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Posts Tagged ‘angel’

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Well, it’s been a long time.  Not sure why I’m not consistent with posting but I do know that ever since we were hit by the tornado in January 2013 my life has been reeling.  I learned the difference between replacement value insurance and depreciated value insurance that year.  Unfortunately we had depreciated value insurance and with a house that is 30 years old and 2 crushed vehicles over 10 years old, we ended up paying almost $40,000 out of pocket to get everything replaced and fixed.  And we still have huge tree pieces all over our land but we’ll at least have enough firewood to last for, I don’t know, forever

Last May I had several vivid, weird dreams and then one of those unexplainable events happened that I’ve learned to not try to figure out but instead be extra observant and ride through.  On this particular day I was leaving after getting home from work to go play tennis.  I had been playing tennis a lot for months, almost always with men who hit the ball hard and who wanted to play for hours, which I loved.  I’m very competitive and hitting the ball hard and pushing myself physically was a great stress reliever.  Our family had even planned our previous winter’s Christmas trip around me getting to go to a world-class tennis center at Hilton Head.

As I turned out of my driveway that day, I noticed a bright red car that was unusually small and unidentifiable, almost the size of a smart car but wasn’t… I still don’t know what kind of car it was.  It stood out to me because it was such an unusually bright red color and the driver reminded me of my son for some reason.  As I continued down the road, I started noticing that every other vehicle I met was a red vehicle and most of them were the same unusually candy-apple red color as the first car I noticed. After going a couple of miles, I could feel the hair on the back of my neck standing up. This continued uninterrupted the entire way to the tennis courts, a total of about 5 miles. I was dumbfounded but didn’t have much time to ponder what it might mean. I mentioned it to my tennis opponent, he laughed (nervously) and made some joke about it and we proceeded to hit balls for a couple of hours.

Leaving the tennis courts, I started thinking about the “red car” thing that had happened and wondered if it would continue. The first car I met was white. Right after, approaching a very tight curve, a rusty red truck came into view, obviously going too fast and fully over the middle line and barreling directly into my path. I could see that 3 men were in the truck, all looking disheveled and wild, and the driver was leaning against the steering wheel, appearing completely out of control. I held my breath, knowing that it would be impossible for the truck to correct itself and with an embankment on my side of the road, no where for me to veer off the road to avoid impact. The next second, I was around the curve and the truck was behind me. My body seemed to float weightlessly as I continued down the road in a surreal haze, my heart beating wildly in my chest. The next three cars I met were not red. I could feel my mind start to unwind in relief. It was over. I had no idea what any of what had just happened meant, but my senses were definitely heightened and I was completely alive and alert.

A couple of weeks later, my son graduated from high school and four days later I woke up at 3 in the morning with an attack of ocular shingles. Who knew that shingles could be in your ocular nerve and is the leading cause of infectious blindness? Even being in health care for 30 years, I’d never heard of it. The pain was agonizing and both my husband and I were in shock from me suddenly having something that was considered an ocular emergency. By the time it was over, I ended up having a full-blown flu/mono-like illness that had me out of work for weeks and left me weak and nauseated for months after.

I used my sick and recovery time for rest, reflection and attempting to bring balance back into my life. What I knew needed to come back into focus was my spiritual life. The prior year had been swallowed in work, getting through the activities of my son’s senior year and my own graduate MBA program schoolwork. With an intention to recommit to my spiritual practice, I reached out to a friend of mine at work who I knew woke up early every day to do devotions and asked her if I could text her for a while in the mornings so that I’d have someone I could be accountable to and hopefully would be less likely to quit. Getting up early is not my thing… I’m a night owl but I knew that this would be the most predictable time of my day so I started small, just waking 30 minutes earlier than usual so it wouldn’t be such a drastic change but enough time to be meaningful. It worked… months later I was still getting up, sending my friend a text (“doing it”) and meditating or listening to inspiring teachers (especially Pema Chodron who is amazing). And my friend was always on the ready to reel me back in line if I neglected to text her while on vacation or when I had an especially crazy week with work or school.

