The Life in Dying

I have seen all kinds of dying.  I see it as a part of life most people overlook––in a sense. Maybe that will not make any sense to the average person. Maybe that is a good thing?  I don’t know.  I know people who have worked with dying patients may relate and I know people who have faced illness may relate. Really, why else would you think of death as such?

I remember my first death as a nurse. It was a peaceful death. It was expected. It was awkward being the one responsible for checking for the lack of vital signs. I remembered the rule of listening for a heartbeat for a full minute, the longest minute of my life, as all eyes of the family members were on me.  I felt their tears on hold…justing waiting for the words before they burst out. The hardest part was getting the words out of my mouth. I couldn’t wait to get of the room so I could breathe.

I cannot recall how many deaths I have seen since. I’ve grown accustomed to every part of it.  I know how to talk to a family and the patient of the impending outcome.  I know how to explain (gently) why the body does not need the food the family insists on giving. I know when to stay in the room and I know when to give the family space. I am so good at death that I sometimes can see it coming just by a smell, by a subtle change in the skin, and by a look of the eyes.

Although I may have grown accustomed to the process, it is never easy to say goodbye to a patient and it is even harder to watch a family have to say goodbye to their loved one.  I have shed many tears with family members––something I could not do at first.  I had a very wise nurse tell me one time that it was okay to cry with the families from time to time.  I took that advice because sometimes patients and their family become like family.  I have gathered most of my wisdom of life from being a part of the last days of people’s life.  I have learned what truly matters in life because of them.

I wish I could give some specific examples of what I have seen; I have seen some crazy things.  There is something of a personal level that I do not feel comfortable sharing.  It is not my story to blurt out on a blog.  I am just a bystander in their last moments of life. What I do want to share is what I have learned. Most of it sounds too simple to be profound.  But profound is usually found in the most simple things, isn’t it?  Here’s what I got:

There is life in dying. There is a reason they are still living, even if for just another breath.

Family matters.  People want their family there with them.  They need to feel their hand being held. They need to hear it is okay to die.  They need to hear, “I love you.”

Laughter.  It is okay to laugh when someone is dying.  Sit in the room and tell the funny stories.

Tears. Tears are okay too.

Money.  It doesn’t matter.  Not once have I heard a dying patient talk about the amount of money they made in a lifetime.

Attention.  People want attention.  Brush their hair.  Straighten their sheets.  Sometimes it is the little things that matter the most.

Forgiveness.  Give it.  Receive it.  I have seen patients holding out to die because they are waiting for it. Don’t be stubborn.

Love.  I told you simple, didn’t I?

Faith.  I saved the best for last.  Faith most definitely makes all the difference in death.  I have seen the difference of someone with and someone without faith die.  There is a difference. There really is.

 

 

Me, Myself, and I.

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I spent many years, my late teens through my early twenties, trying to find myself.  I guess I always had (even before that) been looking and trying to find and be me.  It is a part of who I am, my core, always trying to peel away the layers to expose what is inside…to expose who I am meant to be. I am most content when I am unapologetically me. I think many creative types can totally relate to this.  I don’t like when people try to be like me, sometimes I get a bit territorial with myself.  I think I am like this because I like others to be themselves, as well.  We all have a unique beauty that lies within, just waiting to shine.  When I see and feel others basking in their own beauty I am inspired to bask in my own.  I feel a deep sadness when I see people struggling to accept themselves.

I reached a point in my life where I realized I wasn’t the most socially adept person.  In fact, I could spend hours in my room by myself and be completely content.  I would think.  I still can do this.  I love to think and relax inside my own head.  That is the why I am so drawn to writing.  Although I loved being around people, I was never good at the skimming the surface conversations that people start to blossom in once they hit middle school.  I like depth.  Not everyone does, so I found myself drawn to having a few close friends, rather than trying to be friends with everyone.

Now that I am older I have adapted and accepted the surface with most people.  I actually have become more socially adept, as well.  It has been a process and one I wished I could have seen the simplicity in sooner…but then there is always a reason for the journey.

I once took the path of the world.  I think the world seems far too attractive for us thinking/philosophical types.  When I tell this part of my story, I always feel the need to defend myself a bit.  Like, I wasn’t a horrible person…I never did drugs and blahsy blah blah. I think it stems from guilt of walking away from the path God was trying to lead me. I guess, also, it proves my point even more. You can live with morals and be a good person and still not be living the life you are intended to. Anyhow, I always felt His pull every single day. The strength it took to fight it almost led me into complete darkness.  But it was as though He kept relighting my candle just enough for me to see Him still.

Once I realized that He would not give up on me––I gave in.  Because feeling His light…even if just a shimmer…was the only thing that gave me hope…it was the only thing that helped me see my true reflection.  Nothing this world offered helped me to find myself.  No, it was through Him.  It was through trust and digging into the Word.  The more rooted I became in Him, the more I saw myself and the person I was meant to be.  I found my joy and I will never let it go again.

 

 

The Stance

Someone once told me…or maybe I read it somewhere…if you are feeling nervous or are in need of a confidence boost all you need to do is the ‘superhero’ stance.  Simply stand up straight, place your hands on your hips, and look up.  Now you can face anything.

