TEXAS

The state of Texas put Quintin Jones to death on May 19, 2021, without any media witnesses present to observe the execution. Since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld its death penalty statute in 1976 Texas has put to death 571 individuals. This is the first time there were no media witnesses. 

Officials blamed the problem on “miscommunication” by inexperienced members of the execution team. Some of the new personnel who had not been a part of an execution before simply forgot to summon the media into the waiting/witnessing area they said. My question is, why were inexperienced people in charge of an execution? What else might they have forgotten to do? No wonder we read about botched and painful experiences of those being executed!

According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), Texas law authorizes five media witnesses to observe each execution specifying that one witness must be from the Associated Press (AP). Later AP coverage of the event highlighted the importance of media witnesses in revealing problems such as have been seen in AL, AZ, OK, and OH where inmates were seen gasping for breath for several minutes or writhing in pain. Per DPIC Executive Director, Robert Dunham, “If the state with the most experience in executing prisoners lacks the competence to carry out this most basic execution function, what does that tell us about what else in the execution process states and the federal government can’t be trusted to perform properly?”

Qintin Jones

Photo by DPIC

Quintin Jones’ case had already attracted national attention because his was a resumption of state executions which had been on hold during the pandemic, but also because the victim’s family had requested clemency. That and a petition with more than 150,000 signatures didn’t convince Gov. Greg Abbott to grant clemency to Mr. Jones. 

Death Penalty Cost

Have you ever considered what it costs to carry out an execution? Have you given thought to the fact that you and I pay for our fellow citizens to be executed? That’s right, it is tax payer money which makes it possible to take the life of a convicted prisoner.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons spent nearly $4.7 million dollars on the five executions carried in July and August 2020. With an average annual federal incarceration cost of $37,449.00, the burden to U.S. taxpayers for each execution exceeded the price tag of incarcerating a federal prisoner for 25 years.

Source: ACLU

GUNS

Do you know how many people died in US wars since the Revolutionary War? It is around 1.4 million. That is fewer than Americans killed by guns in the last 45 years. Including accidents, murders, and suicides more than 1.5 million lives have been lost to guns since 1975. 

A gun is not inherently bad. They become bad when used improperly or in emotional settings. Guns for hunting are generally safe in the hands of experienced users and when locked up away from children when not in use. The same is true of handguns used for target practice. Automatic rifles like those used by mass murderers belong only in the hands of the military. 

I’m not a gun expert, but I know guns kill about 80 children under four years of age annually and that is more than police officers killed in the line of duty. Those statistics don’t require an expert.

The United States has to do better. We have more guns (~400 million) than people (330 million). It is not about CONTROL. It is about the SAFETY of innocent people. 

Citizens need to rise up and speak up. Call your state and federal legislators, protest, be a voice for gun safety today!

Assisted Death

We all know, or at least have heard of, individuals who spent the last part of their lives in long-term facilities without any quality of life while eating up all of one’s lifetime savings. Medical costs at the end of life are a huge portion of one’s lifetime medical expenses. There are others who have a terminal and debilitating disease such as Parkinson’s who do not want to live helplessly until natural death occurs. Such people are likely to desire the end of life, but unless they live in certain areas of this country this is not an opportunity for them, at least not legally. In areas that do allow one to end their life, cancer is the number two diagnosis for self-deliverance, behind ALS. 

There is much controversy regarding the act of ending one’s life. The American Medical Association is against physicians being involved in such acts because the physician is to be seen as a healer instead. Others, particularly religious groups, see this self determination of the end of life as suicide and therefore a sin. Advocates see it as death with dignity. 

In 1990 the Patient Self-Determination Act was passed when the Supreme Court ruled that a person had the right to refuse nutrition and hydration to end life. This quickly lead to the Living Will with which most of us are familiar.   https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/ At about the same time the Supreme Court ruled that assisted death would be up to the states. Since then, nine states and the District of Columbia granted that right to its citizens. One in five Americans live in those states and fewer than 4,500 have died utilizing this right. 

Interestingly, assisted death by injection is forbidden. The person choosing to die must be able to ingest oral medication. One-third of those who obtain the medication for this purpose do not take it, even though it is on hand.  

Maine, one of the nine states, named their law Medical Aid in Dying and the current medical protocol, called D-DMA: contains #1 powdered digoxin, which is normally used to treat irregular heartbeat but causes the heart to stop at extreme doses. And #2 a mixture of Diazepam (Valium), which suppresses the respiratory system in high doses; Morphine, a narcotic that also suppresses the respiratory system; and Amitriptyline, an antidepressant that stops the heart at high doses. This cocktail is said to produce peaceful sleep followed by death. It is not easy to obtain this method of dying. Maine requires an oral request followed by a second oral request. A written request is then required at least fifteen days later. 

Final Exit”, by the founder of the modern American right-to-die movement, Derek Humphry, was published in 1991 and offers information on ending one’s life where it is not legally permitted.This book offers various ways to end one’s life listing each by lethality, minutes to death, pain level and other factors. Some methods, e.g., the use of a plastic bag and helium or nitrous gases require that someone remove the apparatus prior to a coroner’s visit if the deceased doesn’t want it known that they ended their own life. The book even includes information regarding life insurance. The fact that this book has sold 2 million copies seems to indicate great interest in the subject and the many methods of suicide/euthanasia described within. 

COVID19 in Prison

Each day we hear statistics regarding the number of COVID 19 cases and deaths occurring. We hear local, state, national and global figures. Our reactions vary depending on our own experiences with the pandemic. Unfortunately, we can become indifferent to the barrage of numbers unless it has affected us personally.

Numbers we don’t often hear are relative to how many cases and deaths take place in prisons. The incidence of COVID among prisoners is one in five. There have been over two thousand deaths which is 51% more than the general population. Each person who dies in prison leaves behind family who care about them. These loved ones need the same support and care that any grieving person needs, but it is difficult to receive due to the stigma of imprisonment.

A group of family members and other survivors have gone together to prepare a crowd sourced memorial for those who die in prison. Please review these obituaries, read about those who have died while locked away and look at their faces. They are our fellow human beings. Let’s spend some time honoring these lives lost. https://www.mourningourlosses.org

“The Second Grave”

“The Second Grave” by Carl Wedekind

Attorney Wedekind writes about violence in Kentucky’s history beginning in 1742 and through the end of the twentieth century. His purpose is to demonstrate that as the state has transitioned from the days of lynchings, duels and family feuds abolishing capital punishment should naturally follow.

The reasons most often given in favor of the death penalty are:

  1. Executions will deter murder by others in the future
  2. Society’s sense of justice demands executions
  3. Victim’s families loss and grief requires executions for justice and closure
  4. It is a waste of taxpayers’ money to keep a murderer locked up for life with free room and board
  5. Rehabilitation of a murderer is unlikely or impossible

The author addresses each of these and gives both examples and statistics to disprove each. He is for the abolishment of capital punishment and presents a strong case.

Because this book is dated (copyright 1999) I started to not review it here, but after more thought I changed my mind. It is still relevant to the discussion of capital punishment and the history of Kentucky is similar to that of other states. The truths apply universally and over time.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject of capital punishment whether for or against. It will also be of interest to any Kentuckian.

