Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My stroll to the bus...

So.



I have to share something happened to me this morning. It requires a little landscape though, so stick with me.



I ride the bus to work in the morning. I drive to a park and ride and then ride into the City. The parking area is down a steep hill from where people actually pick up the bus. The hill is big and the stairs and access ramps from the parking area to the bus pick-up are not convenient as the parking lot is very big and there are only 2 accesses. There is, however, a muddy eroded pathway from the most convenient spot in the lower parking lot straight up the hill to where riders need to pick up the bus – worn from desperate riders or those too lazy to walk to one of the more inconvenient vertical accesses. The “worn” path is scattered with rounded stones which provide some purchase, and represent the only semi-stable footpath. When there is any moisture on the ground (which is often in the Seattle area) those stones are somewhat treacherous on their own when wet. I’ve seen many, poor, hurried commuter slip and eat mud trying to navigate the path.



It is also important to know, that the bus driver will leave you. In fact, I believe they take grim satisfaction, in watching potential riders sprint for a 1/4-mile only to pull away right as soon as the winded rider approaches the bus. I often run for the bus. Often. Some mystical force in the universe has so ordered the cosmos to make my running for the bus virtually inevitable regardless of the bus schedule or my attempts to meet it. I run for the bus a lot. I’ve been left in a cloud of exhaust fumes after having run for the bus, a lot. It’s tough to be dignified while running for the bus and carrying a briefcase and a grocery bag full of daily food rations.



So this morning as I pull into the lower parking area, as usual, I see my bus pull into the pick-up aisle – another run-for-the-bus- day. So I hit the gas, and swing quickly into a spot just a few spaces closer to the hill than some poor fellow right behind me. I laugh a little internally at my small measure of good fortune.



Now – I drive a 96' Saturn. It sits really low to the ground (imagine sitting on a skateboard). I’m a big guy, and I usually struggle getting out of this car. Normally my brief-case gets caught on the emergency-brake or the gear shift, or I can’t open the car-door as wide as I’d like to be able to exit the car gracefully, so I sort-of fall out of it. BUT, today – I deftly laid hold of briefcase, expertly opened the car door the perfect amount, hit the lock as I fell out of the car and began running without so much as a hitch! I immediately congratulated myself at the efficiency of my own movement in this case.



So, I began to run for the bus. I notice that the guy who pulled into the space a little further away from me is about 10-ft behind me also running for the bus – but I am pulling away. I notice that I am gaining a sizable lead over the indescript body behind me, and I notice my own long and natural feeling stride and am a little surprised at how good it feels to open it up and run a little this morning – and I feel confident not only that I will make the bus, but that the poor slob I am leaving in my dust will not. Especially, since I see him out of the corner of my eye heading for one of the long switchback accesses to the upper pick-up area. I’ve got my eye on the worn-path – soggy ground be damned.



I hit the worn path at a sprint. And powerfully leap from one exposed stone to the other consuming several vertical feet with each movement. Each time my foot comes in contact with a stone it feels like it’s glued to my foot for the instant I need it, and then actually pushes me upward. As I power up the hill, I am shocked at my own agility and good fortune. Nearly to the top, I begin to think about a way to exit my “sprint” phase so as to seem nonchalant to those who are still waiting to step on the bus and those looking out the window on the bus. (yes, I am that concerned about strangers' opinions sometimes)



As I find a solid purchase for my right foot in one of my last lunges up the hill, I realize that my left foot has somehow found its way through my brief-case shoulder strap which I am carrying in my right hand. Not to be slowed or have my epic up-hill journey marred, I power off my right foot to gain a little elevation and attempt to remove my left foot from the loop like stepping out of a jump rope (this looked really easy in my mind). As I came over the top of the hill and onto the sidewalk, my foot got caught on the strap, pulling the strap and my briefcase to the ground and my body forward. As I was in a moving fast, I begin to trip as well, kind like someone who gets there foot hung in their pants or underwear and started hopping around – except also while running. After I covered about 15-ft of the Bus Aisle hopping and leaping trying to get my strap dislodged from in between foot and between my legs, I get a picture in my head of this overweight, out-of-shape, bald-guy with his bag tangled around his knees and between his legs hopping, hobbling in between lunging across a bus aisle. As this image is rolling across my mind, I trip and crane forward and rammed my face into the side of the bus. I felt the whole bus move.



