What I Know for Sure

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Thank you to Akiko Kobayashi (Japan) for this photograph.

Oprah

This title will sound familiar to fans of Oprah Winfrey. I admire Oprah, but have not followed her closely over the past several years, so when one of our readers suggested this topic, I admit that I had to do a little research. Cindi, a loyal follower of Crooked Creek, has added valuable feedback and encouragement, so I knew that I should take her suggestion seriously. 

Oprah has written a book on this subject and it was a success as just about everything is which she attempts. You can read the top 20 things she “knows” at: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/the-top-20-things-oprah-knows-for-sure

A book of things I know for sure would be a very short one, but I will attempt to come up with my top twenty. Rest assured, I do not consider myself anything like this famous and successful woman known the world over, but I do believe that this is a subject worthy our consideration, yours and mine. As we explore together, please share with us what you know for sure. 

More Gray than I Realized

When I was much younger there were so many things I was sure were true. As someone has said, “Often wrong, but never in doubt.”  That was me. Either black or white! I knew things. Things I had been taught, things I read in the Bible, things I felt in my bones. Looking back I can see how that was not only naive, but arrogant. Education, both formal and day-to-day experiences, prove repeatedly how little I know for sure. Some of my strongest opinions have bitten the dust, because they were just that, opinions. 

I remember taking a required philosophy course at The University of Louisville back in the 1970s and experiencing a major revelation during the first days. The professor, speaking from his wheel-chair, in front of about fifty students would present topic after topic from various angles. About the time I became convinced of one of his assertions he would quietly say, “But on the other hand” and then convince me of just the opposite. It wasn’t that I was easy, it was that he was good. After a few weeks of exposure to his fairness and uncomplicated brilliance I clearly saw how little I knew for sure. This does not mean that we do not have things we believe and believe in, but to me at least, it does mean that most subjects and opinions can be debated and looked at from other points of view. Our real truths will not be diluted by serious scrutiny, but we may be able to better understand another’s position. 

What I Know for Sure

The fact that I have a blog and that I like to share my thoughts and experiences must mean that I think I know something, right? No doubt it comes across that way and those who know me personally will quickly add that I am opinionated. So there, I’ve outed myself before anyone else has the chance. Before we go out too far on a serious path like Oprah though, I want to say that some of the things I know for sure are not earth shattering, but trivial. I’m going to share them anyway. Feel free to do the same. Collectively, I am sure we know many things, big and small. I’m going to start with the number one thing I know for sure and see how far we get today after that.

  1. There are few things of which I am 100% sure, but one of those certainties is the fact that I love my family with all my heart. My guess is that you love yours in that way, too. Many, if not most, things change over our lifetimes. This has not. 
  2. Having time alone is a necessity for me, but I sometimes forget how much I need to be with people. There are those who renew their energy by being with people, by talking and laughing and playing games. Those folks would simply dry up if they had to be alone for long. Others of us need time of quiet and calm at regular intervals or we become anxious and distracted. There are tests that show which type of person we are and each is labeled as some type of introvert or extrovert, but we don’t really need a Myers-Briggs or other personality test to know our personal requirements. Still, if interested here is one of those quizzes to reveal more than you probably want to know:  http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp
  3. Native Americans should not be called Indians. Columbus was mistaken. He did not land in India. If Native Americans want to use the term “Indian” they have that right, we do not. Why do we even celebrate Columbus Day? After all the suffering of this country’s indigenous people perhaps we should have a “First Peoples Day” instead.
  4. Dish towels and dish cloths should not be laundered with bath towels, underwear or other laundry. Please don’t ask me to explain. 

This is where I need to leave it for today. Perhaps I should apologize, because I have been thinking of this post for weeks and weeks and this is as far as I’ve gotten. These are the few things I know for sure as of today. I’m thinking as hard as I can and I know there are others to add to this list, I’m just not sure of them yet. 

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.

(Author unknown)

Part 1 of 4

April in March

April in March

How many of you have been watching the live cam covering a pregnant giraffe named April? April lives in Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, NY. The caretakers at the park are unsure of April’s due date, but they had expected the baby to be born toward the end of February. It is reported millions of people are watching, not including Elliott, one of my cats, seen here in my lap in the office. 
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Since I was a little girl, I have loved giraffes. There is something so graceful about the way they walk on those skinny legs while balancing a six foot long neck. The intricate patterns on their skin appear random yet artistically fashioned.  

