nurturing thursdays: …the end.

Misc July 2010 00057

…eyes that spoke volumes…

Watching our dear, furry companion of 13 years disintegrate before my very eyes these last several weeks has made me sensitive to those who are unable to make sense of their suffering. Whether my mom who suffered from Alzheimer’s the last decade of her life, or the young woman in Oregon who decided how and when to die rather than be ruled by incurable cancer, or Robin Williams who chose to get ahead of the demons that evidently haunted him.

“Pulling the plug” was very difficult for me. I wanted someone else…my husband, the vet, or Mocha herself…to decide. I could not wrap my brain around the idea of ending a life, even a pet’s. Yes, I’d done it before with 2 cats but in this situation, experience doesn’t soften the blow.

Fibromyalgia and arthritis are with me daily. I do whatever I can to ensure that I have more good days than bad. Of course I’m human, so I fail, probably as often as I succeed. Diet and exercise being my personal demons.

The upside is that I’m at the controls, at least for as long as I still have my wits about me. As my time draws near I’m pretty sure I won’t be calling all the shots. That’s just how it is.

What is it like when the sun gradually sets on one’s horizon? Only the one going through it knows for sure. She alone is living through every nuance of every moment. No one can step inside another’s body and experience the physical, mental, and spiritual deterioration. Not even the closest of loved ones.

Each of us is consumed with our own lives. Taking on someone else’s life, especially one fraught with emotional turmoil or mental and physical decline, is nearly impossible. Short term responsibility might be doable; going the long haul can decimate the caregiver’s life in the process.

Issues with her sciatic nerve compromised Mocha’s mobility. Her front paws did not always work. Sometimes they carried her through a brisk trot; oftentimes, she would spill forward onto her knees. Being part-terrier, part-beagle served her well for she would stubbornly pick herself up, and carry on as though nothing was amiss.

Neither pouring rain nor plummeting temperatures could deter our little pal from being about her doggy business. Mocha loved encountering the outdoors…its sights and smells. With her I bore witness to Mother Nature’s immense beauty time and again. Left to my own devices, I would choose hibernation.

Helping to stave off the inevitable, Mocha was downing meds for an underlying heart murmur as well as her debilitating sciatica. As her primary caregiver I monitored her intake of pills, deciding whether or not they were doing the job for which they were prescribed.

Were the pain meds working or were they making her condition worse? Were they causing grogginess, adding to Mocha’s inability to walk without flailing?  Were they causing digestive issues? Did they make her nauseous and not want to eat?

I could only rely upon what I saw and the symptoms Mocha exhibited, as to whether or not she was making progress, plateauing, or regressing. Perhaps if she spoke my language, we could have discussed what was really going on with her body.

And yet being able to speak doesn’t always resolve matters. There are those who aren’t up to the task…aging parents, overwhelmed or dysfunctional individuals, the mentally ill, the impoverished, and folks battling incurable diseases.

Walking that last mile is a solitary hike. Climbing the next precipice, big and small, is helped or hindered by one’s own capabilities…physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. No two individuals are alike in that regard. Similar maybe, but never exact.

Perhaps the only props we have as we near the end are our instincts to survive and our fear of the unknown. Coming to terms with both is an individual endeavor. No one else can determine how we manage that.

In Mocha’s case, I think she just kept on going with every ounce of passion for life she had left. Only her failing body forced my decision to halt her suffering.

Surrounded by the loving veterinary staff who had catered to Mocha’s medical needs since she was a pup, I maintained eye contact with her as she succumbed to the first injection of anesthetic that lessened the impact of the second injection that ended her life.

Finally, my little friend relaxed and lengthened into peaceful composure. The pain which had racked her body since early spring had abated. Peace. And in peace relief. Maybe even a sliver of happiness.

I’m not making the case for human euthanasia or even legalized suicide. I believe in God and the sanctity of life, all life.

Compassion is just as important to me however. I can’t sit in judgment of another’s life. Only he knows the potholes he’s facing as he…

…rounds the final bend.

...sprinkling fairy dust for hugmamma...

…sprinkling fairy dust for hugmamma…

………hugmamma.

 

 

 

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nurturing thursdays: give up the martyr

Some folks continue to believe that suffering is a necessary aspect of living.Imported Photos 00428

It builds character.

Or so they say. They being Catholic school nuns. I’m sure of it.

Religion has a way of rationalizing everything. Nothing wrong with that. We all need spiritual stroking now and then.

However when spirituality hinders us from improving our plight, then it’s time to relinquish the ties that bind.

I believe in the God of my faith, who like a mother wants us to figure out the best use of the gifts we’ve been bestowed.

It may take some longer than others to find their way, but find it they must. 

I no longer buy into suffering for the sake of suffering, especially as a means of living happily-ever-after.

Why wait for heaven in the hereafter, when we can gain entry into something closely approximating paradise on earth.