Which brings me to New Years and resolutions. Reflecting on what I’ve learned about myself, feeling good about my commitment to my spiritual growth, I realized when I woke this morning that I need to pay particular attention to ways that I numb myself and resolved to make an effort to be in my feelings instead of using things (wine, food, work, facebook, watching movies) to quiet or escape whatever I might be feeling. As soon as I decided to do this, I felt a wave of sadness, like someone had taken away my comfort blanket or teddy bear. Right behind it was a sense of deep-seated loneliness and fear of being in pain. I told my husband about my resolution anyway, starting with not drinking wine every night and voiced my concern that I would substitute my nightly wine with food instead. I can say that I don’t look forward to being so acutely awake and unmuffled but the wise part of me knows this is important, that this is what all humanity struggles with and I’m just curious enough and courageous enough to actually see this through.

So here goes… 2015 is the year of taking the wooly blanket off my senses and fully experiencing what each moment brings. And, I almost forgot, I would like to start writing more again because I know it is healing for me. So here’s to a year of more frequent writing and posting. What is your 2015 New Year’s resolution??

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Is it Enough?

Dreams are only as thick as your eyes can see;

They will travel as far

As your fear folds back,

Never allowing what is unmentionable

To be revealed.

There are many graves within you

But you only have three buried

In the sunlight,

The others are in the pine-strewn forest

Like tombs of pine nuts

And dead dandelions.

There never seems to be the time

For the sniff dogs to go deeply enough

To carry the scent,

To find the bones

With skin flaps

Of languish and pain.

You never know it’s there by feeling,

And the ability to search is forgotten,

Downtrodden and overgrown

By the need to survive.

So take care to

Chew up your daily portions

And drink the soulless water,

Maybe until you die,

What do I care?

Secrets are all the same to me.

You will falter in your progress,

But nothing will remain

Anyway,

Everything preserved in the heart

Like jewel encrusted artillery.

Cover your ears

Through the last part,

Because the cries of pain

Are the hardest to wash off,

And your baptism was too soon,

Way too soon.

Cheer up!

There’s still time,

It’s up to you,

Whether the search and rescue

Is important enough

For you to wake up from your

Inebriated slumber.

Is it?

Enough?

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Inside

It’s a river now

Black and mildewy,

Like sludge that runs

Through the gutters at night.

You aren’t through with the race

Of your life.

You appeal to the light

Like a cracked-open gash in the earth,

With insects swarming

And noses sniffing your raw earthiness.

Ready, set, go,

We’re all standing here

In the shifty shadows,

Waiting for your signal

To go deeper or bail.

It’s up to you,

You can stand at the cave-mouth

And let the rush of cold air and wetness

Chill you to the bone,

Paralyzing you,

Or you can wrap up and go in,

Holding your light

Bravely in front of you.

The meadow is certainly seductive,

But your song is sung

Inside, inside, inside.

We’re waiting,

For you.

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Letting Go

Her summer becomes winter

Before her time

And she lies in the middle

Between too sick to move on

And too late to fix.

Rumors of God and spirit

Flood her psyche like

Sinewy spring swamp water

And she aches from the love

Squeezing out of her pores…

All that love for her 3 children

The youngest, not yet finished with her breasts,

Too content being the baby to start walking,

And the surgeon husband with helpless hands

Not knowing how to bring her back

From the brink.

Yellow-skinned now,

She moves like she’s in a TV show with bad reception

Between worlds,

Pulled by the sappy need of her family

And drawn like a hummingbird

To the sweet nectar of relief-“the other side.”

I stand here in the mid-world

Coaxing her to untangle the threads of grief and guilt

And a mother’s bone-deep self sacrifice.

I gently remind her, again, that it’s time,

Show her how to shed her skin of light.

She dutifully tugs on her light body

Like an old woman pulling her nightgown over her head

Getting dressed to go out.

She’s going home now.

I can see that her work is done.

Some “near-death ones” I help in this mysterious mid-world 

Don’t want to do the work,

But she’s finished all the necessities,

Every feeling tucked and tidy

And she hears the music now,

Eternity will not wait

For even a mother’s milk to dry.

If she must go

Then she must.

I bulwark her with the fierce love

Needed in this place

And she travels, sure and unfettered

And it is done

Be free, my love, be free

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            When the nurse from the emergency room called me that day to come and assist with a patient, I knew it was not good.  As the pharmacy director in a small, rural hospital, pharmacy is usually called when patients have arrived unconscious, are trauma cases, or when a patient is in respiratory or cardiac arrest.  As I stepped into the trauma room I made a quick assessment of what was happening.  The room was full; respiratory therapists, lab tech, physician, emergency medical techs and nurses crammed the room, all busy and crowded around the patient’s stretcher, medical supplies and equipment strewn everywhere.  One of the nurses filled me in on the patient; second or third attempt to kill herself, the last time was with antifreeze.  I looked at the nurse, startled, “She’s serious,” I said.  She nodded in agreement.  “What did she do this time?” I queried.  Typing the patient’s information into the computer, the nurse replied, “Tylenol and Benadryl.”  I could feel my heart sink.  Tylenol is such a nasty drug with which to overdose. It literally wipes out your liver, depending on how much you take.  I have seen too many people overdose on Tylenol and instead of killing themselves as planned, sentence themselves to a lifetime of severe liver dysfunction. 

