The Blessing of Epiphany

Blessings in disguiseDoug felt extremely short of breath and weak after simply making his bed. He checked his blood pressure and heart rate. His vitals were crazy. We were in the emergency room at St Luke’s in less than an hour.

This blog is about what I learned as yet another day skidded off the rails. It was Saturday and we’d planned a day of normal errands. A real treat for us.  The afternoon was reserved for the Chief’s game at my brother’s house.

Heart issues buy you a ticket in the fast lane at the ER. They took us back to an unusually large, remarkably pleasant room with a private bathroom and recliner as well as several comfortable chairs.  Soon Doug was hooked up for an EKG – no shaving necessary since two days before he spent the day in the hospital for a cardioversion which was supposed to shock his heart into normal rhythm.  The monitor showed him flipping in and out of normal sinus rhythm with high heart rates – up to 140. They inserted an IV, probably his 500th in the past three years even though they never had to use it.

The recent problems with his heart came a few weeks after our Christmas miracle. On December 24, Doug visited his cardiologist. Everything looked great, meds were discontinued with a prediction of low chances that problems would recur.  We couldn’t stop grinning. We moved past it to focus on a cure for his excruciating foot pain, and surgery to remove squamous cell cancer spots from his cheek.  Hope dared us to dream of a new med allowing him to taper off prednisone.

Sitting in that room waiting to find out what came next, and dreading another hospital stay, I passed into a mental void that allowed me to be so numb that I surrendered some last shreds of something I can’t find a word for. I’ve been fighting the notion we need to thank God for all things. I couldn’t authentically thank Him for things like the myriad problems that endlessly bombard us with Doug’s health issues.  Suddenly it seemed silly not to obey.

My second epiphany came as we waited for Doug to be moved to a regular hospital room for observation. He was discouraged and ready to go home since his heart seemed to settle down on its own. I realized I had a purpose. What greater worth can any life serve than to support a loved one, a child of God struggling through what life has dumped on him.

I’m not comfortable with these two new insights yet, and they don’t make me smile, but I’ve experienced a shift that may keep me calmer and saner. For that I’m grateful. I won’t be disappointed if Doug is healed and we can resume a healthy active life of easily recognizable blessings, but that mystery is out of my hands. In the meantime, I’ll look for the blessings in our current path and know that some of them will be well disguised.

Blessings Make the Impossible Possible

RozMy mother-in-law, Roz,  came to live in Kansas City five months ago.  We set her up in a lovely assisted living residence. Soon it became apparent she would need more care. Her dementia began a rapid decline and our plans evaporated. She required Memory Care Skilled Nursing.

January 2, 2016, Roz passed away. Caring for her with Doug’s chronic health issues and my need for a hip replacement was complicated. We weren’t able to give her the time and attention she deserved. Watching her decline and preparing ourselves for her death seemed impossible.  The last few weeks were heartbreaking. Extenuating circumstances left me to visit her alone much of the time.

There were many small blessings along the way, including concerned friends and family, but the ones that made this impossible time of life possible for us to move through were her caregivers. Caris Hospice was present for us at all times. The level of loving care that the nurses, aide and chaplain administered to Roz and to us was unexpected.  They were professional and competent, but that was the least of their gifts. They all offered us as much time and attention as we needed. In this world where visits with family and friends are rarely spontaneous and open-ended,  the hospice staff acted as though we were their only purpose in life. Constantly they invited, “If you need anything, call or text any time. We’re here for you.”

Their strength, kind words and presence helped me visit when it was very difficult to see Roz as she became unable to eat or drink, losing weight and strength daily. Their tender care with constant awareness to treating Roz with dignity and gentleness awed me. They made being a part of this impossible process possible for me.

After it was over, and it still seems surreal, I wrote this poem.

Empty Room

The room where she died is empty.
Maintenance will ready it for a new resident.

The last of her possessions rest in our garage.
To be sorted and picked through.

A few boxes, sparse sticks of furniture
pictures and books – all that’s left of a lifetime.

Relatives take what they want.
The rest donated to benefit strangers.

What’s the point to life without memories.