Now I want you to imagine … sitting on a bus, and idly panning your vision out the window next to you. And in the space of 5-seconds or so you see this 250-lb wild-man come sprinting up a hill, then start thrashing about appearing to be strangling his own briefcase, then take three giant one-footed leaps across the street, and try to tackle the bus your sitting on…



After I shook off the head trauma, I laughed out-load and walked around the front of the bus. As I walked on the bus, still smiling, no one said anything to me or looked at me. As I sat down – this grandmotherly woman sitting next to the window, leaned over to me, a little unsure, and said “… I’ve never seen anything like that before …”.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Love Unofferred, Love Unvoiced, Love Unshown

So. It has been a long time.

I'm at my father's house in Chicago. My sister and I came out here the weekend before Thanksgiving to try and go through things in the house that were Mom's, seperating out things that should be kept in the family, things that she would've wanted to give to others, things for us, things to be kept, things to be given to Good Will, things to be thrown out.

We came knowing that it would be hard, or at least I did. I came thinking that it wouldbe hard. It has been, though not, perhaps, in the way that I would've expected. Shannon and mom were closer than mom and I were, and so she knows more about what "things", antiques, and "stuff" is in the house than I do. What are things from Grandparents, and great-grandpatents, and what were things that were just picked up on a "junking" spree with Carla. Shannon had already gone through most of Mom's clothes and most of her Bedroom things before I got here. I'm sure that was tough for her.

Honestly, though there are a few exceptions, the "things" in the house are just things, and they don't hold very much sentimental value for me. Like I said there are a few exceptions - paintings that she did or "things" that she really loved. Some of those things I recognize are things that should be kept, but that I couldn't imagine having "out" in my house as the sadness of their presence is almost tangible.

I came, really, looking for books in which she had written copius notes, and sunday school lessons she had written out long-hand (an old practice she got further and further away from I think). I wanted to get everything I could find that was a result of her pen, pencil, brush, pen, pastel, crayon, etc., on paper. I sortof understood why - it was personal - something SHE had written, something she had touched by way of her putting something she had thought or felt down on paper.

In going through filing cabinets, and stacks of paper (whatever was left after Carla had made an initial pass, throwing away what she felt were scraps and things of no value), I found all kinds of things I wasn't looking for, and a few things I was. And I came to a startling recognition.

As I was going through reams of stuff in the filing cabinets, I came across (Someone had set the package aside before I got here) a white envelope like those you would generally find pictures in, as they come from a developer/phonto-mat. I picked up the package, and pulled from it one of several pictures inside. I turned it over, and it was a black-and-white picture of mom. She was in a suit, not a suit I particularly remember, but in this picture - she was beautiful. She had a wonderful real smile, as if she had been in true laughter when they took the picture, and a sparkle in her eyes that she had when she smiled for true. Her hair was very pretty - simple, and the best hair-style I think she ever had (mom wasnever satisfied with any hair-style and was constantly a slave to the perverbial greener grass). The picture had been taken for work - it was a portrait, and so there weren't any gaudy or rediculous backdrops, and nothing else in the perifery to distract; it was just her. Mom struggled with her weight for as long as I can remember, but in this picture, she looked healthy, and happy, and she looked beautiful - and I was shocked when I saw it. It has been so long since I saw mom looking healthy, and happy, and full of energy, and vibrance, and so long since I had seen even a picture of her at "her-best" that I was shocked at how beutiful she was. The picture was taken while she was with IMC Global, and was not more than 12-years old.

