a different kind of night

October 26, 2012 at 3:03 am (dying, holidays, how does it feel to die, leaving, living, living with dying, peace of heart, shackelford ponies, the dr. says, waiting) (, , , , , , , )

tonight is very different from just a few nights ago.  my sister is stretched out on the couch and is leaving tomorrow.  yesterday we went to see Argo with ben affleck and it was gripping.   as we walked up to the counter to pay she turned to us and said “i can pay for myself.”  of course she can, she has a great job, travels, lives in san francisco on her own.  she has a ton of friends and an on-off boyfriend.  i don’t have any reason to worry about her, well …. except she is my baby sister and  lives on her own in san francisco!

 this evening we spent together took me from the moment, to the past and the future.  in that moment i realized she is going to be fine.  a few years ago she came to stay with us, at the time she was going through an awful lot of emotional turmoil.  we were sort of a resting place, a place for her to make some decisions about what she wanted to do without the stress.  since i was 14 when she was born and the mother  really turned her over to me, i have a very protective love for her.  hearing her say she could pay for herself brought me back to the moment and i was so proud of her. 

the down side is it feels like letting go of that baby girl i first held, the girl who called me in germany to tell me about the boys she liked, the time she had a fight with her boyfriend and through her tears came to my lap to sit and cry.  the upside is i can go and know that she will be okay.

knowing that everyone is going to be okay is important.  my sister has said and it is so true, we are good, we have said  everything we need to say.  our calls end with i love you so when i go there is no doubt that we have a good relationship.  my husband will be sad but he is going to be okay.  my step-friends will be sad and they will stand by their dad and help him if they need to.  my friends know that i care about them and that if something needed to be said i would have said it.

so now, more than ever, we are just waiting.  while i am waiting i think i will go to the ocean and see the wild ponies. then we will have a big family thanksgiving, after that a cruise to the islands, and round out the year with the traditional Christmas in charleston!  this very well may be my last one and if it is i am going out with a bang:)  life is good, yeah life is real good!

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the waiting can be exhausting

June 5, 2012 at 2:26 am (dying, end stage, end stage congestive heart failure, family, feelings and thoughts, gratitude, how does it feel to die, life is random, survivor guilt, waiting) (, , , , , , , , )

getting texts from middle sister with updates on the mother.  much like Pavlov’s dog the muted ding on my phone elicits the intake of breath.  it is not from calif so release the breath.  it is from calif so just look at the first few words, okay so far, so finish the text.  a call from nephew and a stillness, his voice lets me know that it is not the news we are all expecting any day now.  some texts ask if this or that is normal under the circumstances.  middle sister and nephew are not in the medical field.  they are not like younger sister and myself.  their lives are much different from ours.  they are the least prepared for this task and yet they are the ones called on now.  the only thing to do, reasonably, is be a support for them.

as much as my mind dismisses this and seeks to maintain focus on her it is at times a challenge. it is a challenge not to feel my own death coming and wondering if it will be similar.  would i make the same choices? the toll on those around her lead me down the path my own family will take in the not too distant future.  one question that snaps at my heels, like the crazy border collie nora, why not me?  she was diagnosed long after my own heart failure, she was able to have heart surgery to repair what can never be repaired in my own.  the man who had the same condition and device leaves his family months ago and yet here i am.  survivors guilt is a term anyone in the mental health field is familiar with.  to know what it is did indeed help me through some tough times.  after much searching it is hard to call this survivors guilt.  though it is a question likely to never be answered it is not guilt that i feel so much as how does this happen? does it go back to life just being random?  is there a flow to this not seen from so close?  is more required of me before i am released?  so many are deserving and at times though grateful for the sentiment, it is too cliché to say i am needed or i have a great attitude.  so many others are more needed than one like me, others want  to live as much while some have proven their value to the world.

it is humbling and awe-inspiring to wake each morning and think here is another day given.  another kiss from my love, another smile to share, another day  to wait and bear witness to the passing of another human being.