With God at my side, I’m encouraged to make choices for a pleasanter, more positive life. And when I cross through valleys, She’s there to give me a hand across the precipice.

I wholeheartedly turn toward happiness, and turn away from suffering.  The two are not interchangeable in my book.

My God is one of hope and encouragement…

…for happiness on earth…and in the hereafter.

………hugmamma.IMG_0437

in loving memory…of lives lived…not lost…

 

Life…and death…have a way of slowing down the rat race.

When we seem certain that the nuts and bolts in our daily lives are running smoothly, the machinery in our little world…our microcosm…chugging along quite nicely, producing the results we’d hoped for, striven for…fate intervenes, upending our…house of cards.

I spent a few moments this morning perusing the most recent posts written by friend and fellow blogger, Christine at http://randomthoughtsfrommidlife.wordpress.com

Français : couverture du livre La maladie d'Al...

Français : couverture du livre La maladie d’Alzheimer – Accompagnez votre proche au quotidien (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My original connection with her was that her dad was suffering from Alzheimer’s. You see…my mom also suffered its debilitating effects before finally succumbing a number of years ago.

As a result, I was on the path to doing what I could to deter or slow the progression of that dreadful disease…in myself.

Sadly, Christine recently lost…both parents.

Her mother was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer, not too long before she died. Christine’s dad followed soon after.

A few years ago, before I began following Christine’s blog, she suffered the loss of a beloved sister who had been retarded.

I’ve admired Christine’s strength throughout the turmoil she endured caring for her parents. And the love she shared with them…and the sister who had gone before.

Christine’s compelling story was like…a dip in the icy cold glacial waters off the coast of Alaska.

When we think life is so unfair…it seems best to remember the advantages we do enjoy.

I’ve been given a chance to live…

…to love…and be loved…

…to explore my talents…and forgive my weaknesses…

…to know others…and have them know me…

…to see with my eyes…the beauty of all I see…

…to hear with my ears…the sounds of life beckoning me forward…

…to sample with my own taste buds…all the gastronomical delights that others create…and the humble offerings that emanate from my own two hands…

…to walk and jump and climb and crawl and wriggle and stretch.

Above all…

I can think and remember and express and give voice and cry and laugh and complain and argue and be thankful…

…and I can pray…

…for myself and for others…

LIFE AFFORDS ME ALL THIS…

AND SO MUCH MORE.

Death cannot take away all the life that I have lived thus far.

Only I can do that…if I fail to crowd every nook and cranny of my life with the sights, sounds, smells…and all the amazing moments that present themselves.

Christine’s story reminded me to…enjoy the ride of a lifetime…

…every single moment…of every single day!!! croppedphoto

the fickle finger of fate…then…and now

Salmon Days

Image by Jeff Youngstrom via Flickr

I remarked to my husband as we strolled through streets overflowing with out-of-towners, “Can you imagine if the shooter had chosen today to leave his mark in our midst?” With thousands drawn to celebrate the return of salmon at our annual “Salmon Days” festival, the police were out in force. A sign of the times.

Gathering from the news reports days after the incident, it seems the shooter had rented a car which he’d driven 500+ miles before running out of gas in our town. Abandoning it and taking only 2 guns from the cache later found in the car, he bypassed people going about their business, without killing anyone. 

Calls were made to 911 which confused the police. They weren’t able to discern if more than one suspect was roaming the area. It may be that he was seeking another means of escape, because the owner of a parked car called out when he saw the shooter attempt a break-in. Not long afterwards, he and the police got into a shootout and he was killed.

According to a friend of his, the shooter had visited our police station some time prior to last weekend. He was carrying an unregistered gun, for which he asked to be arrested. The police didn’t comply, claiming he’d not committed any violations. His friend felt the gunman was seeking help for himself. It is surmised that he intended to commit suicide, allowing himself to be killed during the shooting spree.

With more and more suicides cropping up in the media, I wonder at the hopelessness that seems prevalent nowadays. With money being the key to paradise, good old-fashioned values are being exorcised from society.

I am my brother’s keeper.
He’s not heavy; he’s my brother.
Treat others as you would have them treat you.
We are all God‘s children.
Share and share alike.

There are those trying desperately to curtail the suffering of those in need of help. But is it too little…too late? The ever-widening crack threatens to swallow up those who are free-falling in the current environment of negativity. Amidst the politicians and their followers who are doggedly clinging to their righteous ways, and the wealthy power brokers who are continuing to pick through the rubble snatching up “baubles” for their portfolios…human beings are being offered up as sacrificial lambs. In the grand scheme of things, they are expendable, it seems. They’re just statistics, whose numbers are ever-growing.

So rather than wait to be sacrificed, some are impaling themselves…and committing suicide. And I can’t help but think……these are someone’s children. A mother gave birth…with great hopes for ner newborn.