The Loss of a Dog

Why is it so hard to lose a dog? Having a dog die is heartbreaking. Having to euthanize one is worse. I had that experience many years ago and years after that with a cat. As much as I love my cats, I believe that the bond one has with their dog is stronger. It is hard to explain why but it must have something to do with dogs having spent the last several centuries adapting to the lives of humans. While some dogs have been bred to have dual roles as hunters or shepherds most have evolved only to be our companions. 

Dogs are like a friend who never brings up our weak or negative points. Dogs accept us unconditionally. Our dogs are always glad to see us and with their eyes they thank us for every morsel or treat that we provide to them. 

If you’ve never owned and loved a dog, don’t be surprised when someone who does have a dog becomes grieved at its loss. There is no service, no newspaper write up, no visitation to comfort the owner but don’t miss the fact that the owner does need for you to care. They may be hesitant to show their grief, but it is there just as it is with the loss of a friend for a dog is a faithful friend. 

As we established before https://crookedcreek.live/2019/12/05/benefits-of-owning-a-dog/ dog owners live longer and research shows they live happier. Dogs give back so much love and devotion for what they receive from us. 

“May I become the kind of person that my dog thinks I already am,” someone has said. 

“When the dog looks at you, the dog is not thinking what kind of a person you are. The dog is not judging you.” Eckhart Tolle

Title portrait of Luke by Artist Pat Brooks

Suicide Prevention

This is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week. During this pandemic it is more important than ever that we be there for each other. You don’t have to be a mental health professional to make a difference. Being aware of the signs, knowing where to turn for help are things we can all do for ourselves and each other.

On average there are 132 suicides per day in the United States. Over fifty percent of these are carried out by firearms.

See this post for signs and symptoms of suicide as well as resources that are available: https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/01/death-suicide/

Quarantine

John Pavlovitz is a blogger who I follow. His latest post (the link is below) says a lot that is important during this time of physical distancing. I’ve been thinking about blogging about the issues he discusses. He does it so well, please read. Thank You

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2020/04/01/dont-quarantine-yourself-from-life/

Born Terminal

Recently I attended three funerals in one week. Each deceased person was different in so many ways, e.g., age, interests and family unit left behind. But one thing was consistent, each left a hole in the hearts of those surviving. When someone we know dies we are usually shocked. We use words that mask the reality of death. He or she has “passed, gone on or left us” when in fact the person is dead. How we fear that word and that reality. Why is it so hard to accept that we are all born terminal. We will all die. This is no way negates the loss and pain of losing a person we care about but if we could at least acknowledge that life ends for each person surely we would be better prepared for our own death as well as that of others.

We need to move beyond “if something happens to me” to “when I die.” It is inevitable.

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Photo by Pixabay

“Mobituaries”

Book Review

My close friends, family and regular readers know I have a fascination with death which includes careful reading of obituaries. I don’t see it as morbid. I see it as a window into life, but be that as it may, it is no surprise that I received the book “Mobituaries” for Christmas this year. The book by Mo Rocca was just published and it is a delight to read. It really is not about obituaries, but about people and things that Rocca believes did not receive the sendoff they had coming. Some examples are dragons, Medieval science, Lawrence Welk and the station wagon.

I recommend this book for easy, fun reading. It is over three hundred pages of humor and history. I learned new information and was guided to look at old information in a different light. The book is well researched with all consulted works documented.

Mo Rocca is a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning and host of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation. He is a frequent panelist on NPR and has done acting on Broadway and writing for TV including The Daily Show.

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Mississippi Prison

Several weeks ago we explored the subject of “Corrections” https://crookedcreek.live/?s=corrections here on Crooked Creek. Several readers had important comments to make on the subject. Recently I read a story about a prison in Mississippi which I may not have believed had it not been published by The Marshall Project. The Marshall Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system. It strives to educate regarding the state of criminal justice. 

Mississippi has long been known as a troubled prison system. The particular privately operated institution described in a report by Joseph Neff and Alysia Santo is Wilkinson County Correctional Facility. The report is accompanied by a security videotape of an attack on a prisoner which resulted in his death four days later. You can view that disturbing video at  https://www.themarshallproject.org/2019/06/26/corporate-confession-gangs-ran-this-private-prison

1140xOn January 31, 2018, twenty-six-year-old Brad Fitch arrived at the prison. The video shows him being chased, then attacked by two inmates, one of whom had a handmade knife. Fitch was stabbed ten times and died at a hospital. In spite of the video showing his killers, no one has been charged for the murder. It turns out the men were just doing their jobs.

An internal audit revealed that this privately run prison was so short on employees (guards) that the warden, who has since resigned, used inmate gangs to control the prison population. Fitch and his killers were actually members of the same gang, called Simon City Warriors, a white gang affiliated with the Gangster Disciples. The killers caught on security cameras were settling a score with Fitch from two years before. 

As we learned before many, if not most, prisons have trouble hiring and retaining people for low paying, dangerous jobs. Wilkinson has a turnover rate of 90% and even though they have raised the hourly wage to $11.25 per hour more than a third of its positions are vacant.

I encourage those of you interested in the subject of criminal justice to read the entire Marshall Project report at the link listed above.

“America is the land of the second chance – and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.” George W. Bush

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring

Today I look at the flowering trees and think of you.

When we enjoyed them last spring we had no reason to think it would be our last dogwood season together. 

Now you lie in the cold ground with woods of redbud all around, but cannot see, or smell, or move to raise your eyes skyward. 

But, then I see an unexpected crane, a cardinal or a deer and I wonder if that is so. 

Sue Baugh Mattingly – April 15, 2015

 

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Staying Alive 4 of 6

Now that you have a puppy on your lap as you read your book and have regular checkups with your female doctor what else can you do to stay alive?

Next: Stay Out of the Hospital!

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There was a time when the term “hospital clean” meant sterile and spotless. Today, unfortunately, the meaning could be the opposite. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists nineteen nosocomial (hospital-acquired) infections three of which are antibiotic resistant. These can be life-threatening infections and they are transmitted in various ways including, but not limited to, patient to patient. Viruses and bacteria can also be spread by health care workers, contamination of furniture and other articles and through the air.

Hazards other than infection can result from surgery, treatment, immobility, and falls. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) tracks the rate of the following complications resulting from hospitalization: (notes are parentheses are mine)

  • Pressure Ulcer (bed sore)
  • Pneumothorax (lung collapse)
  • Fracture (broken bones from falls)
  • Hemorrhage or Hematoma (bleeding)
  • Acute Kidney Injury Requiring Dialysis (kidney failure)
  • Postoperative Respiratory Failure
  • Perioperative Pulmonary Embolism or Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clot during surgery)
  • Postoperative Sepsis (serious, often life-threatening, infection of blood or other tissue)
  • Postoperative Wound Dehiscence (incision opening following surgery)
  • Unrecognized Abdominopelvic Accidental Puncture/Laceration (accident in surgery of the abdomen or pelvis)

What Can You Do?

There are times when hospitalization cannot be avoided. During those times one has little choice but given the option of outpatient care that is usually the best recourse. Understanding the risk of infection, in particular, should make one hesitant about visitation in hospitals. Situations vary and there are times when a hospitalized patient needs someone with them. If that is not the case protect yourself and them by waiting until they return home for visits. 