In the moments I stood in relative shock looking at the picture, a storm of emotion swept through me. First I was shocked - that was clear and present, really throughout. But on the heals of shock - there were other things; some that make perfect sense, and some that do-not. I was proud of how pretty she looked. I was ashamed that I had forgotten, or not been aware of how pretty she was. I was sad ... so sad I thought that the weight in my heart might steal the light from the room. And a tumult of things roiling in the passing of a small fraction of a moment.

And then, I had a thought ... that was clear. Something that rose out of the storm, clear and crisp, and true, and terrible. "...surely, there can be nothing sadder than things left unsaid...". I was startled at the clarity of the thought, as a nanosecond before I had been thrashing about in an emotional confusion like having been tossed by a wave in the surf. Then this thought, like a clear beacon through the twisting clouds. As I looked at the picture, and as I dwelt on the thought - it became clearer still. I thought of all the things times I had seen her in the last years and not loved her enough. How many times I had heald close to the ways I surmised she was wrong, or weak, or unfair, or unwise, or any number of things that she "wasn't", such that I didn't welcome, or comfort, or soothe, or love in any obvious way. Its not that I didn't love her inside. I loved her very much in my heart, but the doing; it was raspy, and challenging, and shearing, and brusque, and harsh, and cold. And, now I am broken, and my heart is full, and tender, and the loving kindness that I should have been heaping upon this beautiful woman in this picture, is present and warm and alive; but she is not.

My mother died. The knowledge is there. The image of her breathing her last in this world is a picture that I don't think will ever wane in my mind, and yet I see this picture of her, and I can't believe it. There is all this love in my heart, all this warmth, and joy - the same joy I see sparkling in her eyes in this picure - but there is no-one there, and I realize the time I was given to share it is past, and it can't be recovered. But it's all there. All the love. Every memory of every wonderful thing she was, and everything I should have said, and everything I should have done, and every way that I should have tried to show her. Its all there, and it's too late. So where does it go? A breaking heart is no destination for a truth that has broken it. The truth, and the love that breaks the heart is palpable, I can feel it threatening to squeeze the heart from me even now. Where does it go? Does it hide in the smoke and dust of the battle between heartache and duty, to steal your strength when faced with a phontogragh, or a smell, or a melody? Does it act as a catalyst and make a heart hard and dark and sad and cold? Does it act like ash in a scorched and blackened landscape, adding to soil what it needs most?

My heart has known pain. Pain in a funhouse mirror where it seems a mere fraction of what it should have been, and some seeming so large from something so small that it would threaten to burst the heart that felt it. This pain is large, and made larger because there is nothing to be done with it. There is no heartfelt reconcilliation that can be made. No grand gesture aimed at ammends. There is no way, at least in specifics, to take "the lesson learned" and apply it to the future, as there will never be another Mother for me, and the things which seem minor variences and differences between relationships are as great cavernous chasms over which there is no path. Certainly there are lessons to be learned ... but what to do with what is in this heart now for no-other than the one who is no longer here?

I think that there is nothing sadder than love for one that is unrealized, unshared, unsaid, unshown. Like a loving mother who loses her child - a life-full of love that has no-where to go. Or love from a son for a mother - a life-time of love, a rushing tumult like that released from a dam, having no-where to go.

All this, in moments I spent looking at those eyes, that smile, that beautiful woman in the picture.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Here Am I Lord - Part 2.

The post below is the lyrics to the Hymn: "Here Am I Lord".

I love that Hymn. As much as I love the Hymn in its entirity, I love the Chorus.

Whome shall I send?

Here am I Lord. Is it I Lord? I will go, Lord, if you lead me.

"Here am I Lord"

First in the Bible by Abraham in Genesis. Then by Moses, at the bush. Then by Samuel, and Saul, and Isaiah, and fianlly by Ananias. In every case, God calls out to a person, and the person responds.

