still around

Contrary to appearances, I have not (quite) fallen off the face of the earth.

Since I last posted, I have spent quite a bit of time trying to take care of people who are sick and being sick myself. Luckily, both of my sisters have visited to help take care of Nana and Paco while I was sick.

This week, I need to do a ton of catching up on paperwork and poetry. Before the end of the month, I need to prepare comments on four manuscripts and get my own together to distribute to our group. Fingers crossed that I can get my brain in gear to manage it.

Of course, all of this is happening against the backdrop of the continuing maelstrom of the news. If a television show, novel, or movie followed a plot from the current political news in the US, everyone would dismiss it as too far-fetched. Yet, here we are in a continuing succession of situations that are accurately called unprecedented.

It’s enough to make one’s head spin.

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a rainbow at Mercy House

On Wednesday evening, I drove to Mercy House, the hospice residence where my mother lives, during a sun-shower after a heavy downpour. Given the time of day and the moisture in the air, I started to look for a rainbow. When I turned east, a full rainbow appeared before me, one end of it resting on Mercy House.

What I didn’t know at the time was that Phatar, a twelve-year-old who was also in residence at Mercy House, had become unresponsive and would pass away the following day, surrounded by the love of family, friends, and caregivers.

On Friday morning, the door to Phatar’s room was open, his bed made with the quilt pulled up. Near his pillow was a little memorial with a flower, the United States flag that had been on his door, a little poem that had been posted in his room, and his handprint in green paint on white canvas.

This morning at church, Father Clarence told Phatar’s story during the homily, about his cancer diagnosis, about his final months at Mercy House, about his desire to receive Jesus in the Eucharist and his baptism, and the comfort that brought him in his final weeks. There were smiles and tears as we listened.

Our mix of emotions in reacting to death is always complex, but I think most people have a particularly strong sense of sadness at the death of a child. It has also been sad watching Phatar’s mom these last months, suffering through every parent’s nightmare of the illness and death of their child. Still, I am grateful to have met Phatar and to know that he is now at peace.

The next time I see a rainbow, I will think of him.

Incredibles 2

B and I finally carved out time to see Incredibles 2, the long-awaited sequel to one of our favorite Pixar movies. I’ll try not to have spoilers in this piece, although, with world-wide box office receipts around a billion dollars, there are probably not many people left to spoil.

Like all Pixar features, Incredible 2 is preceded by a short; Bao, written and directed by Domee Shi, is the first Pixar short to be directed by a woman. It covers decades of family life in a few short minutes in a rich, culturally significant context. I would not have imagined an animated dumpling could be so adorable!

Incredibles 2, like the original film, is also built around family life. Superheroes with special powers still have to deal with adolescent angst, homework help, division of paid and unpaid work, and child care and rearing. Because we have had grandbaby ABC living with us for most of her almost fourteen months, I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Incredible baby Jack-Jack, who is still very much a baby in his behavior, movements, and reactions, superpowered or not.

I also appreciated the themes of the use/misuse of media and celebrity. Although the script must have been written years ago, these issues are especially salient right now.

As always, I recommend staying for the credits. While there is no bonus scene, there is a great medley of superhero theme songs. I especially enjoyed Elastigirl’s.

 

SoCS: an unexpected call

[Warning for family: This post is about Nana’s hospice care. You may prefer not to read it.]

I got an unexpected call this week from my mom’s (Nana here at TJCM) hospice social worker. She wanted to set up a family meeting with her and the hospice nurse. It was a bit unusual to have a formal meeting time set up, but we agreed to meet in my mom’s room at Mercy House, the hospice residence where she moved in May. We were fortunate that my older sister was here visiting, so she was able to join in, too.

What I hadn’t suspected was that the meeting was about re-certification issues. In most hospices, acceptance means that life expectancy is six months or less. With some diagnoses, that determination is relatively clear, but, with heart failure, as my mom shows, it isn’t so clear.

Nana was re-certified at three months, at six months, and then every two months since. We are now at fourteen months. There have been lots of ups and downs, but, sadly but not unexpectedly, the overall direction has been one of decline with continuing weakness and fatigue that has worsened significantly over the course of this year.

Therefore, we were shocked that the social worker told us that the medical director was considering de-certifying Nana. I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked, as there had been a couple of other times that the medical director has questioned re-certification, but it seemed so clear that symptoms were worsening that I never thought there was a possibility that he would think Nana didn’t meet the criteria to remain in hospice care.

