On Facing Mortality

Heather with her husband Jerald

This morning on the way to the Portland airport my husband turned to me and said “I can’t do this.”  He was about ready to catch a flight to Honolulu, Hawaii to be with his daughter that was just been diagnosed with stage 4 heart and lung cancer, a very rare occurrence.  Heather, a non-smoker, at age 38 was in the prime of her life.  She and her husband were building their dream on property in the highlands of the Big Island when she collapsed after dealing with what her doctor thought was a severe case of bronchitis.  Her husband rushed her to the hospital. Now, she cannot leave the hospital in Honolulu as she needs oxygen to survive.

Heather welding with her dad.

I replied to him- “yes you can.  “Be a bulldog, don’t run away.  Go head-on.”

“This isn’t about what you can deal with, it’s about supporting her to get through this whatever the outcome with your full love and support.  She chose chemotherapy.  Be fully there for her.”

I’ve had some experience with this.  My darling newborn son, Gareth, contracted a life-threatening infection at 10 days old.  I kept hoping to wake up from that nightmare.  I didn’t.  My beautiful baby was full of tubes.  His little body was all swollen, hair shaved off one side of his head.  Worse, we couldn’t hold him.

We were told such things as:

  1. If he makes it, he will be brain damaged or live in a hospital for the rest of his life
  2. Kids don’t live through this
  3. You will need a LARGE miracle

I fully embraced option 3.  They allowed me to live at the hospital while he was in the NICU.  My husband at the time had a hard time dealing with the situation at all.  Meanwhile, I pumped breast milk at 3-hour intervals round the clock so he could have my breast milk when he once again could eat.  I rose in the middle of the night to sing and talk to him.  I prayed.

Ultimately my actions saved me.  Did they help save him?  Well, Gareth just celebrated his 35th birthday and he is as awesome as ever! (FYI, his name in Gaelic means strength).

We want to run from these situations since it is not only painful to see the ones we love suffer, we are frightened of our own mortality.

Gareth, my one and only precious son!
Continue reading “On Facing Mortality”

The Art of Finding Solace

In the last two weeks, I’ve buried three wild birds- a robin, a pine siskin, and a hummingbird- such a tiny, little body.  The last two were from my cat which makes it even worse.

Two dear friends were also lain to rest from this life.  One passed away unexpectedly in his sleep.  The other reached the end of an eight-year struggle with ovarian cancer.

The events in Ukraine disturb me daily.  The weather has been unusually cold and wet on top of such sorrow.

Continue reading “The Art of Finding Solace”

Notes From A Tripod

(Another take on my knee injury a couple posts back…)

The doctor reviews my MRI and informs me it’s a wear injury- a polite way of saying you’re getting old. The cartilage in my knee has worn thin from age and a simple turned ankle on a hike tore the meniscus which led to a stress fracture to the head of my femur.   “Stay off your knee for 4 months, non-weight bearing- crutches.  Watch that left hip.  It shows low bone density.  Don’t gain weight.   We’ll go from there.  No surgery, no easy fixes. See you after the first of the year.” Appointment concludes.  Crabby surgeon departs.  I remain in a state of shock.

What the doctor didn’t tell me is how to cope with this loss, this massive change in my life- no walking and no clear path to recovery, no dangling hope. All he sees is the injury and not the humanity surrounding it.  The quick fix laparoscopic surgery I expected disintegrated into months of recovery with no clear resolution.  My world shrinks from a universe to the size of an orange.  Will I get to walk or hike with my friends again?  Will I ever again see the tips of my cross-country skis cut through sparking snow?

Every day humans are faced with diagnoses, injuries, and other nasty things that upend their lives instantly.  It can be a lonely path to navigate.  Every day you’ve got to stave off the demons and keep on going, reframe your life, lower your expectations.  For me being a highly creative person and very goal-oriented, this is a challenge.  My big native plant garden project? – canceled until further notice.  Travel?  I don’t think so. Grocery shopping, housework?  NO. Cook?- barely.  This is my first major injury in six decades of living.  I am such a beginner

After weeks of flapping my wings against my cage, I’ve had to revise my life.

Focus on what I can do…

Get a new doctor (check)

Write

Draw

Read

Watch movies

Sing

Play guitar

Swim

Ride my bike

Get outside

Clean out some drawers

Breathe

Meditate

  • I have to remember to ask for help (hard).
  • I have to permit myself to pamper myself- hire a housekeeper, get a massage, buy audiobooks, get a therapist. (hard) 
  • Be humble- I just ordered a wheelchair as my back aches from weeks of crutches.
  • I have to allow myself some days of just being pathetic even though I know things could be worse. (easy)

I emerged from the doctor’s office that day feeling my mortality diminished

but still, I felt a pulse

and I had to drive home to beat traffic.

Said the tree to the sky

My limb is broken

I will have to find a new way

To dance with the wind

Artwork and poetry by the author

See my other blog on sustainable living at OneSweetEarth.blog

The Poetry of Loss

There is no roadmap through grief.  I find peace through writing after the recent passing of my father.  Here are two poems…

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ON THE DAY MY FATHER DIED

I heard the earth sigh

Above the splash of tears

His spirit slipped away quietly

It’s shell worn from years of living

It was lifted by the cadence of prayer

Then finally free

He ascended

Into the arms of angels

And as we mourned him by his bedside

The heavens welcomed his spirit

Unencumbered by flesh

Finding peace among the stars

Forever in our hearts.

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THE GRIEF WASHED OVER ME

Like a strong wave of the sea

My face hit bottom

My cheek scraping the coarse sand

I stood up and was knocked down

Over and over again

Until I released to the ocean’s power

And washed up spent upon the shore.

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