I think most people associate the song with Chapter 6 of Isaiah, and rightly so I think, as the rest of the song matches well what is communicated in that chapter of scrupture. But the words and usage, recognition and situation associated with the words "Here am I Lord" are more universal than application or reflection of any single scripture, or person, or account.

There is recognition in that "response". A recognition of who it is that is calling, and there is no doubt. The Lord calls.

There is desire. You can almost see it. A man, perched on the edge, leaning out, looking up, reaching ... It's the image of every believer, the image of their true selves, though many of us forget it.

And specifically in the case of Isaiah, the "Here am I Lord" is not a response to question, but instead to a need. Isaiah, sees the Father grieving, and there is a question, but it's not clear if it was asked of Isaiah, or God asking Himself as if speaking alowed. See the vision Isaiah recieves implies that it was God's intent that he hear the question, and thus implied that it is a question to which he needs consider. Given all that though, Isaiah responds, as if the Father did not bring Isaiah to exactly where he was witnessing the Father in the temple, "Here am I!". Then "Send me." You see Isaiah, wanting to do whatever, wherever, whenever - if it is the Father's will, and in His Will that a man should be an instrument of that Will, then Isaiah needed nothing else. If the Father had said, "...who's life will be taken...", I think Isaiah would hav responded the same way, "...Here I am...", "...take me..., if it is Thy will that it should be so...". I think that because at the believer's heart, the same desire is there for all. That, by my life or death, God's will and Glory above all. Love drives it. Love so great, and with no greater model than the Son that died to save us, that there is no greater desire than to to be called by the Father to whatever end. To go. To speak. To stand. To run. To die.

I am undone. I am unclean. I am imperfect. I am a sinner, and the holy, holy, holy Father sees my sinful heart. He saw Isaiah too, and still Isaiah became his instrument. So am I, though I know not to what end. I cut through the world around me, time and people and matter passing by with greater and greater urgency and I speak when I can, I love as I can, I stand where I can, and I run as I can, and I wait. I see the glory of the Lord all around me, in every drop of rain, and in every moment of warmth from the Sun, and in every breath of wind that blows past my face, and in my heart - the heart of who I am in Christ - I reach for the Father, and every beat of my heart echoes across the canyons of my life with, "...here am I, Lord...", "Is it I lord?", "...send me...".

Since the moment I woke from the sleep to which I was born, I have been asking, in my heart. "...is it I Lord...", "...is this work for me, Father?", "...I will go Lord, if you lead me...".

And so, Here I am. Still reaching. Still praying, in my heart, to be called. Still. Always.

Here Am I Lord. Is It I Lord?

I, the Lord of sea and sky
I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save:

I who made the stars and night
I will make the darkness bright
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord
Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart

I the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people's pain,
I have wept for love of them,
They turn away...

I will break their hearts of stone
Fill their hearts with love alone
I will speak my word to them
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord
Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord
If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart

I, the Lord of wind and flame
I will tend the poor and lame
I will set a feast for them
My hand will save:

Finest bread I will provide
Till their hearts be satisfied
I will give my life to them
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord
Is it I Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go Lord If you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Few Words About My Mother


Much of what I have read in the last days regarding Mom’s death has been by people who were touched by her efforts with the Chemical Safety Board, and who knew her passion for what she accomplished in her career. The outpouring there has been beautiful, and would have made her blush in pride I think.

But she was so much more than the person who was so passionate and engaged in standing for worker safety, and industrial compliance. She was a mother, and a friend, and a glowing grandmother, and a wife, and a sister, and a force that pulled people together in love wherever she went. It seemed that there was a significant gap in the remembrances, and though I am unequal to the task of filling the gap, I thought at least I would try to offer some perspective, about who mom was to me.

God gave mom the desire to make a difference in the world she lived and worked in. Mom put her whole self into everything she did, and was committed to being mentally and emotionally present wherever she was and in whatever role she found herself.

