Goodbye, my friend

A very dear person passed away over the weekend.

I met Karen when I worked with her at Sirona several years ago. We worked together via the telephone, so actually our voices met first! As many of you may know, you can tell a lot about someone by their voice. I liked her right away.

She was a supervisor, but she was every inch one of the gang as well. She was always a calm, reassuring, even loving presence at work. If Karen was on the job, I always felt better knowing that. When I was new in my role, of course I made some mistakes. When Karen was the person in charge and I needed to reach out for help, she was one hundred percent there for me. She somehow made me feel like she had made that exact same mistake dozens of times, just last week in fact. And hey, it was no big deal! Oh, and here’s how to fix it. And by the way, here’s  how to do it better next time. You may have heard that “Nurses eat their young.” Well, Karen never got that memo. Karen nurtured her young.

There is little that is more comforting in nursing than knowing that your supervisor has your back.

I did get to meet her in person as well, in 2013. We were part of the Sirona Seedlings at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. I was new to the company and didn’t know a lot of people yet. My daughter came with me, and we walked the track for a while, and we lit votives to honor my parents who had both died from cancer. My mother had the same cancer that Karen endured. Anyway, I was humbled by the grace of this woman who, just a short time after the event, sent out a heartfelt email message to thank each of us for coming, by name, and she included what it was that each of us had done to participate.

I still have this message. I still have my Sirona Seedlings T-shirt. And I still have Karen in my heart.

Farewell, Karen. Like so many, many others, I am better for having known you.

The BRAVE Interview #9 April 2017: Charlotte

Please enjoy this month’s BRAVE interview with Charlotte!

Who are you? I am a Registered Nurse, a Mom to 3 adult children (where has time gone?!), and a 5 month Golden Retriever named Charlie. I was born and raised in Maine, and have lived here ever since. I live in the small town of Limerick, Maine, a quiet country town.

What is your ‘one brave thing’? My One Brave Thing?  Let’s see. I have done a few brave things up to this point in my life, but the one I’d have to say that tops all was taking care of my terminally ill brother. He was 51 yrs old when diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, mets to the brain. His wish was to get home to Maine to die. I had no choice but to be brave, and honor is wishes. It was a very difficult, emotional time.

When did you do it?  In June 2007, my brother called me from the hospital in Florida, telling me he was very sick and needed me to fly down to help him.

Where did it occur? Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

How I made it happen: flew down, packed up his apartment.  I rented an RV, and found portable oxygen, filled his meds and things for the trip. Right out of the hospital, we were on our way home to my house. It was a rough ride in the back of an RV. I stayed back there with him, while my fiancé and my brother’s friend took turns driving. I wasn’t sure my brother would make it all the way, but he said he was okay each time I asked. I had spoken with hospice while traveling, and I got things set up for when he arrived. My bother lived only 5 days here, but made it to where he wanted to be, and that was home!

It is an honor to print your story, Charlotte, and I thank you so much for sharing it with us all!

Read the other BRAVE interviews here: https://kwrites.com/?s=The+BRAVE+Interview

If you would like to be interviewed for this series about something brave you have done in your life, email me at kmcwrites.com!

BOOK REVIEW: This Life I Live by Rory Feek

I didn’t want to read this book.  I first heard about it when I came across an article in a magazine–some Woman’s Day-y type of publication, I think. I read some of the article, thought, “Oh, this is a sad story,” and put it down.

Well, it found me again.

Have you ever noticed how the books you are supposed to read have a way of doing that?

Joey and Rory are famous, but before that magazine article, I had never heard of them. I have since listened to some of their music and it’s beautiful (spoiler alert, this song is heartbreaking), in case you want to check it out.

Anyway, there is a lot of wisdom in this book. Parts of his story parallel my own, and probably your own as well. I relate to Rory talking about his childhood of being from “everywhere and nowhere” and about how “there are different levels of poor”. Moving so often in your growing up years isn’t easy. It certainly can begin to define who you are.

When Rory’s mom goes back to school in her 60’s, she ‘does the thing she thought she could not do’.  This resonated so strongly for me, recalling one of my favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quotes. It also speaks to one of the themes in this book, brave women, and the author’s respect for them.

My favorite quote from this book is:

“True joy and happiness have a way of attracting good things into your life.” (p 81)

So, I was right. It is a sad story, but it’s also a happy one. Rory tells it with raw honesty, but also with faith and hope. As anyone who has ever written (or tried to write) their life story can attest, this is no easy task. Rory has accomplished it with grace and love.

Read this book.

Hello from Heaven

big-nana

Big Nana with her great-granddaughter Ariana in her kitchen in Nantasket

As I recently wrote, my son moved into his new apartment. Apartments, as we all know, usually need furniture. As a mother, I want to (over) help him with this. When I got my first apartment, my mother and my grandmother went to great lengths to make sure I had everything I might need or want, opening their cupboards, closets, drawers, and wallets to help me get things I didn’t even know I would need. I always knew that I would do the same for my own children one day.

