“The human affair requires a miraculous solution…” (my nursing memories)

 

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Photo by Pixabay

She said, “the “human affair” requires a miraculous solution.  She shared how her mind would grow wings and soar in the great blue beyond. That is how she knew she was different…her mind would discover life’s secrets as it dipped and glided on the winds and over the Milky Way.  She said “I just never knew that most people did not seem to care to go where their mind would take them if they let it…”

She knew in order to please others her mind must stay tethered to her body but it seldom obeyed itself in this endeavor. She said,  “when people judged her she simply put them away like old worn out shoes because they could not help that they were worn out and would most likely never be able to take wings and fly with her.  It is a choice we each must make.  Most people think it childish to soar above the Milky Way or ride upon a raindrop.”  She said her fondest memory was when she made snow angels in her own snow globe because Winter was her favorite season and she like to remember the angels…

She spent two years in a German concentration camp when she was eighteen years old and she never saw her family again. She would watch the birds fly overhead mingling with the ashes of the dead and let her mind  go with the birds so that she would not become the ashes. Many years after the war she came to America and stayed with a distant Aunt who had also survived. She was put through many psychiatric test and told she was what we now call Bipolar but she never believed the doctors. She wrote beautiful poetry that lifted people up among the hopelessness of the aftermath of such a devastating time in human history. She had a tattoo on her arm and a limp due to a hip fracture she received in a beating in the camp because she did not stand up fast enough for one of the guards.

One evening as I was preparing her for bed I asked her if she believed in God. She looked at me without speaking for a minute or two and then she said with her chocolate brown eyes glimmering with tears, “who do you think let my mind grow wings and soar and still does? Who do you think slept by me every night in that camp and protected me from rape and disease and starvation? Who do you think I rode to the Milky Way with?”

“Oh child, she whispered, our God is bigger than all the evil, the most heinous deed man can dream up.”  As she lay her head upon her pillow and I tucked her in for the night she said calmly, “tomorrow I will be going beyond and will never be tethered to this old body again and when I go please don’t let anyone try to bring me back. I have waited long enough to meet my poet. It is God who writes the poetry of our lives and no one can take that away from you.”

I turned out the overhead light of her hospital room and I walked out into the night air and I stared up at the Milky Way and I cried. I cried and smiled at the same time. I knew I had been given a great gift. I would never forget that the “human affair” requires a miraculous solution and The Holy God is the poet of that solution. 

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
 If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
 even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
 even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

Psalm 139: 7-12

 

 

 

 

Coffee and antiseptic…I was young and new at loss…

architecture daylight door entrance

Photo by Erkan Utu

 

Coffee and antiseptic is the smell of the hospital to me. That smell is as familiar as coming home and while I know for  many people   this odd combination of fragrance carries a myriad of meanings and feelings.

What began as a life long journey for this  twenty-two year old  woman of such an innocence has in the last forty years become one of the most essential teachers of Wisdom on my road map of life.

Forty years ago I was young and new at Loss. Not a master of loss as I am now…

I learned that while “science/medicine/technology” gives a perception of control it simply cannot ultimately answer the deep questions of life. Science can achieve many wondrous feats but it is powerless in its outcome alone.

Once you see a patient’s eye shine with gratitude or you hold a total stranger in your arms as their life tumbles down around them one of two things will happen. Either your heart will break (which is okay and mine often has) or your blood will cringe and you will not be able to stay.

In the halls, rooms, and waiting rooms of this place that smells like coffee and antiseptic I have learned that as driven as we are to present our lives as if full and orderly the soul of a human and the meaning of life cannot be answered by mere science and knowledge.

The stuff life is made of goes on outside of these walls…Normal stuff…pushing your baby on a swing…normal stuff…listening to your clothes dryer hum all night long because you never get all the laundry done…on and on this list could go…normal stuff.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13

 

 

Once on Heroin

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Photo by sebastiaan stam

 

She opened the door, called out his name

he lie there dead, a needle in his vein…

the devils’ been round, staking his old claim

now nothing is ever gonna be the same…

 

oh God we try to make it right

deliver us from  evil, deliver us from night

it seems there is nothing good

nothing that remains…

 

another child dead

another sad song

one try of heroin

another child gone…

 

Psalms 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.

 

old black Jonas ( a tribute to my sweet friend Mr. Anderson)

abundance alcohol berries berry

old black Jonas made elderberry wine

i use to love to drink it,  pass away my time

he would play his mouth harp in the old junkyard

and we’d sing under the moon swinging on the stars

 

one hundred years old Jonas thought he was

there was not record of his  birth written down by the man

so he took the name of the master who owned him

said “a name only matters to those who don’t have ’em. “

 

i love old black Jonas to this day

still hear his laughter, sing his song everyday

i don’t really get that high anymore

old Jonas come back, let’s drink your wine once more

 

 