…what happened…to us?…where are the values upon which america was born?…

……..hugmamma.   

the last word…diana

President and Mrs Bush greet TRH The Prince of...

Image via Wikipedia

Am almost done reading Sarah Bradford’s Diana – Finally, The Complete Story. It really does seem to be the definitive last word, with contributions from previously unheard sources. Now that Diana, the Princess of Wales, is no longer at the center of the maelstrom that had become her life, and Prince Charles and Camilla have moved on together into older age, and Prince William has married his Kate, those “in the know” are inclined to come forward with the truth, as they witnessed it.

“The definitive biography of the Princess of Wales. In this authoritative account, Bradford paints a revealing, accurate portrait of a complex woman flawed and adored in equal measure.” —Daily Telegraph

“A very sad story. Bradford tells it eloquently, but it’s her admirable detachment that leaves one pitying all, not one, of the characters involved.” —Antonia Fraser, The Guardian Review

“Forget about tawdry revelations–Bradford takes us to the heart of the People’s Princess, examining her relationships with her staff, friends and family as well as her children, husband, lovers and the royal family. Authoritative and admirably balanced, it draws on new sources and firsthand accounts.” –Tatler

Minefield warning on the Golan Heights, still ...

Image via Wikipedia

I won’t rehash the past, I’ll leave that to your potential to purchase the book, but I did want to call attention to the last charitable cause Diana undertook, which no individual seems desirous of undertaking in the wake of her untimely death years ago. And that is the detonation or better, extinction, of land mines. While those who sought to undermine the Princess of Wales would’ve labeled her a “basket case” or a “nut job” for walking through fields which had been cleared of landmines, there are those who would beg to differ.

According to William Deedes, a traveling companion on Diana’s landmine research trips to Angola and Bosnia

she sought to address herself to various issues in the world which were being neglected. There were millions of them (landmines) scattered round the world. They lurked wherever there had been conflict. A few charitable organisations were engaged in locating and lifting them, but it was discouraging as well as dangerous work because more mines were being constantly laid in the wars bedevilling Africa. The manufacturers of these mines represented a huge vested interest, which reduced the chances…of an international ban…defence forces in Britain, America and much of Europe saw the mines, properly laid and charted, as legitimate means of defence…

…’Nobody took a blind bit of interest in landmines until she (Diana) came along,’…

Deedes went on to say that the journalists who accompanied Diana on these trips were accustomed to “royal visits in daintier surroundings than Angola” and were, therefore, ” ‘dismayed’ by the state of the capital, Luanda, with stinking rubbish piled high in the hot streets.

 Sunday Times reporter Christina Lamb, a young, veteran war reporter cynical of Diana’s efforts there, had a change of heart after witnessing her work firsthand. “She was impressed: despite the heat and the smells Diana had come to work and work she did. Angola, said Lamb, was one of the few remaining places in the world where most people had no idea who she was, and therefore it was all the more remarkable to see the effect she had on the amputees she went among. ‘The Red Cross whisked us from one hospital to the next,’ Lamb wrote,…”

Nelson Mandela.

Image via Wikipedia

each with ever more horrific scenes of skeletal figures with missing arms, missing legs, and blown off heads–victims of some of the 16m landmines scattered round the country. Many of the injuries were so gruesome I could not bear to look, despite years of Third World reporting. But Diana never turned her head away. Instead, she had something I’d only ever seen before in Nelson Mandela–a kind of aura that made people want to be with her, and a completely natural, straight-from-the-heart sense of how to bring hope to those who seemed to us to have little to live for.

Her cynicism ” ‘wiped out’,” Lamb went on to say ” ‘That Lady-with-the-Lamp performance wasn’t just for the cameras,’ “

Once, at a hospital in Huambo when the photographers had all flown back to their air-conditioned hotels to wire their pictures, I watched Diana, unaware that any journalists were still present, sit and hold the hand of Helena Ussova, a seven-year-old who’d had her intestines blown to pieces by a mine. For what seemed an age the pair just sat, no words needed. When Diana finally left, the young girl struggled through her pain to ask me if the beautiful lady was an angel…At the end of the Angola trip Diana said that the lasting image she’d take away was of that terribly ill young girl.

Diana, Princess of Wales: Tribute

Image via Wikipedia

…one for the ages…diana…the people’s princess…hugmamma.

 

 

adoption, our responsibility

I know not everyone can commiserate with how worrisome a pet’s health can be to an owner. While I consider our cats and dog family, I don’t think of them as human beings. However I do relish their place in our home as silent nurturers of our spirits. They give unconditionally, expecting little in return, a dish of food, a bowl of water, a pat now and then, and playtime when it can be worked into our schedules. But pets are living creatures, whose lives are as precious to them as ours are to us. I’m sure like us they assume they’ll  wake up alive and well at the beginning of each new day. In some ways, that assumption is dependent upon the society in which they find themselves.