“A hospital is no place to be sick.” Samuel Goldwyn

Writing this reminds me of many years ago when I was in the hospital for a couple of days. My then eleven year-old daughter gave me a book for a gift when I left home to have surgery.   Although I no longer have that book, I clearly remember the title, “Staying Alive!” Thanks for the smiles, Allison!

Theme graphic & photo by Pixabay

Minnie IV

My Mother

I’ve introduced Minnie to you before. If you missed those posts, I’d suggest you use the Search feature on the Home Page to search for “Minnie.” She is a person I’d like you to know more about and her stories are worth your time. 

Over twenty years ago Minnie, my Mom died and after the visitation and funeral services came time to settle her estate. The business was tiresome, frustrating and seemed to drag on for longer than it should have. I’ve since learned that even that gigantic chore had an emotional benefit. I thought I knew all about Mom, I had cared for her for the past few years and had dearly loved her for my fifty-five years of life. I had a few more things to learn as I began to clear out her home for sale and she had a few more smiles to present. 

Minnie’s House

Besides old photos and clothes and all the household items anticipated, there were boxes, a basement full of boxes. How did I not know that my Mother had kept nearly every box of every item she had ever bought in her eighty-one years of life? I exaggerate only slightly. The boxes contained not the original items, most of those were nowhere to be found. What they did contain was the instruction papers or booklet that came with the fan or mixer or vacuum, neatly folded and attached to the box flap. 

Other plentiful items were plastic rain bonnets, yellowed obituaries, new unused wallets, and keys, keys, and more keys. There were keys everywhere in the house. Some were in little-zippered pouches, some were on chains or tied with ribbon and still, others were just laying there, all alone without other keys to keep them company. My job was to try to determine what the keys locked and unlocked. I eventually gave up, but not until I had spent hours of investigative work thinking about my Mom and wondering if she was somewhere laughing at my confusion.

I’ve already planted keys, lots of keys for my daughters to find after I die!

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Pixabay Photo

 

“No one can drive us crazy unless we give them the keys.”

Douglas Horton

 

 

Personal Grief

We Will All Grieve

By adulthood, most people have experienced loss that triggers grief. If you have yet to lose a person or something that means the world to you, then you are probably very young and certainly very lucky. 

Facing loss of another or one’s own approaching death will bring on an overabundance of feelings. Some of these feelings we discussed earlier from Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s book “On Death and Dying.” 

These feelings are especially likely to fall on the anniversary of a loss. It might be the actual date but it might also occur on the day of the week or a day that is similar in weather or season. Unexpected grief can be triggered by sounds, smells or sights such as a bird, a flag or a similar face. In these cases, grief comes even on a good day.

Holidays

The holiday season which we are facing now can be particularly painful following a loss.  While there is no single solution some ways that one can prepare or minister to self include the following:

  1. It is okay to say, “No” to invitations and to spend some time alone. Likewise, it is okay to join friends and family and to enjoy oneself even while grieving.
  2. Be honest with those who want to help you and let them know your needs. 
  3. Get enough rest, exercise and a well-balanced diet. Physical wellbeing is necessary for emotional strength. 
  4. Recognize that grief is not an obstacle but a necessary process. It is not an illness to be healed. 
  5. Consult your spiritual mentor or a professional counselor. 
  6. Prepare a way for your loved one to be memorialized such as a special candle or ornament in their honor.
  7. Take advantage of support groups such as those listed below. Often funeral homes offer such services, too.  

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Resources: 

GreifShare (church related) https://www.griefshare.org

Soaring Spirits International (for widowers) https://www.soaringspirits.org

Compassionate Friends (after the loss of a child) https://www.compassionatefriends.org

Hospice https://hospicefoundation.org/End-of-Life-Support-and-Resources/Grief-Support/Support-Groups

Pet Loss – Humane Society or http://www.petloss.com

“The flowers bloom, then wither . . . the stars shine and one day become extinct. .  This earth, the sun, the galaxies and even the big universe someday will be destroyed . . . Compared with that, the human life is only a blink, just a little time . . In that short time, the people are born, laugh, cry, fight, are injured, feel joy, sadness, hate someone, love someone. All in just a moment. And then, are embraced by the eternal sleep called death.”  Virgo Shaka (Saint Seya)

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Grief

Stages of Grief

In 1969 Elizabeth Kubler-Ross published the book “On Death and Dying” outlining what came to be known as the Five Stages of Grief. Few understood that Kubler-Ross was describing what she had observed in her patients who were dying. It was about personal grief from one’s own approaching death but could be applied to the grief of any loss that might be experienced. The author published a second book decades later entitled “On Grief and Grieving” in which she explained the stages further.

With this background in mind, it serves us well to briefly look at the five stages which Dr. Kubler-Ross listed.

1.Denial
Denial is a natural reaction which briefly buffers one from the unthinkable reality of death or approaching death.

2. Anger
Anger is often directed at the unfairness of the loss one is experiencing.

3. Bargaining
Bargaining is a mechanism that is especially used by those who are anticipating their own death. Bargaining might be in the form of asking to just see a daughter’s wedding or a grandchild’s birth before death.

4. Depression
Depression sets in when one realizes that bargaining will not work and is a period of deep mourning.

5. Acceptance
Accepting the inevitability of death brings a measure of peace, but it does not erase grief. 

One should never expect grief to be packaged in a neat orderly group of these five steps. Instead, grieving is personal and these stages can occur in any order, can overlap, as well as come and go over time. Having a general idea of what one is experiencing in these terms can, however, be helpful in recognizing the normalcy of the process.

https://crookedcreek.live/2018/07/06/book-reviews/

Types of Loss

These stages, these feelings are not only connected with loss through death but can be from any type of significant loss. Some that quickly come to my mind are the loss of a job, a home or a pet. Other less obvious perhaps are the loss of self-image (through injury or surgery), loss of a partner through divorce or separation and even loss of status or a sense of self. Through all of these losses and more, we can expect to deny, be angry, bargain, experience depression and hopefully finally reach a degree of acceptance.

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How to Say Goodbye

One of the hardest things to do is to say goodbye to one who is dying. Knowing that these are likely the last words you will speak to someone you care about is a formidable responsibility. Beryl Schewe (Eden Prairie News) notes six things that should or could be said. They are: I love you, Thank you, I forgive you, Forgive me, I will be OK, and Goodbye. It seems to me that any of these six simple phrases said in love are appropriate. I believe they are enough. I believe they can bring peace to both the dying and the survivor.

In the next post, we will discuss what to say and not say to one who is grieving.

“Grief is the price we pay for love.” Queen Elizabeth II

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Sisters

My Sister

Really, I never had a sister in the biological sense, but I came close. My cousin Pat was born six weeks before me and I never let her forget that she was the older. Her Mom, Lucy, was my Mom’s sister and they were very close. Pat and I were sisters in every sense of the word. 

Pat, beat breast cancer and then succumbed to leukemia a few years later. I was unable to go to the hospital to visit her due to my immunodeficiency, but I talked to her on the phone most days. Recently while cleaning up files on my computer, I ran across letters that I wrote to Pat during her last weeks on this earth. I am always more able to express myself in writing. Some letters were snail mailed, but most my husband delivered to her daily. I even wrote her obituary, per her request, and sent it to the hospice facility via that route. 

