Archive for December, 2009
Another year gone, added to our past.
Remember the laughter, the smiles, the bright sunny days.
Cherish the friends, the family, the time you spent together.
Reflect on the hopes, the dreams, the promise of a new tomorrow.
Be thankful for good health, for second chances, for all the good that came your way.
Another year waits to become our present, to create our future.
Bring the memories, the reflections, and the thanks with you.
Build a foundation of strengths within you and those around you.
Use each day to make the world a better place by being you.
Embrace your dreams by making them reality.
Dear Friends, on this New Year’s Eve, straddle the new and the old and make the future yours by living each day fully.
And as for me, I wish a New Year filled with health, prosperity, and happiness for each and every one of you.
There are two kinds of people. Those that believe that once a year on the eve of December 25th a short, fat old man dressed in loud red pajamas, is flown all over the world by a bunch of wingless reindeer in order to stuff a wild assortment of presents into carefully hung stockings and under overly ornamented evergreen trees…and those that don’t believe all that.
There’s also a third kind of people made up of a strange collection of the first two kinds of people. Those that believe in truly impossible. Those that believe in the real miracle of miracles. Those that still believe it’s possible to have…..
Peace on Earth and Good Will to All.
your own, your doctor’s, the hospital’s, in my case, MetroHealth Medical Center, your family’s, your friends’. When I spent those two months in the hospital last December and January, I learned that you need to speak up when you want to know something or you need a change in treatment, environment, or information for peace of mind.
The first time I really employed this advocacy thing was during the incident of the Jumping Bean Bed. Because of that bed, I was not getting rest and I told my nurses I didn’t know how I was supposed to heal if I could not sleep. They told me to ask my doctors when they had rounds that morning for a new bed. Dr. Shwee said he didn’t see why I couldn’t have a new bed if one was available. When I arrived back to my room from my physical therapy session, there was my new “old” bed. The nurses had found a bed and moved everything in and out when I was gone.
Now, I could have continued to suffer in silence complaining to friends and family, but they could have only sympathized. By telling my doctors directly, my problem was fixed quickly and efficiently. It gave me the confidence to ask questions about the drugs I was taking, to discuss the progress of my rehabilitation with therapists, nurses, and doctors. During my stay at MetroHealth, I learned that this hospital is an “unsung hero” of our county. I have vowed to promote this awesome place of “miracles and hope” whenever and wherever I can. I also ask others who I meet who have experienced the quality care and compassion at this tremendous hospital to join me in my advocacy.
Yesterday, was the Shearer Family Christmas, and I was reminded of my Uncle Gene who was our family advocate. My mother and father divorced after 25 years of marriage. I was an adult but divorce affects any child no matter their age. Uncle Gene would seek me out each year and ask me “What’s new”? We would chat a few minutes, and then, he would tell me a short story about something he remembered about my dad. It might be a hunting story or an incident at one of the County Fair horse pulls. He never failed to mention my dad. This conversation was held at the get together for my mother’s side of the family. Without lecturing or making a big deal out of it, he would remind a 25 year old woman that there were good times to remember when we were all together. I’ve never forgotten how I appreciated his attention and his compassion.
I learned from my uncle that too often people simply stop talking about people important in their lives because it is painful or because we think it might make others uncomfortable. Uncle Gene always considered what was important to the person with whom he was conversing. I never turned away from him without feeling just a bit better and walking a bit taller. I work each day to be an advocate for my family and friends as he was. He is a fine example of how an advocate of others should live. Be an advocate by accentuating the positive to family and friends. Share stories of loved ones who are no longer with us. Use those stories to strengthen bonds between generations.
This lesson was again learned from one of my parents. This time my mother was the one who gave the lesson. My mother had polio as a young child; hence, my concern about her health I mentioned in yesterday’s post. She had coped for many years with a metal plate in her leg and scoliosis of her spine. Each year our church back home had a big Chicken Barbeque on Fourth of July. Each year my mother baked many, many pies for this event.
When I was 24 my mother called me to make sure that I would be coming home for the holiday because she wanted my help in baking pies for the church picnic. I said I would be there to help, and she said good because there were fewer women who had volunteered for pie baking.
Well, at 24, I was not the responsible, reliable, predictable person I am today, and as young daughters will do, I arrived late with a hangover. My mother didn’t say a word. She just threw the apron at me and told me to start slicing apples for her famous Dutch Apple pie. We worked in silence for what seemed like an eternity to me until I finally broke the silence with this question “so, is your leg aching today or is it your back”?
She flew around to face me, and with that look that only a mother can give, she said through clenched teeth “I am in pain every day of my life. This is not about pain, but about giving. I gave based on what you told me you would give to me—help. Because you did not see my giving as a priority I may not be able to give what I said I would. You give what you can and I do but because you did not give what you could I may be short my giving”. There was little I could say, but I began to work a bit more efficiently and faster, and we were able to make good on my mom’s promise to the other church ladies.
When I laid in that hospital bed for days on end needing help to eat, to dress, to accomplish the most basic of needs there was little I could give. What I could give was a smile and a thank you which I did often and freely. It was easy to remember my mother’s axiom of “You give what you can based on what you can accomplish”.
My doctors, nurses, and caregivers told me when I left how much they had appreciated my smiles and “thank yous”. They mentioned that my family and friends never failed to thank them, too. They told me it wasn’t necessary, but it was greatly appreciated. Sometimes, a smile and thank you is enough for those who give to you.
When Monica Robbins interviewed Tim and me a few weeks ago I mentioned that when I spoke at the October Stroke Conference I did three things related my experience, and shared seven things I learned. She immediately asked what were they? I of course drew a blank and could only relate five. I have since found my notes and intend to relate them here over the next few days.
The first thing I learned was to Count My Blessings. Actually, I had learned that years ago when I was a small child, but over the years I had remembered to do it much less frequently. While I was in ICU the nurses would turn on the television for background noise. I don’t know if I listened to the dialogue from “White Christmas”or if I simply dreamed portions of one of my favorite Holiday Classics.
In any case, it reminded me of my father who taught me to “count my blessings”. When I was much younger I was a “worrywart”. I worried that my cousin who was in the Navy would get lost in the jungles of Panama, that my teacher would call on me and I wouldn’t know the answer soon enough, that my Dad would go to work one day and not come home again just like my Grandpa, that my mother would get very, very sick. The list was a mile long, and I would stare in the darkness long after the house was quiet with my spinning, worrying mind.
It was shortly after my seventh birthday when my dad walked me into a starlit pasture and told me that I needed to learn to count my blessings instead of chronicle my worries. That night he showed me how to count on the people who loved me, to count on myself, to count on my strengths, to count on the thousands of stars in the sky. That night I fell asleep confident my blessings outweighed my worries.
Fifty years later lying in a hospital bed with arms hooked up to too many IVs to count, with a machine to help me breathe, it would have been easy to have a head spinning full of worries. What if I never walked again, what if I couldn’t use my left hand for eating and writing, what if this and what if that. I could have spent my hours endlessly worrying, but instead I decided to count my blessings. It worked. It helped me stay positive on the hardest of days and saw me through long, dark nights.
So just as Bing Crosby sang Irving Berlin’s words to Rosemary Clooney in the movie “White Christmas” so many years ago, I would tell you this Christmas ”when you are worried and cannot sleep try counting your blessings instead of sheep”. It worked for me.