Caring for a pet is comparable to caring for a human being. Once that creature is on my radar, I can’t escape the niggling feeling that I am responsible for its well-being, whether in part or in full. Perhaps it’s my Catholic school education. I am “my brother’s keeper.” So the fact that Juneau is grossly overweight makes me feel guilty that it occurred on my watch. But as I explained to the vet, Dr. Hill, that’s “water under the bridge.” My concern now is to get Juneau on track to being healthier, so that he can realize his full life expectancy which is probably another 8 years or so. I’d like them to be great years! I’m sure he would as well.

In order to kick-start his weight loss, my husband and I decided to spend the money up front and board Juneau at the vet’s for the week. There he will be weaned from his current food to the weight-reducing one. Once that’s done a schedule and a new eating pattern can be established. Since Juneau is extremely shy and skittish, we’re enlisting professional help in making the necessary changes. Being novices, my husband and I were proceeding in a “hit or miss” fashion. At 16 pounds, I didn’t think Juneau had a lot of time for trial and error. As Dr. Hill said, our cat might have gotten diabetes tomorrow, next week or in 3 years. And as I said in my previous post, I don’t want Juneau to suffer needlessly, nor do I welcome the stress of dealing with the disease and its corresponding treatment, or the exorbitant cost that is part of the package.

Just as I’ve been trying to keep my husband and I free from diabetes, so too I think it only fair to keep Juneau free from it as well. We adopted him, and when we did we made a promise to take care of him to the best of our ability.

we plan to honor that promise…hugmamma.   

no more pain, only friends

Saw one of my favorite people, for what had been one of my least favorite appointments,… seeing the dentist. Dr. Quickstad and his staff have allayed whatever fears my teeth and I had about hands poking around inside my mouth. To say they are considerate is an understatement. Never have I been queried more about my well-being during a dental visit. But they are so efficient and capable, that they needn’t worry. 

My first experience having my teeth looked at was the summer before entering 6th grade. Our family was too poor to afford such luxuries as repairing what we already had. We could only take care of our daily needs; the future would have to wait until we hit the lottery (nonexistent in those days). I’m not certain whether it was a nagging toothache or the desire to look better when I smiled. I had skipped 5th grade, going from 4th into 6th. I wanted to “measure up” to older students who would be my peers. But knowing myself as I do, my mom probably dragged me, “kicking and screaming” to the dentist because of the hammering ache from a tooth.

As it turned out I didn’t know pain until I sat in the chair of a middle-aged, Chinese dentist wearing wire-rimmed eyeglasses. The framed certificate hanging on the wall across from where I sat, probably indicated where he’d trained. All I remember is hearing someone say that he’d been an army dentist. He went on to demonstrate on me, how he’d worked on strong, military guys. I should’ve enlisted after the treatment I received.

The dentist was kindly, but formal and stiff. From his demeanor I understood that he didn’t stand for nonsense. Not that I would cause any; I didn’t want him to get carried away with his drill or needles.  I don’t remember there being an assistant, but there might have been. I can only remember watching the dentist’s every move, with eyes like a hawk’s.

Over the course of many months, the dentist worked a miracle. Badly decayed teeth were removed or filled with silver. The improvement gave me the self-confidence to open my mouth without hesitation, smiling, laughing, grinning, speaking. But I must admit the path to my new look was sheer agony.

Novocaine was administered with a needle that looked like it was meant for a horse. And there was no numbing the area beforehand. As the dentist stuck the huge needle into my gums, administering the sedative, I pressed my head as far back into the headrest as it would go; it would’ve gone further if it could have. I was only anesthetized for extractions, fillings were done “cold turkey.” The drilling felt like a jack hammer inside my head. When it hit a nerve, it took all my self-control not to want to kick somebody, anybody. But as a Catholic school student, I was expected to suffer in silence, and I did. 

I came to like and admire the middle-aged, Chinese dentist, wearing wire-rimmed glasses. He discounted my fee because of our financial situation. My mom always paid what she could each time, $5 in cash. I felt proud when I handed over the money; for a moment I didn’t feel so poor.

My first dental experience ended happily, but it didn’t negate my fear of dentists. So throughout the years, I’ve not attended to my teeth as I should have. Somehow that chore always fell to the bottom of my list of things to do. But I did make certain that my daughter’s teeth were always looked after. I didn’t want her suffering, physically, mentally and emotionally, as I had. Her teeth are gorgeous, thanks to braces.

At 61 I’ve found Dr. Quickstad who, with his staff, has made dental appointments more like…visits with friends. They’re ensuring that through the remaining decades of my life, I continue to bite, chew, swallow, and smile, grin and laugh with all my pretty teeth showing.

no more pain, only friends…hugmamma.