew up rather privileged. That he did indeed put his beloved dog on the roof and that he is sorry for that.  Maybe he should create a special fund for homeless dogs dedicated to Seamus.  Maybe he should share some stories about when his life faltered. When he felt alone or sad or disappointed.

 He should put his wife out there more, she is much more likable.  Perhaps share stories about how Tagg was teased because of his peculiar name. You know he was. And perhaps Mitt should stay true to his beliefs and not let the polls determine how he feels and what he should say.

Then there is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. Mitt is a Mormon.  We don't like to talk about it, but we all know it. Now, I have met many Mormons and they are all really nice. But in America, we really are most comfortable with three religions; Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. Any other religion or belief just seems odd to us and makes us uncomfortable. And that is just the truth. I am not saying it is right. It just is.

So, perhaps Mitt should just rip the lid on that as well.  Talk about what it is like to belong to a minority religion, one that people seem to think is cult-like.  Maybe talk about what it was like as a missionary when he was young and idealistic.

 Perhaps he should also share the things that really make him happiest. People like to be around happy people. And Mitt just doesn't seem genuinely happy to me. Not at all.

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.

Man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it's dark.
~Zen Proverb

But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?
~Albert Camus

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Think Pink? The great Komen debate.

We see them all of the time, almost everywhere we go. They have become part of the normal landscape.  They are emblazoned on hats, tee shirts, mugs, water bottles, even my golf bag has one.  Every time we see one we are humbled; it reminds us of cancer and those fighting cancer.  We wear them with pride to show our support against breast cancer.  We walk.  And we donate money.  Lots of it.

But where is our money really going?  As this week has pointed out, none of us really know. The Komen Foundation, started in the early 80's by the sister of a young cancer patient, has grown into one huge corporation.  That sister that wanted to stop breast cancer now oversees a company that has made billions of dollars.  And she treats herself to an annual salary of 500K per year, plus perks.

I won't go into details nor get into a discussion of whether the Komen Foundation made a bad decision to stop funding for Planned Parenthood to conduct breast exams for low-income women or not.  The media has all that information and you can read the back and forth fighting about this on your own.

The good news about this is that it has people thinking.  It has them thinking about where the money goes when they make contributions to organizations that claim to be fighting for a cure of a horrible disease.

True, this organization funds breast cancer research. But you have to apply for these grants and not everyone gets one. It becomes political. And then the Komen Foundation decided that it would brand the word cure and no other organization that raised money to help cancer patients could use that in their name.  Small organizations that wanted to help people directly were sued by Komen. Power does that.  It makes you big enough to crush the little guy.  And they did.

I am not against pink ribbons. I think however that it has become a marketing brand instead of an altruistic nod to helping. And that is why so many of us in the medical field would never wear pink.

If you really want to help those women with breast cancer or help prevent it, make your donations to small organizations in your own community. The ones that offer support directly to the patient. Or help people in your own neighborhood by offering help directly.  Most patients feel isolated and alone and would never ask for help. You can find a list of people who need help from your local parishes, schools, senior centers.  But many know simply by word of mouth.

One of the best stories I heard was of a women diagnosed with late stage breast cancer who was an avid gardener. But she became quite ill during her treatment and was unable to maintain her garden. So word got out and one mom got a girl scout troop and a bunch of moms together and they went over and weeded her garden and planted annuals.  They just did it on Saturday morning.  The moms took turns watering the garden every week. Over time, people added even more plants. One donated a bench so that the patient could sit outside. This once isolated, lonely, sick patient now had a stream of people caring for the one thing she loved the most and that brought her joy. The garden bloomed and so did so many hearts.

It doesn't take billions of dollars to help cancer patients. It just takes a bit of time and effort. It is nice to write a check or walk for a cause, it does feel good to think you are helping. But doing is so much better.

I highly recommend it.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
~Anne Frank

Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
~William James

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.
~Dr. Seuss

If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
 ~Mother Teresa