She was a great mother. When Shannon and I were growing up, she made sure that we did the things that kids want to do. She was a Girl Scout leader when Shannon was in scouts, and loved to plan and take the troop on trips. She would take the troop (and me when I was just a little terror) to do things all over the Copper Basin that introduced the kids to the history, and culture, and quality of the region (though she was a Yankee-transplant). She would come to my school and tell stories to my elementary school classes; Uncle Remus, Grandfather Tales, and Jack Tales. Stories that had their roots in the South, and Southeast. She would take Shannon and I to monthly events in Ducktown, , called “Circle L”, where people who had grown up in the area would tell short stories, and folktales set in and about the Copper Basin. When Shannon was in the youth group at church, Mom volunteered to teach the kids at Sunday school, but also to plan and takes trips with the youth (again, taking me as the younger irritating tagalong whenever she could). When Shannon’s senior Spanish class went to Europe, Mom volunteered to go with them as an adult leader. She played tag around the church-yard with me, and took me on long trips to a grocery store more than an hour away from home, just to have time alone with me.

While she was managing solid waste and waste treatment, learning and navigating the shoals of industrial practice in the early part of her career, she was engaged as a wife, and a mother, and a friend, community enthusiast, and Sunday School teacher. That’s just who she was. When she saw a need or an opportunity that she felt her kids should have, she found time to get involved personally to make certain that things were as good as they could be. We didn’t have it all, but we went, and did, and experienced, and laughed, and had lives which were fuller because she made it a priority to do what she could.

When the mine and the chemical plant in Copper Basin began to diminish, and a navigable future there began to look questionable, Mom found her 1st position with Champion International Paper in Connecticut. She moved there and we followed after. The needs of the family meant that she had to work more and travel more than she wanted, but she continued to be present in my life as she was able. She didn’t work to have more, but instead to see that the family had enough. She still taught Sunday School, and she loved being involved in the church. She came to Lacrosse games, and planned church picnics, and helped me type school papers at 2:00 in the morning. And, as much as anything else, even when she traveled, she would always take my call.

It wasn’t just my call though. My cousins, and Aunts and Uncles, and people who found their way into her path, and people she purposed to find … she invested in people; anyone that would allow her to do with or for them. She poured herself into people with her time, and her compassion, and her resources to give them opportunity, and joy, and perspective. And what’s really amazing, was that often the people she invested in, people to whom she gave freely of herself and her resources, took without thanks, and were capricious and apathetic about the heart-and-soul investment that mom had made in their lives, and even threw back at her, her care and love, time and wisdom, and hurt her to her core. Even those of us who should have been closest to her, and known better. Even me. And still she gave. She invested, and sought out people. That is a God-given strength, behind a God-given mission to have God-inspired compassion on a world that rebels against God. And she loved to do it.

Mom loved the Church. She was always reading. When it wasn’t reams of (to me anyway) mind-numbing briefs and regulations and so-forth for work, she was reading C.S. Lewis, Bonhoeffer, and William Barklay, John Calvin, Oswald Chambers, Martin Luther, Max Lucado, Phillip Yancey, and hosts of others (I think C.S. Lewis was her favorite, and she said that “The great Divorce” gave her a great deal of comfort). My mother ran the race. She may not have always chosen the correct path (if such a thing exists), and she wasn’t perfect, but her whole life she never stopped running the race she felt God had called her to run. She loved to learn, and as long as she was learning she was willing to teach others what she knew, and willing to talk to anyone about what she suspected. She taught with patience, and passion, and humility, and more important, she listened the same way. I never saw her teach a Sunday School class as an adult, and forever I will wish that I have been able to learn more from her about how to teach and interact with people so that they are engaged and involved and interested. She really had such a gift for that.

God’s hand on mom’s life was the thing that made her who she was. I think she would say that was true. She was God’s very special daughter. She was a heart full of hope and laughter and compassion and generosity for every story before her. She was the very heart and smile of every family holiday. She was a warm and steady light in the storm. She was a million wonderful thoughts stretching beyond the horizon, and with all that was wonderful about her and with all the ways that she touched the world and all the amazing things she accomplished – to me, she was my most loving mother.