Reading the letters again has made me smile and cry and I’ve selected one, shortened, but not edited (sorry about some of the language) to share with you today. 


March 5, 2013 (a.k.a. first night of chemo)

Hi Pat,

Thought of you as soon as I opened my eyes this morning, knowing that you would be waiting for the THE CALL to come to the hospital and begin your clinical trial.  I don’t know how you feel.  I can only imagine and w/o prior experience such as yours the imagination can’t come up with anything close, I’m sure.  

I thought about our long past together and not together.  There are unanswered questions, like who broke who’s pot and did someone really drop a puppy and make a crack in his nose?   We went from innocent little girls to not so innocent middle sized girls.  We laughed and giggled all night.  It was especially hazardous at your house, because we knew your Dad had to get up hours before daylight to deliver bread.  It was for Bond, right?  He’d yell at us.  Your Mom would shame us, but we just could not contain the fun we were having.  I can’t remember our doing this at my house, but surely we did?

Then there was the teen stage when we worried about boys, hair, our weight and pimples.  I married and got pregnant, in that order and you got a job and became a business person.  How in hell did we both end up being nurses?  I cannot believe that I had the nerve to do that LPN thing and then it all came so naturally.  I decided there was no “practical” reason to be a practical nurse, so kept working at the RN and then we were both hot stuff; starched white uniforms, caps and feeling pretty damn proud of ourselves. 

Well, then as I told you on the phone today, I broke my pretty china nurse which you gave me when I graduated (the first time or second?).  Her arm is broken – osteoporosis?  But, it will be glued and good as new.  

I hope that your treatment will result in the same, or at least, comparable healing.  I used to pray for things I wanted badly.  I don’t do that anymore, but I keep you in my thoughts and send warm positive thoughts which I hope will somehow bring you peace and comfort. 

Oh yeah, our current stage of life is getting a little like Minnie’s and Lucy’s relationship in their later years.  I’m really ticked off at you for getting cancer a second time.  You had the good boob job and have the good hair and then you go and mess up both.  OK, I know it’s not your fault, but really, after beating the big “C” once, here you go getting it again.  I’m counting on you getting older (and me, too, of course) so that we can explore all the things that old women love.  

No, not knitting or any of that sort of bullshit.  We’ll go on long drives and wonder how we got there.  We’ll be gorgeous like Betty White and we’ll gossip about all our relatives (but mostly our in-laws).  We’ll wear polyester pants w/ elastic waistbands and go to all-you-can-eat buffets.  Then we’ll burp and complain about the food and have some more.  We’ll talk about what smart RNs we were and how arrogant and pushy the docs were and how things would be different in healthcare today if we were still there.

So, please try your best to get well, OK?  I need you.  I only have one sister and you have that honor.  

Love, Sue


 

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“Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister.” Alice Walker

Victims

In Remembrance

Yesterday these eleven people left their homes to attend a religious ceremony at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, PA. Today they lie in a Medical Examiner’s office on a slab.  

Joyce Fineberg, 75, of Oakland, City of Pittsburgh

Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross Township

Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh

Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood Borough

Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh

David Rosenthal, 54, (brother of Cecil), of Squirrel Hill

Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg

Sylvan Simon, 86, (husband of Bernice), of Wilkinsburg

Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh

Melvin Wax, 88, of Squirrel Hill, City of Pittsburgh

Irving Younger, 69, of Mt. Washington, City of Pittsburgh 

On Wednesday, four days ago, three miles from my home two African-Americans were shot and killed while grocery shopping. One in the store, the other in the parking lot by a white man who allegedly stated, “Whites don’t kill whites.”

They were:

Vickie Lee Jones, 67, Louisville, KY

Maurice E. Stallard, 69, Louisville, KY

I just came from a vigil in their honor at the sight of their deaths. While it was good to see people of all colors together showing love and respect, I couldn’t help wondering why we don’t act more like this in our daily lives.

Thoughts, prayers, vigils . . . too little, too late. 

Cause of deaths: Hate      

Method: Guns  

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“Researchers have proven, scientifically, that humans are all one people. The color of our ancestors’ skin and ultimately my skin and your skin is a consequence of ultraviolet light, of latitude and climate. Despite our recent sad conflicts here in the U.S., there really is no such thing as race. We are one species — each of us much, much more alike than different. We all come from Africa. We all are of the same stardust. We are all going to live and die on the same planet, a Pale Blue Dot in the vastness of space. We have to work together.”  Bill Nye

Goatman

Urban Legend

If you are a regular follower of Crooked Creek, you may recall my mentioning the Goatman a few times. As Halloween approaches, I want to give you a full introduction to the half-man and half-goat. This creature, known as a satyr has frightened generations in this southeastern Jefferson County community. He resides near the trestle at Pope Lick pictured below. The picture of the actual Goatman is borrowed from a sign I saw in Pope Lick Park last fall. He has to be real or there could not be a photo, right? 

 

I’m not sure how a creature of Greek mythology came to reside here in Kentucky, but he is well known and feared. Such beasts are known for their drunkenness and lust and if you want to know more, you’ll have to check him out outline because this is a PG13 blog! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyr

Many times train conductors have seen adventurers on the trestle in search of the Goatman. Sadly a woman died in 2016 when she and her friend were exploring on the track. The man was able to survive by lying between the ties, but the woman was struck and plunged to her death below the trestle. http://www.wdrb.com/story/31800606/woman-dies-after-being-hit-by-train-on-pope-lick-train-trestle

Happy Hunting!

If you are brave enough to search this Halloween. 

THE Binder

Several years ago I worked for a Fortune 500 company that had a binder for everything. I must have caught “binderitis” during my eighteen years there. I have binders all over the house. About seventy are filled with family photos and mementos and they are stored everywhere, some visible, many hidden. I feel sorry for my family when I die because they are going to have to figure out what to do with all these scrapbooks. 

There are other binders for various purposes. I find it easy to organize records in binders with dividers and color coding. OKAY! Maybe I am sicker than I thought, so if you are laughing it is fine. I’m hooked on binders and not likely to give up my habit. 

There is one binder however that I know my family will appreciate one day. I have two daughters and when I die they will know where to start to plan my memorial and to settle my estate. They will unlock the secret place and pull out THE BINDER.

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This particular one is over eight years old and has been revised several times as situations change. It had a smaller predecessor. Let me tell you what this binder contains in its seven sections. 

  1. End of Life – Copies of the Power of Attorney, Living Will, Healthcare Surrogate and Will. The originals are in a lockbox for which they have the keys.  
  2. Finance – Banking and Insurance account information including account/policy numbers and contact names and phone numbers. Inventory of lockboxes. Charts (containing photos) listing family heirlooms (and other valuables), their locations and their origin (from grandparents, etc.) 
  3. Funeral and Burial – Information on cemetery plot, gravestone contract regarding adding dates, suggestions and wishes for memorial service and data necessary for an obituary. 
  4. House and Property – Copy of Deed(s), photos showing locations of water shutoff valves and electrical circuitry. 
  5. Medical Information that may be needed by Healthcare Surrogate
  6. Historical Information as needed
  7. Miscellaneous and Resources 

You may not be happy working with a binder. That’s okay. A box will do or a drawer. It is simply important for everything to be in one place. It does not have to be meticulously organized (although that’s nice). The important thing is that it is all together and that the person(s) who will settle your estate knows where it is and has any keys necessary. It is also critical that the contents of the box, drawer, or binder be discussed ahead of the time it is needed. I call that THE TALKhttps://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/

 

“Expect the best and prepare for the worst.” Muhammad Ali Jinnah

Smile

I’ve often been accused of thinking and talking too much about death. I do contemplate the subject and read and talk about it quite a bit, but I want to declare that I am not morbid. Death is inevitable for each of us, so why not acknowledge that and get on with laughing, loving and living? That’s my philosophy. 

