18 March 2017

Good Journey, Herman. The Passing of A Sweet Man

Good Journey, Herman

Herman, a sweet and loving man we only just got to know, passed away this morning in a local hospital.

I am grateful to have met him, and grateful to have introduced him to you, so many of you got to know him also. He seemed an especially warm and good man to me. I noticed that Red was skittish and anxious around him, something that can sometimes be a sign of serious illness.

Herman's good nature and his great love of animals was touching. He had a mug with his cat's photo on it by his bed. I appreciate that Mandi Mulready from the Mansion staff brought him a stuffed lamb on Saturday that someone from the blog sent to me to give him. He had it by his side at the end. I have several goat sculptures, photos and paintings I planned to bring him when he came home next week, as was expected.

I had hoped to see him in the hospital before he came back. He had lost a great deal of weight and was struggling to recover from some serious falls.

I have been doing hospice and therapy work for a decade, and while I am certainly not hardened to death,  I am used to it, and had a lot of training in how to deal with it.  I hope and trust those of you who read this are not unduly disturbed by it, death is, as many of you already know, an integral part of the therapy process and of work with the aged. It is a recurring theme of my writing about it on the blog.

It is not drama for me, it's life. That is how I deal with it. I feel nothing but good about Herman.

Make sure to be thoughtful and take care of yourselves. It is easy to attach to people, even in this way, it can be painful to experience their death, even as it is as much a part of life as breathing. We all need good boundaries. There was something about Herman that touched me and many others. It is part of it, as I have learned not only in therapy work but in my life on the farm. I have learned not to hide from death but to accept it.

The staff at the Mansion never gives up hope, they were working to get Herman home right up to the end. Their lives are emotional roller coasters and they never seem to lose heart.

I have learned in this work that death is sad, but not only sad.  My brief times with Herman were beautiful and uplifting He was much loved by the staff there. Herman was a gift, and you were a gift to him. He was able to feel great love despite great pain.

I hope you feel good about reaching out to him in so many ways.  You brightened his final days.

I have a tin goat sculpture someone sent me, I'll bring to the Mansion, perhaps they can hang it up somewhere. I have an idea where it should go, I'd like Mandi Mulready to have it, she drove to the hospital to give Herman the baby goat.

Herman had some special and very happy moments this past week or two. He loved seeing Red,  we had some good talks. I loved hearing about his goat farm – he spoke of it with great passion. I appreciate Treasure Wilkinson bringing her five-day old baby goat to Herman in his room,  he loved that goat so much, I am told he never stopped talking about it. Treasure was planning a visit on Monday.

I thank those of you who wrote  letters, sending pictures and paintings and  goat sculptures for Herman, I know there are many animal lovers at the Mansion who would appreciate the things you sent to Herman.  I intend to continue doing this work, of course, there is so much joy and satisfaction and meaning to it, and I hope you will continue to join me and Red.

Godspeed, Herman, I pray your journey to the other side is full of light and joy, I believe animals are spirit creatures, and I imagine you holding that baby goat in the other world. She is a magical helper for you.

Posted in General

Spinach: Not So Much

Not so much: Photo By Emma Span

My granddaughter Robin has a ready smile for almost everyone, and Emma has been sending me a lovely stream of smiling Robin pictures. Spinach, not so much. She tried her first spinach this morning. These kid doesn't really need words to express herself, but God help Emma when she has them.

Posted in General

Messages From Christie: “I Need To Walk On My Own. I Think It’s Time To Stop Hiding”

Messages From Christie

In my hospice work, I learned to be an active listener, my job is not to save people or change them or offer them false hope, but to listen. With Christie, I find myself in a different and challenging position. Thanks to Facebook, we are having a dialogue with one another, and it has become important to me, and perhaps, to her.

When I went to see Christie with Red earlier in the week, just before the storm, I assumed she would not be returning to the Mansion, she looked seriously ill, but I think I misjudged her and the Mansion staff. They don't give up on people there, one staffer told me they want Christie to come back if she wants to take care of herself, and they won't permit anyone to clean out her room until Christie really makes up her mind about her life.

I am not a staffer or doctor or shrink, but Christie and I have a genuine dialogue going, and I am no longer certain about where Christie will end up, or what Red and I or your letters have to do with that.  Sometime in the coming week, she is going into rehab, and she doesn't know how long she will be there.  Nor do I know the medical details and problems facing her, that is not for me to know or share.

Her wish is to do whatever she has to do to get back to the Mansion, where she feels comfortable and safe.

To me, she has never been clearer or sounded more determined. Christie told me she hasn't always followed the doctor's orders, but she is doing that now. "I have always been shy about myself and content just to be left alone, but I don't want that anymore," she messaged me this morning.

What do you have to do to get back to the Mansion?," I asked her this morning, and she replied: "I have to be able to walk on my own and right now I can't, plus I have to get rid of a lot of fluid in my legs. I should still be here for most of next week," she wrote. and then, to rehab.

Then she added in her message, "I think it's time I stopped hiding. If you go the Mansion please tell them all hello."

I don't understand all of Christie's story, and it's not my business to know any more than she tells me. It is definitely not my business to tell her what to do. I slipped over the line this morning by telling her: "do what they tell you."

She is closely following my writings and photos on the blog and appreciates being known and also, coming out in this way, for lack of a better term.

I respect the boundaries of my work – boundaries are important to me, I am not a social worker or physician or Mansion aide  – but I sense Red's visits to Christie, and our dialogue are giving her strength to make some good and imporstant choices for herself. Only she knows what is possible.

My sense of her, beyond her goodness and warmth, is that she is strong and determined when she wants to be.

I am coming to see that if she wants to return to the Mansion, she may well find a way to do so. I've known a number of patients who go to rehab through the therapy work. Some just give up there, some fight hard to get out and recover. Christie has decided to work hard.

I can't say I fully understand the underlying dynamics of this dialogue, but it is powerful and important to me. Something important is going on inside of Christie's heart and soul. Red and I are going to see her again Sunday morning. I want to take her portrait.

I am drawn to telling the stories of people whose stories never get told, it is a fundamental element of my blog. All of our stories are important, they are the real news in our lives.

Your letters and messages to Christie (ll S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y. 12816) matter. They show her that people do care about her. I think that is difficult for her to believe.

That may be the most powerful medicine she ever takes. So thanks. If you write her c/o The Mansion, we will see gets your messages wherever she goes.

Posted in General

Morning Light, The Feeder

The Feeder

I got up early this morning and snuck out so that Maria could sleep, she is still working through her trip to India, her body is still adjusting. I am always rewarded when I go outside early, the sun is coming up over the hill, it lights our little apple tree in the pasture, still covered with a coat of ice before the sun will melt it.

I have only a few moments to capture this image, the light changes as the sun moves, I rushed into the house (still in my bathrobe and boots) and grabbed my camera. Got there just in time and Liam turned his head so I could center the shot. Good Liam.

Posted in General