Carolyn Merritt died August 29th, 2008 in St. Louis, Missouri. She was 61.

She was the wife of one man, and a mother to two, and a grandmother to two.

She was a sister to four.

She is survived by her father, her sisters and brother, her husband, children, and grandchildren.

She loved her life and lived to love. She touched the world. She finished the race.

I love you Mom

Friday, August 29, 2008

With the Father

My mother died today. She died at 12:45.

We arrived about 9:15 in her room (Sha, Dad, GC, and I) and she seemed to be taking very deliberate, almost gasping breaths. Her eyes would open wide with each inhale, and her exhales were raspy as if she were puhing her air out through water or moisture at the back of her throat. As she was struggling to breath, there was a nurse there who had attended her many times through her hospitalizations, and who knew her, and who was trying to make her comfortable. She would not or could not respond to any of our voices.

We were all pretty upset by what we were seeing, an hearing with her struggle - which apparently had begun not long before our arrival. Her body was stuggling to move with every breath she could grasp, and her face looked as if every move was painful. Dr. Wabash had told us that as her body shut down, that kind of reflexive breathing was normal, wasn't painful, and was just a sign that her life was nearly spent. Just the same, it was very difficult to see, and we all requested that they try to make her more comfortable, and ease her pain, with some morphine - which they did.

After a while, she seemed to be more calm. Her breath continued to be somwhat labored, but she did not seem to be in pain. From the moment we got there, her eyes never really registerred that we were there, and she couldn't seem to speak any words. It seemed she was sleeping, but her eyes were open.

After we could recognize that she seemed more calm, we all sat near her, holding her hands, and talking with eachother about her. About the way that she seemed to reach peaople, and about the way that she had touched the people who worked with her at the Hospital. We each had moments holding her hands, holding her feet, hugging her and kissing her head. As time passed, her breathing gradually slowed.

Looking around the room, we each would have climbed into her bed could have managed it, just to be able to hold her - it was on all of our faces. The look of people who love a person ehnough to not be able to imagine life and living without them, and knowing at the same time that they are drifing away. My Dad sat by her side mostly, and Sha on the other. GC and I circulating , and taking moments we found to be able to hold her hand, and hug her.

In a moment that Dad got up to walk over on to the window, I sat next to Mom, and held her hand, and kissed her cheek. Her beaths were coming now with long gaps in betwean them. I looked her in the eye, and it seemed like she reisterred me. I looked into her eyes for a moment, tears in my own and tried to love a lifetime in that look. The corner of her mouth curled up either in a smile or at the very begining of a Weber-sad moment, and I said outloud that we all loved her. Looking at me, she breathed a quick weakend breath - and then she did not breath again.

I looked over at Dad, and rose out of the chair, so he could sit with her. He bent at the waist with his eyes on her hand, and wept aloud for a time. He leaned over her, with tears heavy in his eyes, and kissed her on her cheek many times. We each of us, took a moment to hold her, to kiss her cheek, and to love on her one moment more.

I think the last moment where Mom looked at me was one of two things. In her last moment, she either glipsed the open arms of Jesus, pulling her on or she looked at me as was sad to the point of tears (weber tears are those accomponied with something, that if not for a red face and tears, would look like a strained smile) for having not been able to be here for her family. She loved her family. Perhaps in that last moment she considered everything in my life, in our lives, that she wouldn't be able to celebrate with us, or mourn with us, or guide us through the best she knew how. Or, perhaps, she smiled, seeing God - and his comfort, and joy, and the celebration of the angesls and saints, at knowing that one who had finished the race, was coming home. Perhaps it was both, in the same moment.