The gifts that I have received as a nurse could fill a book…

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The gifts that I have received as a nurse could fill a book…here is on of those precious golden nuggets that I carry with me…
“The truth is when people aren’t around I sleep a lot.” said the one hundred four-year old. Her Baltic sea blue eyes sparkle when she speaks. “You know I sleep to save up energy for these well-worn cells so I can enjoy it when I go out and see my family…children, grand children, great grand children, and even great great grandchildren…it is so much fun for me.”
“You know when you reach your fifties, sixties, and seventies you worry that you will get sick. If you live through those decades and don’t die from cancer or heart disease or stroke you feel young again even though you are old.”
“When you are in your thirties and forties you are robust and feel you have this short window to “Make a life” for yourself and your children, measuring success by land marks such as houses, cars, income, and education… Anyone below thirty is truly just a baby still…people don’t believe me because a twenty or thirty year old think they know everything and really they don’t.”
I sat down in the chair by her hospital bed and she smiled. She said, “What I see after living this long is everyone is so noisy and in a rush to reach somewhere beyond the life they have now. It is such a waste of the moment, of the joy intended for us. It is actually good NOT to know everything. Knowledge is no good anyway without character, without pain and disappointment.”
As she lay her head back on her pillow I notice the elegance in her posture and the way her hands lay so beautifully on her lap. “these hands she said have touched so much life and I am always reminded that life is so wonderful and tragic at the same time. I have seen war, slavery, and needless cruelty but I have also seen the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. I have walked the beach and climbed the mountain. I have seen God there. I have heard babies cry and five minutes later laughing so purely and without malice. I have seen death and know that it doesn’t last nor it is the “end” of any part of me.”
As she closed her eyes she sighed, “Life is a wonder and a gift…God’s wisdom is NOT locked away from us. It is given to us everyday if we will listen and then receive it…don’t ever forget that.” I have not forgotten that sweet lady and her words…and her life spark still lives on in me…

Nurse’s Memories to Treasure…

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I walked down the hospital corridor. Why are they always horrible colors? I have been a nurse for many years and cannot figure out who designs and decorates these places. It is 3 a.m. and a fairly quiet night. The night nurses on this side of the world are probably making rounds just like me (yes, nurses still make rounds). Some of the patients sleep the sleep of the medicated. Certain ones sleep the sleep of relief and some toss restlessly about their beds trying to obtain the peace of sleep.
I turn the corner and that is when I hear the beautiful singing. I think it must be someone’s TV or a CD. In the room it is dark but for a sliver of yellow light from the cracked bathroom door. I am surprised to see a lovely elderly woman, her bed in the sitting position, singing. Wispy loosened silver hair straggle out of the bun at the nape of her neck. Her hooded eye lids cannot hide the shine of her chocolate brown eyes.

She is singing in Italian and I cannot understand a word but from the passion and inflections in her voice I can recognize “Joy”. There is a tear in her eye and one moving down her cheek and she is smiling. I am too stunned to move yet somehow I know without doubt her song will go on forever now…

what I couldn’t know…

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What I couldn’t know…when I was a nursing student my instructor gave me an assignment that I have carried with me for forty years. I will never forget it because I gave loving gentle care to Jesus that night.
Stay with me… to get the whole and the depth of this picture I must confess that at that time in my life I lived in a what I call ” a well-intentioned but misinformed idea of Grace.” In my childhood and early adolescence Grace was very “sanitary” , if you follow me. It followed a certain prayer, then Baptism, the cleaning up your behaviour issues (or at least hiding them), and then good works followed that. At age twenty I had long well-known I could not live up to these rules but continued to pretend that I was ok…
So this happened…
I stepped into the room of a woman very ill. She did not speak nor open her eyes. I could see she was weary and when I reached to touch the bed sheets she grimaced embracing herself for what I couldn’t know. I was about to begin my assessment when my instructor, God bless her, said “take care now…you will be touching Jesus.” Oh how I weep when I remember those words.
When I pulled back the sheets the little emaciated body of the still silent woman was covered in bed sores. Her body was filthy, her finger and toe nails grown long and brittle. The sore on her spine was through to the bone so that even the breeze of my moving the sheet caused her to stiffen in pain. I turned to my instructor with a face full of question and overwhelmed I whispered “what am I to do for her?” She responded by nodding to a bath basin and many towels and simply said “you want to be a nurse now here is your chance.”
It took me two hours to peel off her filthy clothes and wash the dirt from her body and to dress each wound. The woman never spoke and her eyes remained closed. I only spoke gently to explain each of my actions. It was tedious and repetitive work. After I had dressed each bedsore and put a clean gown on her and of course, clean sheets I turned to leave. Only then did the woman look at me briefly and simply said in voice so strained and broken, “Thank you so much.”
I turned my head and smiled at her but her eyes were already closed again. I whispered that she was welcome. I stepped out into the hallway and in my unprofessional youth I leaned against the wall and cried and trembled. I cried because something in my soul told me that night that Grace is personal and intimate and sometimes very painful. I leaned my forehead against the door of that hospital room and a still small voice that seem to come from her room said, “whatever you do to the least of these my daughter, you have done it unto me.”
What I couldn’t know or fully grasp that night is I had begun my journey toward developing gratitude…and so much more pain and joy echoed down the road of Grace…