Saturday, October 30, 2010

To Sir, With Love

The father of a friend of mine passed away yesterday, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer just a few months back. Her family knew this day would come, but it's always sooner than later isn't it?

I heard someone say that she "was prepared" for his imminent death. How on earth can anyone possibly prepare for the death of their father? The very thought of losing my own dad causes me great anxiety and sadness for a day that I know will eventually come. I pray that it comes much later than sooner.

I see death quite often in my line of work. I see the pain that is left with the families and I can only imagine what picking up the pieces will entail. I understand that death is a part of the poetic circle of life, but rationally I find it hard to process when it pertains to my own flesh and blood.

Years ago my father had a heart attack. While he was lying in a Cardiac Cath Lab in Central Texas, I sat helpless, some 1500 miles away in the back room of the record store that I was managing at the time in Northern Virginia.

Long hours passed and thoughts of despair filled my mind as his life passed before my eyes.

Thankfully, my father is a stubborn old goat and it just wasn't "his time to go."

There is a funny story behind all of this, that ultimately opened the door to my medical career, but that is best saved for another time.

I visited my dad in Texas the following month. One afternoon we headed out for lunch, just he and I in the car. I think he planned it that way because he knew that there was no means of escape. It happened between country songs on the radio, it was the moment that I first came to terms with the fact that my dad was not the immortal superhero that I'd always envisioned.

In his slow, southern drawl he said to me, "Sugar, what happened to me was serious and one of these days it might happen again, since you are the oldest, I am leaving you in charge to pull the plug when that time comes."

Needless to say, my first reaction was to burst into tears. I feverishly begged him over and over to "stop talking about it," while waving my hands wilding in front of my face.

I was nowhere near being ready for that talk, he understood that and upheld my wishes. The mere thought of it was unfathomable and there was no way that he or anyone could have convinced me otherwise at the time. I was still blubbering as we walked into the restaurant.

In the years since then, I studied Emergency Medicine and became a Paramedic. I have grown to understand, respect and accept death with a bit more clarity.

I know the time will come one day. From a logical standpoint, I am prepared, but there is no way in hell that I can emotionally get to that same level. It will be one of the worst moments of my life.

For now I choose not to mourn the inevitable, instead I will cherish the time that we do have. In my eyes he is still the greatest superhero to have walked the earth in his nerdy leather Top Siders, shoes that only a true mortal could wear.

I know now and in the hereafter that I am loved with all of his heart and he with mine.

I am quite sure that my friend experienced the same lifetime of love with her own father. I hope that he is in a good place smiling down upon her, waiting with open arms for the next time they meet.

Once again I borrow a quote from my wise friend, my own personal little Buddha...

"Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy." - Eskimo Proverb

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Miss My Friend

Dear David,

Today marks the anniversary of your passing, it is hard for me to accept that you've been gone for five years. I still miss you every day.

Thank you for looking out for me from above. Even though I can't explain it, I know that you are here with me. Thank you for the feathers. I know, I collection of them is everywhere. In my car console, my wallet, my makeup bag, in envelopes, in coat pockets & in suitcases.

I know that you must be so disgusted by the poor organization of them all, if it were you, I know that they'd all be placed perfectly in that shadowbox that houses a majority of them. You know, no matter how hard I tried, I never had your glorious flair.

When I think of you, my mind goes back to three memories of the weeks before your passing.

1. The late night phone call that you made to me the month before you died. God I wish I could have done more, I wished that I had known all the pain you were feeling inside. I run our conversation over & over in my mind to this very day, analyzing it for clues that I might have missed, but there were none, you covered your tracks too well & put on a brave, happy face, the way you always did.

2. You, me & Christine walking through the mall after lunch. Someone asked that if we could only wear one outfit for the rest of our lives, what would it be? You said an Equestrian riding outfit, complete with the boots & helmet. What made that image even funnier is that you had no interest in horseback riding. I picture you in heaven wearing that outfit, strolling through the clouds, looking ever so fabulous.

3. The Sunday before you left me, we had Cheesecake together. I had the banana cream pie cheesecake, which sadly they don't make anymore & you had had the Adam's peanut butter cheesecake. We laughed that day, as we had done so many times in the past. Little did I know that would be the last time I'd ever see your beautiful face.

Every time that I go into the trauma bay at work I think of you. I wonder what you looked like laying on that stretcher. What did they do to you? I know how a code works, I have participated in many in that very room. How long did the staff perform CPR on you before the Doctor called your time of death?