Can death be funny? If your first instinct is to answer, “No,” think again. If you’ve ever watched the late eighties movie, “Weekend at Bernie’s” you know better!

John Cleese’s Philosophy 

Is death funny? It is. Death is certainly present in my life, and there’s humor to be mined from it. Somebody was saying to me last week that you can’t talk about death these days without people thinking you’ve done something absolutely antisocial. But death is part of the deal. Imagine if, before you came to exist on Earth, God said, “You can choose to stay up here with me, watching reruns and eating ice cream, or you can be born. But if you pick being born, at the end of your life you have to die — that’s nonnegotiable. So which do you pick?” I think most people would say, “I’ll give living a whirl.” It’s sad, but the whirl includes dying. That’s something I accept.  John Cleese

Now everyone loves me

“Die with memories, not dreams.” Word Porn

On the Day I Die

A poem written by John Pavolitz

On the Day I Die

On the day I die a lot will happen.
A lot will change.
The world will be busy.

On the day I die, all the important appointments I made will be left unattended.
The many plans I had yet to complete will remain forever undone.
The calendar that ruled so many of my days will now be irrelevant to me.
All the material things I so chased and guarded and treasured will be left in the hands of others to care for or to discard.
The words of my critics which so burdened me will cease to sting or capture anymore. They will be unable to touch me.
The arguments I believed I’d won here will not serve me or bring me any satisfaction or solace.  
All my noisy incoming notifications and texts and calls will go unanswered. Their great urgency will be quieted.
My many nagging regrets will all be resigned to the past, where they should have always been anyway.
Every superficial worry about my body that I ever labored over; about my waistline or hairline or frown lines, will fade away.
My carefully crafted image, the one I worked so hard to shape for others here, will be left to them to complete anyway.
The sterling reputation I once struggled so greatly to maintain will be of little concern for me anymore.
All the small and large anxieties that stole sleep from me each night will be rendered powerless.
The deep and towering mysteries about life and death that so consumed my mind will finally be clarified in a way that they could never be before while I lived.
These things will certainly all be true on the day that I die.
Yet for as much as will happen on that day, one more thing that will happen.
On the day I die, the few people who really know and truly love me will grieve deeply.
They will feel a void.
They will feel cheated.
They will not feel ready.
They will feel as though a part of them has died as well.
And on that day, more than anything in the world they will want more time with me.
I know this from those I love and grieve over.
And so knowing this, while I am still alive I’ll try to remember that my time with them is finite and fleeting and so very precious—and I’ll do my best not to waste a second of it.
I’ll try not to squander a priceless moment worrying about all the other things that will happen on the day I die, because many of those things are either not my concern or beyond my control.
Friends, those other things have an insidious way of keeping you from living even as you live; vying for your attention, competing for your affections.
They rob you of the joy of this unrepeatable, uncontainable, ever-evaporating Now with those who love you and want only to share it with you.
Don’t miss the chance to dance with them while you can.

 It’s easy to waste so much daylight in the days before you die.
Don’t let your life be stolen every day by all that you believe matters, because on the day you die, much of it simply won’t.
Yes, you and I will die one day.
But before that day comes: let us live.

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

CPR in the Hospital

CPR

Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) can be life-saving especially when performed in a hospital with all the talent, knowledge and equipment that is available. It has become routine for patients to be asked on admission to the hospital some form of the following question: “Do you want emergency measures to be performed if your heart stops?” 

That question can be daunting in myriad ways. If one is being admitted for a routine procedure it can be a bit of a shock. If the patient is critical and/or of advanced age then it might be even more upsetting. Three things can help at this point, #1. Expecting such a question, #2. Being an informed patient about just what “emergency measures” entails and the risks involved, and #3. Having already considered this question and having discussed it with your loved ones. https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/

Expectations

The first thing we all need to acknowledge is that we will one day die. Sobering as that thought might be, it is essential to know that regardless of how we answer the question above we may not be saved by CPR or any of the extraordinary measures taken if our heart stops beating. Perhaps worse yet might be to survive and be dependent upon breathing machines, feeding tubes and narcotics for pain relief. Cardiac arrest can cause organ failure leaving such organs as the liver and kidneys unable to function. Neurological deficits as the result of brain damage from lack of oxygen can occur. Unrealistic expectations can cause physical and psychological pain for both the patient and their family.

An Informed and Prepared Patient

An informed patient will have realistic expectations, will ask questions and will be prepared to make an informed consent. When a patient decides that they do not want heroic measures they can have a DNR (do not resuscitate) order to alert staff that the patient does not want CPR performed. Some hospitals now use the less promising acronym DNAR (do not attempt resuscitation). Before making this decision it is imperative that a patient know what resuscitation is and is not. It does present a chance at survival but it is nowhere close to a guarantee. The average chance of successfully resuscitating a healthy young person, i.e., to be neurologically intact, is only 30 percent overall. 

Once you have researched these issues and are armed with scientific information the next step is to discuss your wishes with your loved ones. Finally, prepare the legal documents that leave no doubt if the time comes when you need to inform your healthcare provider of your decision.  https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/19/death-intro-ii/

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In the end, what matters most, quantity or quality of time here on this planet? 

 

Graphics by Pixabay

CPR in the Field

CPR

Everyone knows what CPR means. It means saving a life with certain breathing techniques and chest compressions when one’s heart has stopped beating. Right?

Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation literally means heart lung revival. That puts it in a slightly different light but still sounds promising.

We’ve all seen it work over and over again on television, but is that a reflection of real life CPR? I can tell you that it is not whether in the hospital or on the street. Fewer than 20% of in-hospital recipients of CPR live to be discharged. And, this is with a team of highly skilled professionals, IV medications, and defibrillators to shock the heart.

Expectations

Many people today are trained in CPR, and that is a good thing. I’m sure that most take the training with the expectation of being able to save lives. It does happen, but the chances of being unsuccessful are high and this is often an extremely hard outcome to accept. If occurring in the clinical area there are several people involved, but if you are performing CPR as a layperson or even a professional in the field you are often alone and it is a formidable responsibility. It can be extremely difficult to overcome emotionally when one is unsuccessful.

My Experience

Many years ago I was an Emergency Department (ED) Registered Nurse (RN). I was used to “codes” which was the word we used when a patient went into cardiopulmonary arrest. Everyone worked together as a team. We started IVs,  did chest compressions, charged and used a defibrillator and we continued until the patient was either revived or pronounced dead. Needless to say with all the needed supplies and professionals working together we often were able to revive the patient and send them on to the Intensive Care Department. From there we lost track of their progress or lack thereof. We went on to the next emergency. I was used to “saves” in that environment.