            Getting a glimpse of the patient between the sea of medical personnel swarming her bed, I saw she was young, barely 20 years old, with beautiful red hair and smooth pale skin.  A stream of charcoal streaked from the corner of her mouth, staining the sheets and covering the floor.  In my head I added up her chances; serious about killing herself, nasty drug choice, vomited the charcoal antidote, unconscious.  Depending on how much Tylenol she had ingested, she was either going to die or she had severely limited her chances of a healthy life.  “Does she have family?”  I asked the same nurse who was recording her information in the computer.  “Her mother came with her in the ambulance but left when we got her in here.”  She shook her head sadly, “Mom’s got a lot of problems too; bad boyfriend and attempted suicide herself.”  I sighed with the weariness of it all, “Some people have it stacked against them, huh?”  The nurse looked at me with years of experience showing in her eyes, “Yeah, some people definitely have it hard.”

            The anesthetist was at the girl’s head, attempting to put in an endotracheal tube down the girls’ throat to establish an airway to help her breathe.  I could see that the anesthetist struggled to see clearly in the girl’s mouth through the black charcoal vomitus.  I held my breath, knowing that the seconds were ticking away quickly.  The anesthetist’s face was stone-like in concentrated effort. “When did she loose her airway?” I asked the emergency medical tech standing beside me.  “After she vomited the charcoal,” he said.  “She was groggy when we picked her up at her house, but arousable.  Since we’ve gotten here, she’s gone completely unconscious.”  The Benadryl kicking in, I thought.  In the medical world, suicide attempts quickly get categorized: those patients that are serious about killing themselves and those patients using the suicide attempt as a call for help. She was in the “serious about killing herself” category, no doubt.  The anesthetist finally placed the endotracheal tube down the girl’s throat.  Respiratory connected an ambu-bag to the endotracheal tube and began to bag her rhythmically.  The radiology tech swung into action with a chest x-ray to assure the tube was placed correctly.

            “Are we flying her out?”  I asked a nurse.  “Yes.  The helicopter team should be here any minute.”  I wondered if she would even make it to the other hospital.  Overdoses have so many unknowns; how much did the person take, did the person take what we’ve been told that they took, what time did the person take it.  All the unknowns make it very difficult to predict how a patient will do.  The anesthetist passed between me and the girl as she walked out of the room, stripping her blackened gloves.  “Did you see her legs?” she whispered, shaking her head with pity.  “No. What about her legs?”  I peered at the end of the bed and got my first look at the girl’s legs as I asked the question.  The anesthetist shook her head as she opened the door to go out, “Gives me chills.” 

            As I stared at the girls’ legs, I went numb with disbelief.  Deep into her legs, the girl had carved her pain, with clear words that pierced my heart.  The large lettered carvings were fresh, but starting to scab, covering the length of her legs from knee to ankle.  On her left leg, on the front inside of her calf, she had knifed the words in capital letters, “EVERYONE I KNOW GOES MISSING AND LEAVES ME.”    On her right inside calf she scrawled. “WHY DO I EXIST?”  Looking at her beautiful, unconscious face I pictured her sitting at home, alone and distraught, one leg propped across the other, a knife in her hand, leaning over and intently and painfully cutting into her flawless skin.  Her pain became suddenly very palpable in the small ER trauma room.  As the immediacy of her condition stabilized, other medical personnel began to notice her legs and I could see their reactions of shock and compassion.  When the helicopter team strode into the room, one of the nurses quickly and respectfully covered her legs. 

            Knowing that she was in the capable hands of the helicopter flight team, I made my way out of the ER.  My heart felt heavy and incapable of comprehending the vastness of the pain I had just witnessed.   My mind was reeling.  “She has carved into her legs the pain of all mankind,” I thought, “The pain of not feeling worthy enough to have love in your life and the pain of not knowing your purpose in life.  If she lives, she will walk around the rest of her life with scars of her pain vulnerable and exposed on her legs for the entire world to see.”  How many times had I felt the same despair at wanting to understand why I am in the world, feeling hopeless that my life had any purpose?  How many times had I felt alone and misunderstood, unloved and unwanted?   How many times had I covered up my pain with work or busyness, trying not to feel my despair underneath?  The experience left me feeling filleted, like all my hidden pain was now revealed as surely as her legs were scarred with words.