As I understand it, there are two basic issues. One is that the medical director only has access to data points collected during visits from the hospice personnel, perhaps two or three hours a week and always during the day. Second, the criteria to stay under hospice care have to do with rate of decline, so, even though Nana would easily qualify to enter hospice care in her current condition, it doesn’t necessarily follow that she would be re-certified to remain under hospice.

So, on hearing the news from the social worker, I freaked out a bit. Well, not outwardly. But losing hospice care at this point would be very complicated. In order to be in residence at Mercy House, one has to be under hospice care, so de-certification would have meant having to move Nana, which would be complicated and exhausting. We had a preliminary plan in place, but we hoped not to have to implement it.

What we could do was give the social worker more information of what we were seeing when we were there visiting, which covers about nine hours most days. Nana was also able to give us some more information about night-time issues.

The social worker took the additional information we were able to provide and the medical director was able to see how it fulfilled the criteria for Nana to be re-certified. We were very relieved. From now on, though, I will be more deliberate about noting changes in case we need to fill in the blanks again.

Through it all, we are grateful for the care hospice has been able to provide. If it were not for their expertise in managing symptoms, it is likely that we would already have lost Nana. As it is, we continue to have the hope of more time with her.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “call.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/08/03/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-4-18/

 

 

 

SoCS: three Ts

At my blog, I refer to my younger (now adult) daughter as T. Usually in person, I call her by her name, although, with granddaughter ABC in the house, we sometimes call her Auntie T. One of her high school teachers nicknamed her TNT because she was usually quiet until she gave forth a brilliant and insightful flash.

One of the things that T loves is tea. Not just any old tea, though. Along with sister E, she is somewhat of a tea connoisseur. At any particular point, we will have at least a dozen varieties of tea in the house, most with fanciful names and specialized blends. We have various tea pots and strainers and other accouterments. We also have a very large assortment of tea cups, mostly inherited from Grandma. It always feels special when we use them.

Another thing that T has always loved is tee shirts. She has many special tees that she has accumulated over the years. Many of them have science or environmental themes, which is fitting for T who has two degrees in environmental science. There are also some science fiction and fantasy tees, and, of course, some Harry Potter tees.

And some tees involve clever wordplay. One of her all time favorites involves the word ” hippopotomonstrosesquippediliophobia” which means fear of long words, a malady which certainly does not inflict T!
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “T, tea, tee.”  Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2018/07/27/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-28-18/

 

father, farmer, and builder

This week, my daughters and I sang in the choir for the funeral of our friend Nancy’s dad. Nancy is a long-time church musician and liturgist, so many current and former choir members and friends arrived to support her by participating in the liturgy. We had 43 singers and 3 instrumentalists. The music was a beautiful and meaningful part of our prayers for Joe and being surrounded by so many musician-friends helped Nancy to play the funeral mass.

I know from personal experience how difficult it is to play for a loved one’s funeral or memorial. Because you have to concentrate on doing your job musically, some of the mourning that one would typically do at a funeral is deferred. My hope is that the memory of the music we shared will be a comfort to Nancy when she reflects on the funeral in the coming days.

The reflections offered centered around Joe’s roles in the community as a father of five children, a farmer in his younger years, and then a long-time builder of homes in our area. Each of these roles has many scriptural and faith references which were woven throughout the liturgy.

It was my privilege to write the universal prayer for the funeral. I served on the liturgy committee with Nancy for many years in our former parish and learned so much from her; I was honored that she asked me to write the petitionary prayer that closes the liturgy of the word.

Nancy and I have been supporting each other through an extended period of multi-generational family caretaking. Strangely, some of our most stressful periods have coincided. Fifteen years ago, I was staying at the hospital with one of my daughters when Joe had a serious stroke following heart surgery. I missed Nancy’s mom’s funeral when my mom had a heart attack while my dad was in the hospital for surgery. Now, Joe’s final illness and death happened while my mom is in a hospice residence.

I am truly thankful for Nancy’s support, friendship, and gracious example. I pray for solace and peace for Nancy and her family. Rest in peace, Joe.

flowers from Joe's funeral luncheon
Joe’s favorite color was blue, so there were blue hydrangeas and white roses on the tables at the funeral luncheon.

 

 

SoCS: Yay for Moms!

Yay for the return of Serena Williams to the Wimbledon finals and congratulations to Angelique Sperber who won the championship!

It was nice to see Serena back in a final after the birth of her daughter and the serious health complication that followed.

There have been ads talking about Mom power featuring Serena during the tournament. I definitely believe in the power of moms! Yay!
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to begin with a three letter word. Join us! Find out how here:   https://lindaghill.com/2018/07/13/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-july-14-18/