From the archives …
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It’s been awhile, nearly a month actually, since I’ve been written some thoughts. How have you been? I’ve been well, thanks. Alive and well to be more specific. I haven’t been ignoring this project. But I have found the need to prioritize over the past month – you see, I’ve rediscovered that being alive is different than living. And living gets kind of busy. So a recap.
We had a great visit with my dad. He’s such a great guy. I know that I my legacy from him is the importance of acceptance and unconditional love. In my years, I’ve done things that I know that he is proud of – and some things that he’s probably not so much proud. We’ve had disagreements. We’ve had long spells of not seeing one another. But as the past few years have demonstrated, he’s been with me, and me and Sandra, unfailingly. So it was good to have some normal time with him. We had some father/son bonding time when we went to see Garrison Keilor and the Prairie Home Companion broadcast live from the historic Ryman Theater. It made me alive in feeling as I watched him laugh and smile. That was more than just living.
This month marks two years since my transplant – two years! Two years that two and a half years ago I didn’t believe I’d ever see. What did I do to celebrate? I decided that it was time to get back to the real world and get to work. And by the grace of God and some good friends, I found a position that suits me just fine. I am the Chaplain for Avalon Hospice located here in Nashville. I’ve only been working for the past few weeks. Physically, it’s been a bit tiring, but I’ll get back in shape. Emotionally, the people I’m meeting I understand in a much deeper way then ever before. I was surprised to learn of my visceral reaction to hating the sight of a hospital bed. One of the first patients I met was a man about my age who had learned just three days prior to our meeting that he had liver cancer. His jaundice, his wasting, and his embarrassment about his growing abdomen were stark reminders of me not too long ago. It brought the internal questions of why am I lucky enough to still be here when this man would be lucky to see next month. But it also brought out a level of compassion in me that this “job” demands. At a team meeting, this gentleman was derided by some because of his history with alcohol. I had to step in and ask if our work as hospice staff was to care or condemn? Our medical director thanked me for that. I felt, and it wasn’t feelings about me. That is more than just living.
Sandra wrote in this space about my constant companion Snickers (http://wellspringtransplantsupport.com/blog/snickers-the-paramedic). Snickers knew more about me than anyone one person in this world. He’s been with me for all the ups and downs that life brings. Oh, don’t get me wrong – I called him my pain-in-the-ass-dog for many reasons. He was nearly 18.
He died the Thursday before I began my work with hospice. But he died in a hospice way. We could tell one evening that he was rapidly declining. We thought about going across the street to our veterinarian’s home and ask her to come over and put him down. But I held him for nearly two hours. And then put him in his bed. And then watched. We knew he was leaving us, so be both layed down on the floor holding and petting him until his last breath. I sure miss my little guy. Sandra, BJ and I are grieving him as we’ve lost a big part of our family. Sad feelings – but those kind that happen when you risk loving. That is more than just living.
We’ve been to a rodeo, we’ve got new grips on our golf clubs, I bought a new driver (like that’s going to make a difference). Somehow life is back to the way it was – and that is more than just living.
And speaking of living, to those of you who have served this country or have lost people in that service, you have my ultimate respect. Memorial Day was always a big family day for us when I was growing up. We’d go to our town’s parade, and then descend on my grandparents’ house for the big picnic to kick off summer. I’d like to introduce two members of my family who are both heroes in my book. The stone marks the grave of my great-uncle Bill who gave his life in World War II. My grandfather was so proud of his brother – we all were. The man kneeling is my uncle Jack. He, and his wife Lynn, are heroes in their community for their life-long commitment to their volunteer fire and rescue squad. But he and Lynn are my heroes for, after many years of not seeing them, showing up in my ICU room at a time where angel/heroes were so needed. Sandra and I had really reached our first wall when they arrived, to me, out of no where. They brough the love of my family to both of us and a needed break and caring to Sandra. Heroes sacrifice. Thanks to both of my uncles for theirs. That is more than just living.