When my own sixty-nine year-old father had a cardiac arrest at home it was a totally different world. My Mom wept nearby. A neighbor wrung her hands. There was no one to help as I did CPR alone for over twenty minutes while we awaited the ambulance and EMTs to arrive. I felt his sternum crack. Was I compressing his chest too hard? I became short of breath. Was I breathing the right ratio for him? My mouth bled. My father turned blue, first his ears and then his lips.

My father died that day and I have never stopped blaming myself. How could an ED RN not save her own father? My brain itemizes many factors to answer that question, but my heart keeps saying, “I’m so sorry Daddy, I’m so sorry.”

I’ve shared this to warn those of you who are so altruistically prepared to perform CPR that it might not work. It might not be possible. 

Please do be trained. Please do try if you are given the opportunity. But, please also know that it is not always in your power and be prepared to live with that possibility.

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Graphics by Pixabay

Book Review – Ghost Girls

Book Review

Recently I read the true story of young women who lost their health and their lives due to exposure to radium on their jobs. Several aspects of this tragedy stand out in my mind, but especially the fact that girls were hired as young as thirteen to work six days a week. Throughout the years that followed they were still referred to as “girls” no matter their ages. The radium dial companies they worked for kept important information about the dangers of radium from them and treated them as expendable. These young women had no way to know that the pretty glow that showed on their clothes, hair, and bodies was slowly poisoning them. 

As they suffered tooth loss, amputations, sarcomas and extreme pain these brave women eventually fought courageously for the truth and for monetary compensation. Their suffering and their efforts resulted in workplace regulations still in place today and even safeguards in the manufacture of the atomic bomb. 

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I highly recommend “The Radium Girls” by Kate Moore. The story begins around 1917 and covers the WWI and WWII eras and well into the 1970s. The results of the courage of these “ghost girls” protect us all even today in the 21st Century.  


 “Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of.” Bethany Hamilton

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Book Reviews – Stiff, Smoke Get In Your Eyes, & Confessions of a Funeral Director

So much has been written about the subject of death since Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s seminal work was published in 1969. Kubler-Ross was a Swiss psychiatrist who worked with the terminally ill at the University of Chicago. She wrote “On Death and Dying” which presented the “five stages of death,” more accurately the five stages of grief. Thus began an open dialogue on the subject of death in medical schools and other clinical settings and to some extent in social conversation. Nearly fifty years later we are much less reluctant to discuss the subject of death and dying.

That does not mean that everyone is terribly comfortable with all that has been written over this time span or even with the general discussion of the subject of death. I devour the subject as my modest library demonstrates. I have learned from each author, but my favorites to date are Mary Roach, Caitlin Doughty, and Caleb Wilde. fullsizeoutput_138b

“Stiff”

First I would like to recommend “Stiff” by Mary Roach. Published in 2003 it is far more interesting than “Spook” released two years later. “Stiff” is full of history as well as contemporary subjects surrounding death. Want to know a little about cannibalism? How about cannibalism in the name of medicine? Have any idea what can happen to the human body donated to science? Most people think anatomy lab for medical students, few think of crash dummy. 

Roach’s macabre sense of humor has resulted in “Stiff” chapters with names like “A Head is a Terrible Thing to Waste, The Cadaver Who Joined the Army, How to Know if You are Dead and Eat me,” just to name a few. Don’t let her way with words fool you, she does serious research and travels the world to gather information. 

 

“Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”Other Lessons from the Crematory

 If you like both the subject of death and memoirs, this book is for you. Caitlin Doughty shares her experiences in the funeral business, but particularly in her job at a crematorium. Her gallows humor not only made me laugh frequently, it kept me grounded while I read about situations that were sometimes heartbreaking and disturbing.

Before we take that last journey into our own death shouldn’t we be as informed as possible about our options? Doughty will guide you through so much that you didn’t know you needed to know and she will do it with wit, charm, and compassion. Read it. Allow her to help you develop the “Art of Dying” which is appropriately the name of her last chapter. 

After reading this book you may want to check out her blog and other things this busy author is doing.  http://www.orderofthegooddeath.com

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“Confessions of a Funeral Director” How the Business of Death Saved My Life

Caleb Wilde is a very sensitive and honest writer whose blog I have followed for several years. His book like his blog contains humor, but the purpose of his writing is much more on the serious side. Published last year this book covers Wilde’s life growing up in the family business and the adjustments he had to make in his life to remain a funeral director. 

The book is true to its title and contains confessions especially regarding Wilde’s battle against chronic depression. His journey is instructive, interesting and enlightening.

I recommend both this book and the blog by the same name. https://www.calebwilde.com

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“From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.”    Edvard Munch

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

 

Black & White

Her wardrobe is almost exclusively black and white, but I did not notice this over the several months that I had known her. In fact, it wasn’t until that day when I was looking deeply into her eyes. She was grieving the death of a family member and needed someone to listen to her sorrow. 

While she spoke of her loved one’s last hours tears brimmed over her lower lids and as I watched in empathy I almost expected her dark eyes to stain the tears and leave a trail on her cheeks. Her eyes were inky black. Solid black so that I could not discern the pupil from the iris. It was then that I noted the contrast of her white hair. At 78 she was beautiful in black and white. 

“When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable.” Khalil Gibran

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Suicide Prevention

Today I received this from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and I want to share it with you. Please use any of these resource links that you might need and/or pass the information along to others. 

To our AFSP Family,
On the heels of the reports of a second high profile loss to suicide, I wanted to take a moment to pull our AFSP family together and offer resources, and support.
We understand that the recent coverage may trigger strong feelings or memories that may be impacting you right now.
If this is the case for you, please take care of the basics for yourself and those around you: breathe, support each other, and practice kindness and self-care, even more than usual; un-plug from the news and/or social media if you need to minimize your exposure to this news coverage and chatter.
We encourage you to make sure you prioritize your mental health right now. Protect your sleep, eat healthy, exercise, stay in treatment if that’s part of your life, and connect to the people and things that encourage you. If things seem more difficult than usual, reach out for help; friends, family, religious leader, anyone you trust. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24/7 @ 1-800-273-TALK or text TALK to 741-741.
Along with the extensive (and sometimes graphic and inappropriate) media coverage, the CDC also issued a significant report evaluating the trend of suicide death in the U.S, so you may see that much of the news reporting is incorporating data from that report.
While we have very important work to do, we need each of you to be in a good, emotionally healthy place to do so. If you need some time to regroup and recharge, take that time. Your wellness is a priority.
Sharing Safely
We ask that if you desire to share about this news, that you share the AFSP national social media posts or posts from other mental health organizations that focus on the hotline number and seeking help – and to not share articles or content that are sensational and graphic in nature. We encourage people to share messages of hope and that encourage seeking of help.
Supporting Safe Reporting in the Media
If you have contacts within the media, please share the Safe Reporting Guideline to help ensure best practices are being used when reporting on suicide. Download the Recommendations HERE.
Find Local Support
Survivor Outreach Program – You are not alone. Our trained peer support volunteers are all suicide loss survivors who know firsthand how difficult it can be to find your way in the aftermath of a suicide. CLICK HERE to request a visit with an SOP volunteer.
Mental Health Professionals – If you’re living with depression or another mental health condition, a health professional can help. CLICK HERE to find a mental health professional in your area.
Thank you for all that you do to help #StopSuicide in our community.
We have a lot of work to do, but together we can save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.
Sincerely,
Christine Moutier, M.D.
Chief Medical Officer
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Suicide is not going away, but with more information and understanding regarding depression we may be able to stem the tide which threatens to wash over people of all ages, colors, religions and economic status. 