I still struggle with it as if it were yesterday.

I hope you are up there with your mother having a gay old time (no pun intended).

I miss you & love you from here to the moon & back.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Secrets That You Keep

As a Healthcare worker, there is a certain code that I and every one of my colleagues must follow. HIPAA laws require that we keep patient information private and secure.

It would be foolish to say that we don't talk about some of what we encounter on a daily basis, especially the weird stuff, but by not disclosing the names or other personal information of the patients somehow makes it feel alright.

Talking it out helps to diffuse difficult situations, make sense of the tragic cases and at times just plain makes for good comedy.

No matter how we dissect it with our laymen friends and family, they will never truly know the sum of all the parts. There are some visions and emotions that can't be seen or felt unless you were there.

Standing in the trauma bay over a body who you've preformed countless cycles of CPR on when the time of death has been called by the physician, holding your tongue around the mother and father who have brought their child in, knowing all along that it was them that caused the physical harm, talking with a patient just moments before they "crash," watching the pain in a loved ones eyes as they uphold the patient's "Do Not Resuscitate" wishes, watching helplessly as blood pours from a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head of an adolescent.

Every day brings a new experience and every day I am witness to privileged information. Images and feelings that will stay with me forever.

These are the secrets that we keep.

It is easy for me to understand how many in the profession become jaded and detached from the emotional aspect of the job. In a way I am almost envious.

I lack that ability.

There are mornings that I get into my car after a 12 hour night shift and cry all the way home. There are times that I can't sleep because of the emotional beat down I have taken. There are times when a traumatic event randomly pops into my mind, usually at the most inconvenient of times.

It is painful and messy and dysfunctional, but in the end I wouldn't want it any other way. We feel the bad times in order to truly appreciate the good ones, at least that is how things work in my mind.

Some say that people get into healthcare because they have an inherent need to fix others because we lack something inside to fix ourselves.

It is like giving out great advice without actually taking it.

Lord knows I ain't perfect. I could easily define myself as a real fixer-upper, but knowing that I can contribute to the healing process of someone else is a true gift.

I knew what I was getting myself in to when I signed up, it can be brutal. I can't tell you how many times people have said to me, "It takes a special person to do what you do" or  "There is no way I could do your job."

It reminds me that I am one of those "special" people who can.

So I will continue to keep those secrets, revealing only tiny bits and pieces of them in an effort to maintain my own piece of mind. I will continue to hope for the best while accepting the worst, knowing that reward is out there in the smile of those I have helped along the way.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


There are few things better in this world then breakfast at IHOP at 3:00 in the morning with friends.

Good conversation, lots of laughs (because everything is funny at 3 am) and strawberry covered pancakes.

A tiny slice of perfection.

That being said, I can't help but to dumb it down a little and take dining out to an adolescent level. Every time I eat at IHOP I automatically think of something that I heard long ago on "The Don & Mike Show."

In a bit where listeners called in and tried to make the duo laugh, I recall one of the few times that it actually worked. Don & Mike both cracked up and the caller won some fabulous prize.

How did he do it? By simply asking the pair to spell out IHOP followed by the word "ness" three times.

Go on, try it. You know you want to!


It makes me giggle with delight and proves, without a doubt, that I have the mentality of a 13 year old boy.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Feathery Goodness

I received a package for my birthday from my mother in the mail the other day.

When I opened it I found a variety of gift cards, a bright pink envelope that held the perfect "Mother to Daughter" birthday greeting and a plain white envelope with my mom's handwriting on it that read, "I found this right outside the Hallmark store as I was leaving from buying your card."

I instantly knew exactly what was inside.

Instead of opening it, I held it up to the sun so that I could see the silhouette of it's contents.

There it was... a feather.

I burst into bittersweet tears right there on the sidewalk.

David remembered my birthday and as I wrote about on September 3rd, "Perching The Soul," he had found a way to send me some love on my special day.

As I have previously stated, I find feathers in the oddest places at points in my life that I need a bit of inspiration, but other than that first feather that Trish gave to me that sad day of David's funeral, no one else had ever "found" one for me.

I love that my mother was used as a vessel and that she remembered and cared enough to stop and pick it up for me.

The feather thing is something quirky that I thought I only understood, but David added a new dynamic to it all by hitching a ride with my mother's birthday greeting that originated some 200 miles away.

It has been almost five years since his death, but our relationship continues to thrive through alternate means of communication.

Through David's feathery messages,  I am reminded of good and helped through the bad.

At the end of the day, I am filled with hope.