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While I am ambivalent about zoos, I do visit one every few years and giraffes are the main attraction for me. They can usually be seen from far away, small heads bobbing forward as they slowly walk about their enclosure.

There are several types of giraffes with quite different skin patterns and they come from various geographic regions. I am not going to waste your time with scientific information, because it’s all on the Internet for review or enlightenment. I also will refrain from discussing hunting, species endangerment or captivity although these are worthwhile subjects. 

Today, I just want to share some fun, in case you are not already a part of the vigil. April is an experienced Mom pregnant with her fourth calf. She is fifteen years old, but her Baby Daddy is only five.  You can see Oliver in the stall next to April watching over her attentively. Elliott and I have been observing them for about ten days. I carry the laptop into the room where I am working, or eating or enjoying visitors. In the living room a few nights ago, Elliott monitored the situation while I watched TV. 

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We are familiar with the routine of seeing the stalls swept out, hay delivered into the baskets high up on the walls, vets and other workers patting April and giving her treats by hand. Some viewers have reported seeing the baby moving in Mom’s big abdomen and even a mouse scurrying about the floor after lights out. We have missed both of those occurrences, but I have noticed her abdominal girth seems to be growing larger. One thing is sure, this waiting will come to an end and hopefully it will result in a healthy baby likely to weigh in at around 150 pounds, culminating the fifteen month pregnancy. I certainly hope this birth does not occur while we are sleeping. 

So if you aren’t already on board, please join Elliott, me and a million others, including my family and nature loving friends. There are several sites available, but the official Park cam is at http://www.aprilthegiraffe.com

Please share thoughts if you become a “March April Watcher”. 


“Those who wish to pet and baby wild animals ‘love’ them. But those who respect their natures and wish to let them live normal lives, love them more.”  Edwin Way Teale

 

Theme photo by Pixabay

Death – Suicide

“Suicide occurs, not because the deceased was selfish or because their loved ones failed them. Suicide occurs when one’s pain outweighs their resources of strength.” 

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Suicide

After our first discussion of Death back in mid-January, one reader stated: “Perhaps it is the way a person dies (long illness, accident, suicide, etc. ) that shakes our world more than the actual act of death itself? ” I agree with that assessment. While permanently saying goodbye to a person we love is always unbearably painful, it seems some losses are harder to accept than others. One of those circumstances is suicide. 

The very word “suicide” brings on so many questions; the first, of course, is “why”. There are many factors that contribute to the act of suicide, but rarely is it one event or situation resulting in an individual ending their own life. There may be a trigger, but the reason is much more complicated than one incident. Seldom is suicide chosen without being preceded by a long struggle, often accompanied by chronic depression. For some the desire to die is such a strong compulsion there reaches a point where it can no longer be denied. 

When I worked as a RN in an Emergency Department many years ago I witnessed firsthand the victims of suicide, some successful and others who were not. I saw the shock, confusion and heartbreak of families and regretfully at least one doctor who could not understand nor empathize with such a patient. I recall the horror of working on self-inflicted gunshot wounds, pumping stomachs to remove poisons and overdoses and witnessing myriad other ways in which people took their own lives. I never doubted that they were serious, although there were one or two who I thought might have been too immature to fully understand their actions. Many patients were saved, some were not. I recall one man who had shot himself and survived who wept and confided, “I can’t do anything right.” I will never forget his sorrow at being unsuccessful. I’m sharing these few details of that hospital environment to demonstrate that suicide is not an act for attention, but an act of desperation. 

Incidence

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) suicide occurs globally every 40 seconds. This translates, tragically, to the loss of 2,160 lives each day. In the US in 2014 (the last year for which there are complete statistics) suicide was the tenth leading cause of death and claimed the lives of over 42,000 people according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Perhaps more disturbing, the suicide rate over the past fifteen years has increased by 24%. 

Eulogy for a Mom

There is so much that can be said on this subject. Sadly most of us have some experience with the heartbreak associated with a friend or loved one ending their own life. Perhaps you have undergone a close or recent loss due to suicide. Aside from listing some resources at the end of this post I feel the most helpful thing to do is to share with you a eulogy I was honored to hear at a memorial service in December of 2014. 