The current need for my son’s apartment is for a kitchen table and chairs. I remembered my grandmother’s kitchen table has been stored at my brother’s house for years. I checked to make sure it was still there and usable. My brother determined (after some digging) that it was.
I started thinking of how my grandmother, Big Nana, spent most of her life helping her family. She has been dead since 2004, but she is still helping her family all these years after her death. Because now her kitchen table and chairs, at which we ate so many wonderful, lovingly prepared meals, will now serve my son and his girlfriend.

And here is the biggest gift of all: when my brother was looking for the chairs, he found a photo Nana, as well as some of my mother and father that I have never seen before.

It feels like they are all saying ‘Hello’ to us from heaven tonight, and letting us know that they are still watching over us and taking care of us, even though they are not here physically with us anymore.

What a wonderful start to 2017.

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The Dempsey Challenge 2016

I volunteered again this year at The Dempsey Challenge in the Reiki Tent.
dempsey2What a wonderful group of people there!  This was my second year volunteering, and I plan to be part of this wonderful event next year as well.

Every dollar raised by Dempsey Challenge participants directly benefits the Dempsey Center.”

As Ina Garten would say: How great is that?

The only glitch was that when I arrived, they only had size 2XL volunteer T-shirts left. And there I was, without my sash. Anyway, I rocked it!

After my volunteer shift in the tent was over, I went to write my parents’ names, Mary and John Maffeo, on the memory wall. They both died from cancer many years ago, but as anyone knows who has lost a loved one knows all too well, time is nothing. It felt as fresh right then as it ever was. As I stood there looking at their names, my eyes teared up, so I hurried to my car to cry in private.

And then I went back. I walked by the river. I talked to some people. I danced with Mary Dempsey, whom I met at last year’s challenge and who, by the way, is a good dancer!

And this year, I got to meet Patrick Dempsey. I even got a selfie and an autograph! (NOTE: Thank you to the teenaged girl in front of me who gave me that idea!)

How great is that?

🙂

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Book Review: Celebrating Death

When I discovered that one of my colleagues wrote a book, I celebrating deathcouldn’t wait to read it.  The book is Celebrating Death: A Guidebook for Dying Well by Esther Shapiro, R.N., Msc.D.

The author comes by her expertise regarding death both personally and professionally, and she generously shares her hard-won insights regarding her experiences from both.

Right from the start, I connected with the stories in this book. When the author describes her NDE (Near Death Experience), I was reminded of my own that occurred when I was four years old, when I almost drowned in the lake. The kids I was playing with kept pushing my head under the water, over and over, until I couldn’t figure out which way was up to get out of the water. And then I stopped trying. I saw a very bright light and felt filled with peace. I was not at all fearful. I was just floating and being…until my dad ran in, fully clothed and still wearing his shoes, and pulled me from the water (full disclosure: I don’t actually remember that part).

The author also shares her experience as a hospice nurse. My own two years as a hospice nurse were bookended by the deaths of first my mother and then my father from cancer, and I share Esther’s dissatisfaction with the allopathic medical model and how cancer patients are treated within it. “But to see the Doctors instilling false hope into both the patient and the family is more than I can handle. And, I am trained and expected to go along with it. It makes me sick inside.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

She also introduces the idea of one’s death experience being on a spectrum from good to bad…to very bad. My own parents’ deaths illustrated this. My mother had the worst death of any that I have ever witnessed, bar none. My father had one of the best.  They both had cancer and died at home with hospice within about two years of their diagnosis, but their outcomes were very different.

The idea of an individual choosing their moment of death is also explored in this book. I believe, as the author does, that we choose our time to go, and it doesn’t matter if there is a 24/7 vigil by the bedside. If the person wants to be alone when they pass, then they will. I further agree with her that children shouldn’t be shielded from death and dying. I practice what I preach; my son went to his first wake when he was about 3 weeks old.
One of the more powerful parts of Celebrating Death is when the author tells a story first from the point of view of the cancer patient, and then from the point of view of the patient’s significant other who, as is so often the case, was also his primary caregiver. I was moved to tears of heartbreak as well as outrage by what happened to them.

So, this sort of became ‘all about me’ here, but this is one of the gifts of this book: it will remind you of, and help you to work through, your own feelings and personal encounters with death. In this way, Celebrating Death can be transformational and healing for you, dear reader.

This belongs on your bookshelf next to your Elisabeth Kubler-Ross volumes. It was an honor and a privilege to read this book.

NOTE: Esther Shapiro’s book Celebrating Death is also available on Kindle.

After you read Esther’s book, read my book, One Brave Thing! On Amazon.com, at your local bookseller, and also on Kindle!

My foremothers

This is the first Mother’s Day in 3 years that I have had the day off from work.

YAY!

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It gave me more time to spend with my kids, for which I am endlessly grateful. It also gave me more time for reflection, for which I am also very grateful. In years past, I have gone to the ocean to remember my mother and grandmothers, which I got to do today.

In the past, I have written about ‘grieving my dead relatives’ quite often. Today, for some reason, I feel inspired to put up their wedding pictures instead.

My mother and grandmothers: strong, confident, capable women, all. Even if they didn’t always know it.

All are greatly loved and missed.

Just for fun, I am adding a wedding picture of my own (recently taken when renewing our commitment to one another).

Me and Bill

Happy Mother’s Day!!

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