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Still here

December 7, 2011 at 12:16 am (choice, coping, death, doctors, end stage, holidays, hope, waiting) (, , , )

no one is more surprised than me, with the exception of my dr.   We met briefly yesterday and there is not much new to say.  we sort of look at each other and wait, the pause bothers him more than me, that is the training. I can sit and wait for however long it takes.  one of the hardest exercises for an intern is that waiting and not filling the silence.  it is a skill that was a gift long before becoming a therapist.  waiting does not cause me distress, waiting in line or in traffic? no problem.  this waiting is different in many ways. most importantly I am not anxious for the waiting to end.  this is a comfortable silence.  at times it seems daring to speak the words of the future plans, the waiting may come to an end, the alternative to planning seems giving in to hopelessness.  I am many things, hopeless is not one of them.  my calendar is at the ready and future lunch dates, dinner plans, birthdays to celebrate, these are already marked and waiting to burst forward at the right time. 

my dr. is a kind man and he is optimistic with me.  we both know we are waiting and seem content to chatter a moment, nothing new, we both breath.  he is going to be around for the holidays and this is reassuring.  it is comforting to know that if the silence is to be broken he will be with me.  there will not be a hospital visit as that might become a pattern I do not choose to establish.  the mother was diagnosed with a similar problem, it should not be so serious and yet it is. she has been in the hospital maybe 3 times now.  if you go they will keep you, if you build it they will come, they think if you come they must do something.  the secret is knowing there is nothing to be done and accepting it.  Chris asked me what the dr. said about my low energy, I tried B-12 and just got horrible nose bleeds.  there is nothing to say, it is not what he wants to hear.  these are the facts ma’am, just the facts.  my energy is pretty good given the situation, it is going to get worse.  we are spoiled by the quiet, we are waiting for the words to start.  yet we do not dare listen to them. they say it has been a long silence and soon we will have to talk.  I can wait, I can wait.

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waiting and wondering

June 1, 2011 at 10:35 pm (living, moving forward, waiting)

this morning I have been thinking about how much of our time is spent waiting for something or someone. in the army we lived by the phrase “hurry up and wait.” it was the norm to get up at pre-dawn hours just to wait for the word to come down through the ranks to move ahead. most of us understood this was what to expect and we would be prepared to wait. watching how some people dealt with this was one of the more interesting pass-times during our wait. now it is at the drs. office, after rushing to be 15 minutes early as directed, we sit and wait. some things never change! most people just read, watch t.v. or talk, but there are those who like my army days are not prepared for this wait. you can hear them complain a little too loudly or watch them go to the receptionist repeatedly wanting to know where they are on the list, as though they were waiting for a table at a restaurant.

this morning I am waiting to feel better. I can remember, barely, the days where I was ready to face the day and looked forward to whatever challenges lay ahead. now I wake up, wait for the nausea to pass and possible pain, then convince myself it is a good idea. I make my way to the recliner in our living room and sit and wait to catch my breath. I wait to feel together enough to have a conversation with my husband. we wait to see if I will be able to participate in any activity or will I be going back to lie down. after showering I wait again to get the strength to do whatever is next. I really don’t mind any of this since I know I might have a good 4 hrs coming my way. that is what makes it all worth the effort.

after my appt last friday I am now waiting for the ct scan this friday, then I will wait for my dr. to get the results and find out what is next. another way to look at this is I am looking forward to hearing some good news. as I wait and look forward to those few hours each day it is somehow different from just waiting for someone else to give the okay to move forward. I make that decision, it is up to me when I move forward and as soon as possible I do just that. moving ahead, getting on with my mission is more freedom than if I am waiting for someone or something else to let me move.

in the documentary I wrote about last time one woman talked about waiting to die. too many people are waiting to live, waiting for some reward in after life, I want to live now and wish others that they too could stop waiting and start looking forward to whatever brings meaning to their life. one way I cope with the waiting is to plan things to look forward to. they don’t have to be big things at all, even something here at home can be gratifying. this week I am looking forward to lunch with girlfriends, next week a visit from family in Charleston and the week after that my sister will be visiting for a week. I look forward to hearing the results of my scan, whether it is good news or not it will be more information and let us know what we have to look forward to.

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