This eulogy was given by the daughter of my neighbor and friend, Marilyn Lamb. Marilyn’s daughter, Laurie Lamb Ray, has graciously given her permission for this tribute to her Mom to be reproduced here. Laurie’s words lovingly and sensitively state what we need to hear and understand when one dies as the result of suicide. I believe you will find it enlightening and that it will be helpful if you have the opportunity to comfort someone who has lost a loved one under these circumstances. 


Here are Laurie’s words:

I know you expect me to talk about mom tonight, maybe share funny foibles, touching tributes. And, I could. I have hundreds to share. But, I’ll leave that to others. Today, I’m going to talk about the elephant in the room. And, the elephant in the room is suicide. And now that you know I’m going to talk about suicide, I know that you are terribly uncomfortable and would like nothing better than to get up, jump in your car and go home. But you are a captive audience so, in honor of my mom, I’m going to ask you to stay and I’m going use this opportunity to try and help you understand my mom and her suicide.

Yes, my mom committed suicide. And we are all horrified and shocked and so very sad. And, let’s face it, even if we try really hard not to, we all tend to judge her just a little bit. Even the words we use seem a little damning, don’t they? She committed suicide. As if it is a crime akin to murder. We say, How could she do this? To me, to all of us? How selfish. How awful. How could she? And we are puzzled. She looked fine to me. She seemed fine when I saw her at the party just the night before. Well, don’t feel bad, she seemed fine at the party to me too.

But, you see she wasn’t fine; hadn’t been fine for my entire life. My mom had severe chronic depression. I don’t know how many of you know someone with severe chronic depression, but I know all of you have known someone who died of cancer…they fought it, they wanted desperately to live, they took medicine, sought help, people prayed for them and “yes” sometimes they even seemed fine. Yet, at some point they could no longer fight – they had become too weary, too weak and they just could not continue to live. And, that you see is exactly what happened to my mom. 

My mom died from a chemical imbalance in her brain. Not a weakness, not selfishness, not a sin against God. A very real, physical imbalance that left her unable to cope and unable to hope for things to get better.

So many of you have asked what you can do to help during this time. I’ll tell you what you can do. In memory of my mom, I ask that you re-file “suicide” from that place in your brain that judges and is horrified, to a place where there is nothing, but compassion and understanding. 

Your mom died of cancer? Well, my mom died of chronic depression. And, today she is no longer hopeless. She is with my dad and, even in the midst of my sadness, THAT has to make me smile.

Mom, I understand and I love you.


Thank you Laurie for sharing with us. We are grateful for your kindness and generosity. I would also like to thank Laurie’s Aunt Janet, who graciously agreed to share this message concerning her sister’s death. 


 

The following signs, symptoms and risk factors are from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

Signs & Symptoms

The behaviors listed below may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide.

1.  Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves

2.  Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live

3.  Making a plan or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun

4.  Talking about great guilt or shame

5.  Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions

6.  Feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)

7.  Talking about being a burden to others

8.  Using alcohol or drugs more often

9.  Acting anxious or agitated

10. Withdrawing from family and friends

11. Changing eating and/or sleeping habits

12. Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

13. Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast

14. Talking or thinking about death often

15. Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy

16. Giving away important possessions

17. Saying goodbye to friends and family

18. Putting affairs in order, making a will

(Blogger’s note: It is conceivable there are some victims who do not display outward signs prior to suicide.)

Risk Factors 

Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. Suicidal behavior is complex and there is no single cause. In fact, many different factors contribute to someone making a suicide attempt. But people most at risk tend to share certain characteristics. The main risk factors for suicide are:

1.  Depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder

2.  Certain medical conditions

3.  Chronic pain

4.  A prior suicide attempt

5.  Family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse

6.  Family history of suicide

7.  Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse

8.  Having guns or other firearms in the home

9.  Having recently been released from prison or jail

10. Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities

Many people have some of these risk factors, but do not attempt suicide. It is important to note that suicide is not a normal response to stress. Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress, not a harmless bid for attention, and should not be ignored.


If you need help:

Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Available 24 Hours a day, 7 days a week.
The service is free, confidential and available to anyone.
All calls are confidential.
You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or
Use the online Lifeline Crisis Chat: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

For more information, Visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

(the source of this contact information)