Courage has many faces. But at the heart of many faces of courage, is facing pain. Knowing that your heart may be broken, knowing that pain will come, and stepping forward when all logic and reason would tell you step away. Knowing the pain is coming, knowing that it may be something that changes you forever and not knowing who you will be on the other side, and deciding to stand where you are - next to someone you love who is dying, and by those who stand near you, suffering in ways and dimentions maybe greater than your own, so that the one who is dying will know - if they can - that you are there, and they are not alone; and so that the others, who carry the weight of the remainder of their lives without the presence of the passing one they love, know they need not carry it alone.

It is not a celebrated courage. There are no monuments, like those that honor conquered geography, or tyranny, or opression, or violence, or obsticles, or so many other things that are recorded for the world to see. But there it is. I may have been able to see my way through to that before, but now I know it. I have seen it in my sister, and my Father, and in mom's best friend, and in me.

Thank you, to those of you pray, and have prayed for me and my family - in moments here and there, and in earnest with passion. Thank you.

Mom-

I love you. I cannot tell you here, or there, how I will miss you. In every happy moment I will think on you, and know that you are with the Father, and with all the saints which have gone before you, laughing, and chearing, and smiling with us, as if to warm further already lauphing hearts. In every moment of sadness, I will think back to the courage you showed me to mourn, to feel pain pass into and through me, to rest on the Rock, and to know that you cannot both live and run from the wind. I miss you every day. I will love you always. I will try to live in a way that makes God and you proud of me. I will try to love my wife in a way that will make you smile.

I love you so much.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another Blow

Today I asked to have some time with Mom alone.

I was supposed to be a big day. We have been waiting all weekend to talk with a social workor that works at the Hospital. She was, according to the on-call social workor we spoke with on Saturday, supposed to have list of the options available to us for "long term" nursing care which were covered by Mom's insurance. We had been given a Hospice pamphlet by a rep on Friday, and a booklet of various homes, facilities, and care options. But because we were going to meet with a social worker with a narrowed-down list, I didn't look too closely at it (Dad looked at it and said that it was hard to make heads or tails from the "facilities" booklet). When we walked into the hospital we went into Mom's room to see if she was awake - but she wasn't awake, so we went looking for the floor social-worker. They paged the social worker when we asked, and we went to sit in the loby-like area near the elevators. As we were waiting I asked Dad to see the "facilites" booklet, and the Hospice pamphlet. I learned a few things about Hospice that I didn't know - that Hospice was a "final transition" organization, that mainly is in the business of making terminally ill patients who are in the final days as physically, emotionally, and spiritually comfortable as possible - and where pain, infection, etc. are concerned, they will manage discomfort and pain with medications they can use without saline IV's - but thats it. I guess I always thought Hospice was like a full-time nurse, present, to administer whatever treatment battery that was being used to battle whatever the illness is, as long as the patient wishes, to whatever end the doctors and patiens wish. But that is not the case. Hospice, though they are on-cal 24/7 will normally visit 3-4 times per week, and will clean-up the patient, and talk with her, and will comfort her, and bathe her, and do what they can to manage the patients pain - and do nothing to extend or shorten the patients life. This became clear to me a few moments before the social worker and Hospice Rep approached Dad and I, after responding to our page.

The convesation began with introductions, and Dad standing up next to tables and chairs.
I suggested that the conversation we needed to have was likely longer than what Dad's questions and the representatives needs to communicate with us could endure with us all standing, and that maybe we should all sit down. To which I was immediately met with "slap-you eye", and cuffed with something close on the order of "I want to stand so I can see her lips and understand her better - if that alright with you-". I stood up and walked around the corner - can't remember for what now - and when I came back the social worker and the Hospice rep were seated, and Dad was standing opposite them, looming. I seated myself next to them and listened. Eventually it became apparent that the Social workor did not have the information that we were told that she would, she did not know anything about Mom's specific insurance benefits, and that we had an understanding of Mom's medical needs in terms of an IV and nursing staff to administer her Chemo, etc, that seemed to come as surprise to them. Dad and I indicated (Dad had communicated to me what the last meeting with Mom, He, and Dr. Wabash had discussed) that she would need to be monitored regularly for blood chemistrly, that she would need electrolytes and other treatments she was currently recieving at the hospital to continue wherever she was finally moved. To which the Rep and the social worker responded with confusion.