I’ve never tried it, but the idea is intriguing.  I can think of one situation I have been placed in recently where I could have used a little boost of confidence.  Maybe I should have stood up from my chair and tried it.

This is something I have been praying about. Sometimes, in certain situations, I struggle with knowing what to say or do and it leads me to do nothing…that isn’t always good.  Maybe I need to do the ‘superhero’ stance.  As I look up I will be looking to the Lord for strength.  It will be my ‘Lord give me strength’ stance.

All in a Facebook Post

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I allow most things to roll off my shoulders…I can turn the other cheek and go on in with my life.  But this time I cannot.  I want to voice how I feel.

The nativity scene is sacred to me.  It is a reminder of the hope I have in this sometimes ugly world. I have never felt anything but peace when I look at it, until last night.

Picture this: the nativity scene with these words printed on it, “Don’t forget to hate refugees as you set up your nativity scene.  Celebrating a middle eastern couple desperately looking for shelter.”  Oh people thought this Facebook post was hilarious.  Me, not so much.

Hate.  Christians hate the refugees?  I do not know one single person (christian or non christian) who hates the refugees.  The ones who do not want them in our country are feeling fear.  Fear and hate are two very different things.  The fear and wanting to protect their loved ones is not a product of their religion…but of all the scary things happening in this world.  Sometimes fear clouds the larger picture.

When I first heard about the refugees coming here I felt immense fear. I didn’t want them here. It wasn’t until someone posted something on Facebook, something honest and tactful, that I saw the larger picture.  I am a very sympathetic and sensitive person, but I too had a hard time seeing we should open our country to the them.  It had nothing to do with hate.

I love my family and the thought of a terrorist sneaking into our country scared the you know what out of me.  That was all I could see at first.  I wanted to protect my home above all else.  I now see we need to help others regardless of the fear we feel.  It is all because someone pointed it out in a kind way. I am not Jesus and sometimes need to be reminded of what Jesus would do in a particular situation.  I will always strive to be more like Him…and yet I will never fully get there.  None of us will.

With all that is happening in the world, can’t people take the high road and show some respect for sacred things?  Why is it okay to try to further separate people?  That is all that post accomplishes.  If you feel people are misinformed than there is a better way.  We can voice our opinions, our hopes, our fears, and our beliefs respectfully.  I would never ‘spit’ on something someone holds sacred.  No one should.

It just makes me sad.

Peace only He can give…

I was supposed to draw or paint a picture embodying the peace of Christ as a bonus activity for a bible study.  I am a very creative person…but drawing and painting are not my thing.  So I am going to write about it instead.

May 1989, I was ten years old.  In my room I knelt down, bowed my head, and I prayed. I will never forget this moment…as it was the first time I truly understood what it was to yearn for Jesus and to truly repent for my sins.  I felt His love.  His dying on the cross for me became real.  The cross became alive for me in a sense.  I felt peace, peace only He can give.  At the young age of ten, peace was what I wanted and knew I never wanted to lose it.  For a while, I did search for the same sort of peace in earthly things and you know I never did find it.

I know it doesn’t have to be a ‘moment’ to arrive to that point or understanding. I have heard it being described as a sprinkling or like a seed that slowly grows as well.  For me it felt like all the dots connected instantly.  Of course my faith has matured over the years and my understanding has deepened…but I believe it happens differently for different people. The Lord knows us best and He knows I am the type of person that needed a moment I could always look back on.  I gather a lot of strength from ‘moments’.

After I prayed, I went for a walk.  We lived in Florida at the time and so the warm Florida sun was shining and I felt like I was walking on water. My heart was light as a feather and so was the rest of me. When I feel His peace, I feel that lightness in my heart and body, my mind is quiet and the world becomes quiet.  I see beauty in the simplest of things.  I am present in the moment and have no worries.  When I am given His peace I try to hold on to it for as long as possible…but it always eventually escapes my grip.

His peace is not easily described because it is not from earthly things.  I love the sunshine, I love trees, I love sunsets, and I love being by water.  Many times, I say these things bring me peace.  My husband leaning over to gently kiss my forehead, our moments alone without the kids, our eyes meeting in the midst of an inside joke.  The first time I saw my babies faces, the first time I held and nursed them, my early morning cuddling with my boys, or my nightly bedtime stories.  I have used the word peace to describe these moments as well.  God gave us these moments to show us a glimpse of the peace only He can give.  I do feel His peace in these moments, but not always…sometimes I just feel earthly peace. I have felt His peace on ordinary days and extraordinary days––and I have felt earthly peace on ordinary days and extraordinary days too. The difference is my knowing the difference of His peace vs earthly peace.

I know I have said this before but I will say it again. We are not meant to feel His peace every second of our lives.  We will only have glimpses of it.  I like to think of it as something to always strive for but also something I will not fully have in this life.  I guess it is what gives me hope in the struggles.  It helps me to redirect my focus when I get lost.

Think of heaven when His peace will be ours forever and ever and ever…aaahhhh.