https://crookedcreek.live/2017/11/05/walk/

https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/01/death-suicide/

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

Soul 7

I Believe

I believe my Mother’s essence is in many objects that I have in my home. Not so much in the antique dishes or her personal jewelry, but in the things she infused with her love. I believe that her soul speaks to me through the stitches she loving put into place over the years of her life. I feel her love in the baby quilt she embroidered for her children, the ring pillow she made for my wedding, in the yarn she transformed into beautiful pieces of art and the scraps of material from the clothes she made for her granddaughters and their dolls, later quilted together.

I believe that my Aunt Thelma’s essence is strong in items she left behind and that she must be happy we find both uses and joy in them today. They are things that were dear to her and I have the privilege now of calling them mine. I love them not for themselves but because I loved her so much and I feel her presence when I see them.

She was taught by her church that it was a duty to bear children and it was probably her greatest disappointment in life that she did not conceive. She loved me and other nieces and nephews, she loved my daughters, too. How sweet her smile must be as she watches my granddaughter, who Aunt Thelma never met, sew pieces of lace from her 91 year old wedding dress into the wedding dress that Kate will wear next month. I know her soul is happy today. 

I believe my husband’s essence is the flowers that grow in our courtyard where he planted them. In caring for them, I continue to learn from him about the effort it takes to give beauty its fullest potential. His soul lives on nourishing the plants, keeping me company and giving me purpose. 

I believe that my maternal Grandparents’ essences are present when I pick up one of their Bibles. I know how important these books were to them and not just as a place to record family records of births, marriages, and deaths. They also recorded other important information such as their Social Security Numbers and the date of their last tetanus shots!

Seriously, the Bible was holy to them. They each read from it daily and they carried it with them to their little country church, Mt. Vernon Baptist, twice each Sunday and usually at least once in the middle of the week. Their souls are close by those worn and precious books. 

 

Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye… it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.” Evard Munch

Part 7 of 7

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

SOUL 6

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THE ESSENCE OF EACH PERSON 

I believe the soul is the essence of a person. It is who they are at their core. This is not original, we’ve seen this word used by others in this series.

Since “soul” is such a difficult concept for me to imagine and since that word has connotations of both good and bad from my religious upbringing, I needed a different, more neutral word and “essence” works for me. It means a person’s intrinsic nature and immutable character. It is real, everlasting and never changing. Even after the person has died it is as recognizable as their face or their voice. 

My Recent Experiences

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My husband, who died in December of 2014, was a nature lover. He was wise in the ways of animals and birds. He was a master at growing beautiful things. He imparted his reverence for creatures and his appreciation for all living things to each of us who knew and loved him during his eighty-five years of life.  

When my two daughters and I visited their father’s gravesite for the first time we were driving along a country road on our return home. Suddenly, we all three, at the same time, saw a large group of cranes ahead of us flying in a V formation. In my entire life, I do not recall seeing more than one crane at a time and rarely in flight. I pulled my car to the side of the road and we watched this magnificent sight approach and then fly over our car in direct view of the sunroof and then behind us and off into the distance. 

We did not need to discuss or compare thoughts. Each of us knew that we had experienced our loved one communicating with us. Those strong birds in flight represented his essence.

We rarely go the thirty-plus miles to that quiet old cemetery without seeing a deer, a beautiful blue bird, or some other unexpected creature. One time there was even a box turtle on the road to be rescued and repositioned in the grass. It happens at other times, too. Just days ago I opened the front door to see a beautiful squirrel in front of my porch, sitting there to remind me of my husband’s nature and his love. This was the very first squirrel at our home in five years of living here and it was a gift. Let me be clear, I am not saying that any of these creatures are my deceased husband nor his soul. I’m saying they represent his essence. I believe they are there at his beckoning.

These instances happen less often now than in the first year or so after his death. I believe he knows we need them less now than early on. I believe he knows somehow that our family continues to think of him and cherish his memory, but that we have been comforted and are more at peace now with his absence. 

 

For more information I recommended this book: images

 

“Some cognitive scientists believe human response to music provides evidence that we are more than flesh and blood—— that we also have souls. “ Judy Picoult

Post 6 of 7

 

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

Soul 5

 

Questions? Questions!

More questions than answers, perhaps nowhere is this more the case than in discussing the soul. We speculate, imagine, believe, or believe in, a certain idea but we have no facts to back up that concept. One may have had experiences that reinforce personal beliefs, but is that proof? No.

Or perhaps you do not believe there is a soul at all? Many do not. Although said in jest, the statement made by a friend sums up that philosophy. She once referred to death as the “long dirt sleep.” Believing there is no soul, is no fun! How boring that would be. I would much rather speculate, study and discuss possibilities. As one reader/follower commented earlier, that means being “not a doubter, but a questioner.”

So, for the sake of discussion, we will go with the thought that there is a soul. I hope you are not offended as I sometimes refer to “it.” We all know that soul is the subject.  

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When does the soul begin? At conception? At birth? At death? 
Does it come as a vacuum or filled with wisdom to dispense? 
Does it belong to us or us to it?
Can it travel? Can it be in one location while one’s body is somewhere else?
How does the soul communicate?
Is it a generic template or are all souls individualized?
Does it direct? Correct? Control? Comfort?
Does it stay with the body after death, i.e. in the crematoria, in the grave or tomb?
Does it make choices or is it programmed?
Do only humans have souls? What about pets? Other animals?
Can a tree or body of water have a soul?

OK! OK! 

I’ll stop with the questions because we could go on forever. Also, many of you have previously shared some personal thoughts and beliefs about what a soul is like, including the following characteristics: spirit, eternal, underlying part, essence, oneness with others, capable of regeneration. 

Essence

For several years “essence” has been the word I use or think of in relation to the soul. When we meet people and form a close relationship we get to know them on a deep level and develop a sense of who they are at the very core. We get to know them well enough to evaluate their fundamental qualities and we remember that essence long after they have left us whether in distance or death. I also believe this “knowing” lives on in many ways in our hearts and minds, consciously and subconsciously as we continue to live life without that person, that relationship physically present. 

Approaching my seventy-fifth birthday, I have by this time, naturally lost many persons in my life who I loved and who I continue to miss. That’s life, it includes death. If we have one we have the other. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that people do live on in many, many different ways and in the next blog I will explain further, but in the meantime here are a few hints in photos.

 

“The true nature of soul is right knowledge, right faith and right conduct. The Soul, so long as it is subject to transmigration, is undergoing evolution and involution.”                      Virchand Gandhi

Part 5 of 7

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Soul 4

Oprah’s Guests

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Oprah – Photo by Google

Those referenced in Soul 2 who were interviewed by Oprah https://crookedcreek.live/2018/04/07/soul-2/  are often called upon for their opinions in spiritual matters. Her guests include many who are well prepared via their education and experience and perhaps some who are self-proclaimed experts on the topic of the soul. Let’s look at some of the characteristics they used to describe the human soul to see how they agree or differ.