The meeting ended with our telling them that we needed to talk with Mom's doctor, and that until we had a more solid understanding of Mom's nursing and care needs we really couldn't identify what facilites were appropriate. The social worker agreed that was a good idea. She gave us her card, and asked us to give her a call when we had a chance to get things figured out with Mom's doctor.

I asked Dad if I could stay with Mom for the rest of the afternoon - and he graciously let me have that alone time with her.

A few hours later, several nurses came in and were going to clean Mom up, and change her mattress, and do some other, necessary, and very compromising maintenance on her. I excused myself, and was on my way to the Lobby area when a very nice Doctor asked if she could chat with me.

She introduced herself to me, again (I had met her the a few days before, she recognized me) again, and indicated that she was in the last meeting Dr. Wabash had with Mom and Dad, when Mom's mental state was sure enough to make decisions. She indicated that the decision Dr. Wabash and she understood that Mom had come to, was that she was done with treatment and wanted to be as comfortable as possible until she passed. Wide eyed - I told her that Dad had indicated to me - and mom in the few moments of Lucid conversation we had on Friday - that her liver Chemo was still being administered in order to retard the loss of her mental acuity as much as possible. She said, that at the meeting, it was clear to both she and Dr Wabash, that mom wanted no further treatment of any kind. **I think the Hospice Rep and the Social Worker spoke with this doctor earlier, and that the questions we were asking about long term nursing care didn't match the terminus of treatment which was being respected. At any rate - she said that Mom's condition was worsening rapidlym that there had been no indication that the chemo treamants mom had ben recieving were affective at all on the cancer in her liver, that the Lactilose which was preserving some of her mental acuity before was no longer working like it should, that mom's weakness was progressing, and as of this morning they had discovered that Mom was in renal-failure. She said, that she suspected the direness of the situation had not gotten through to Dad for one reason or another, and that with the news that her kidneys were failing, that it seemed Mom would not last much longer, and that it would behoove her to get her wherever she wanted to be for her last days (Mom asked to be at Shannon's house near Shannon and the grandkids (Mom LOVES her grandkids - and forever one of the saddest things in my life will be that those kids won't know her, and that my kids - shoudld we ever be able to have any -won't ever laugh with her, or feel the warmth of a hug from their grandmother).

This was all very difficult to hear, and very much a shock. I thanked her for her courage to talk with me, and give me some very bad news in order to try to halt some very dangerous confusion. I gave her my cell number and asked her to call Dr. Wabash, to see if she could meet with Shannon, Dad, and me ASAP. I then walked back to the condo, called Shannon - leaving a message that she should call me back ASAP - and went into talk to Dad. Which I wish I could say went smoothly - but which, in fact, looked like Sherman's march to the sea when complete.

Last Friday I was sad that Mom was talking with us about her final days, which Shannon and I understood to be many weeks away. This weekend I was sad to watch Mom struggling in her own mind, and sad that our time seemed to be slipping away from us. Today I am sad that even those hopeful weeks seem have been snapped away, and it is days left , not to talk with our mother whom we love so dearly, but left to hold the hand of the woman whom we love so much while there is a little warmth left in them, and with almost no idea whether she even knows we are there.

I was with her for a few hours today. I prayed for her, and held her hand. I put chap stick on her lips, and gave her water. She opend her eyes wide in a rush, and tightened her grip on my hand in hers, and she said, "I love you Matthew". I told her that I knew she loved me, and I loved her too. By the time I finished those few words, her eyes were lost again, and I was as heartbroken as I have ever been in my life that that may be the last time I heard those words from her.