            Like so many patients that are treated in our ER and then flown out, I will never know whether she lived or died.  I do know that in her attempt to end her life she probably affected more people far deeper than she would ever believe.  As I drove into my driveway that night, I couldn’t wait to see my children, whole and happy.  Ever since I had left the ER, I had fought the fear that my own children might feel such despair and pain that they would self-mutilate or attempt to take their life in such a way.  As I hugged my children in relief, I knew that I greeted them with a different heart.  The pain I had witnessed that day in the ER had penetrated my heart as surely as the bold, bloody words scarred the girl’s young body.  I knew that the pain I had witnessed was the pain that we all feel when we imagine that we are separate from God, and without that connection to our spiritual nature, there is no hope.   Who hasn’t felt forgotten by God and felt that, just when we need Him, He “goes missing and leaves us?”  Who hasn’t felt the hopelessness of wondering “why do I exist?”  I felt a silent prayer lift from my heart, a prayer of compassion and desire for all to know their pain is witnessed and they do matter.  And this, I realized, was my life’s dream; that all people would know they are loved and have a purpose in life. 

As I lay in bed that night, staring into the darkness unable to go to sleep, I imagined the red-headed girl again.  I imagined her bent over, wounding herself alone in her intense pain, but this time I also imagined that behind her a loving being wrapped tender and adoring arms around her.  I imagined that she allowed the love of this spirit to soak into her and like a tide, wash away her despair and sorrow.  I imagined her suffering face become soft and full of hope.  I imagined her one day becoming a mother, holding her own beloved children in the same way that this loving being had held her, filled and overflowing with unconditional adoration and love.  I imagined her touching her child’s skin with unspeakable devotion and tenderness, kissing the softness with gratitude for the blessings of life   And this is how I choose to remember her, so that her pain will have been witnessed and given seed to hope.  This is how I choose to feel her pain and release it, knowing that the pain she has shared can be catalyst of compassion and healing.  This is my dream, that one day all people will know love like I imagined she could be loved; then her pain, I believe, would have made a difference.

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An Army Angel

Today, a Monday morning, as I approached the hospital cafeteria coffee machine, a tall, clean-cut young man was bent over the counter, pouring creamer into a couple cups of coffee.  You could tell he was an attentive, considerate kind of person in the way he attempted to move in the right direction to allow me access to the coffee as I approached him from behind.  Looking at me directly, his greeting was warm. I inquired whether he was here because he had someone in the hospital.  “Yes, ma’am, my mother is here.” “Are we treating her okay and is she doing better?” “Oh yes, everyone has been great.  She’s probably going home this morning.”  He had a humble, grateful presence about him that made him seem much more mature than the barely over 20 years that he probably was. “Has she been here all weekend?” I asked as I poured my coffee. “She’s actually been here since last Tuesday,” he said and I noticed now that his kind, gentle face showed signs of weariness.  The softness of his face stood in contrast to his strong, physically fit, man-body.  “I had to take a medical leave of absence to be here with her.  Those chair-beds get old after a week.”  “You’re in the military?”  “Yes ma’am.  I’m in the army.  Fort Benning.”  I was astounded and deeply touched.  “You’ve been here all week with your mother?”  “Yes ma’am, I came up here Tuesday to be with her.”  I could feel tears start up in my eyes at the tenderness, the wonder of a “military guy” loving his mother so much that he would be with her night and day at the hospital.  That he would ask for time off from his commander, that he would curl his tall frame into an uncomfortable chair for a week of sleepless nights, that he was so unassuming and yet spoke so appreciatively about the staff’s care of his mother.  I thanked him for his service to our country, for the sacrifices he undoubtedly makes.”  Blushing, he said, “I thank YOU for supporting what we do.”  Saying our “see you laters.” we parted our ways.  My heart was full and yielding.  A son’s devoted love for his mother, unashamed and pure in intent.  The world felt soft and full and hopeful.  I had been touched by a goodness that was bigger than one fine, young man; I had witnessed God’s heart alive and tangible.  Monday morning, coffee and an army angel.  The week can commence!

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