 

Authors

The one distinction the following group has in common is that they are all published. 

NAME

BACKGROUND

SOME WORDS USED

Dyer, Wayne Motivational Speaker birthless, deathless, changeless
Franklin, Devon Spiritual Success Coach where the Holy Spirit resides, connection with God
Pink, Daniel Behavioral Scientist purpose
Singer, Michael Founder of The Temple of the Universe indwelling consciousness, center of being
Vanzant, Lyania Spiritual Life Coach fingerprint of God that becomes the body
Vaughan-Lee, Llewellyn Sufi Mystic our divine nature, belongs to God
Williamson, Marrianne Spiritual Teacher truth of who we are

Eternal?

These interviewees have been grouped together because they each indicate that the soul has no beginning nor end. It surprises me that of the thirteen interviewed only three indicated that the soul is eternal and two of them did not use that word but did indicate that was their belief.

NAME

WORK / BACKGROUND

WORDS USED

Chopra, Deepak Medical Professor, New Age Movement, Alternative Medicine Eternal, core, internal reference point
Ford, Debbie Self Help Coach Core, never dies, contains all lessons learned
Zukav, Gary Seat of the Soul Institute Present before and after birth

Essence

This last group is made up of those who used the word I repeatedly come back to when trying to describe the soul. That word is “essence” and in our next post of this series, I will try to explain why.

NAME

WORK / BACKGROUND

WORDS USED

Breathnach, Sarah Ban Philanthropist Essence
Houston, Jean Human Potential Movement Essence, innermost being, beyond form or consciousness
Tolle, Eckhart Wrote “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” Essence, transcends our leaving this mortal coil

How do these all of these professional descriptions agree with what you have always thought or now think about the soul?

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“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” George Bernard Shaw

 

Part 4 of 7

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Soul 3

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David

Born one year ago to spend a few brief moments in the arms of his parents and then forever in our hearts.

He never smiled, never smelled the spring air, nor felt sunshine on his face.
He will never blow out birthday candles nor ride a trike, but he is loved, and
He never cried, never lived in earth’s pollution.
He never heard the word “no,” nor felt the sting of discipline.
He will never be sick, break an arm, nor scrape a knee.

David was, without reason or plan, transported from his mother’s safe, loving body to the arms of Jesus, who weeps for our sorrow. We hurt for our loss, but are comforted by the assurance of heaven.

 

David Tyler Clay Puckett Born April 9, 1987. Parents: Allison & Stan Puckett. Poem written by Grandmother 4/9/88                                              

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Part 3 of 7

Photos by Pixabay

Books 5

“So many books, so little time.” Frank Zappa 

Do you have a book inside yourself?

Many, if not most, readers feel they could write a book. I bet that you have considered it or attempted it. One of my daughters has encouraged me to write for so many years that I am surprised that she hasn’t given up. She has provided many texts for guidance and even a little sign that hangs in my office which says “Award Winning Author at Work.” In spite of all the encouragement, I haven’t made an attempt as an adult. 

Do you journal?

If not, you should probably consider it now. I have never been very faithful in writing daily in a journal, but when I traveled for work, I often wrote down thoughts along the way and they have been one source of material for this blog. Many of the scribblings I still run across are valuable to jog my memory and prompt smiles or sometimes tears. 

Poetry               

https://crookedcreek.live/2017/07/29/challenge/  

We discussed poetry and some of you took the challenge to write a poem a long time ago. I also happen to know that more than one of the readers of Crooked Creek are very talented poets with years of work to their credit. You know who you are and you should definitely publish! I am not a poet by any stretch as my lines below will demonstrate. Had it not been for my attempt at journaling, however, I would not have these lines from 1993.

Waves of Time

Time, like waves upon the sea, though predictable, may catch one unaware. 

The same, be it waves of time or tide, possess the power to generate joy or pain.    

A rare and special friendship, though far away, burns steadily through time like a lighthouse glowing through the tide.                                                         

Good Reads 

https://www.goodreads.com

Although I admit that I have not kept my Good Reads account up to date I still believe that it is a useful website for readers. Even if you do not want to catalog your books in one of the many ways provided it is an excellent source of book reviews.  If you have not already check it out and see if it would be worthwhile. If any of you readers are active in Good Reads and would like to share the advantages that would be great!

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”                          Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

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Confessions:

  1. When in the eight grade I naively started a book, entitled “Tennessee Ten” and completed about 10 handwritten pages! It was awful of course.
  2. I have a few books by authors who I greatly respected until some current event, such as the #MeToo movement, changed my mind. 
  3. One of my blog readers has told me privately that I should concentrate on writing humor, but honestly, sometimes things just aren’t that funny, at least not on a regular basis.

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Reader Feedback

Another reader weighed in with their earliest book memories: Clifford the Big Red Dog”, “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Ferdinand the Bull.” 

Part 5 of 5

Cats

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Photo by Kate Puckett Elliott – Australia

 

Advice 

Never go to a place where rescued animals are up for adoption unless you are planning to adopt. It can be heartbreaking. It can lead to a dysfunctional relationship. 

2006

Several months after the unexpected death of our beloved cat, eight-year-old Annie, we felt we were ready to adopt another cat. We went to Shamrock Foundation http://shamrockpets.com to select another cat who would hopefully be as loving as Annie. We did not find that cat on our first visit but we filled out adoption papers listing personal references and our veterinarian and agreeing to a home visit if requested. We wanted to be ready when “our” cat appeared.  

In a few days, we received a call that a nice young “tortie” was available. We had no idea what that term meant, but soon learned it is short for tortoiseshell. These cats are usually a combination of two dark colors with little or no white and the pattern is somewhat like that of the shell of a tortoise. Fun fact, they are almost always female, because the few males born are usually sterile. 

We went in to see this “tortie” who had been brought to the shelter because her owner had too many cats to care for. We watched as she played with balls and string and after about an hour decided to adopt this little girl who still had stitches intact from her recent spaying. 

Meet Zoe

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2008

While shopping for supplies for Zoe at a pet store we accidentally stumbled into a nest of large cages containing cats for adoption. The Humane Society of Kentucky https://www.kyhumane.org from an adjoining county had about a dozen cats there. I tried to ignore them, but it was impossible. While standing by one cage a large caramel and white cat stretched out his paw through the grid and gently touched me. I instinctively stuck one finger inside the cage to rub the top of his head. That was an action that sealed our future as a family. 

After much deep consideration and discussion with my husband and friends, I knew I had to return for that cat. Long story short, (I know, too late!) We became a two cat household. Twice as much litter to scoop, hairballs to clean up and vet bills to pay.

Unfortunately, I did not consult Zoe. She would have clearly said “NO!” Little did I know that male and female cats (especially those who have been “fixed”) are not going to get along well. 

Meet Elliott 

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Part 1 of 4 

Infinity Suit

Autumn

Yesterday I was overcome by the beauty of autumn colors. Red fire bushes, yellow poplar trees and the varying shades of sugar maples made our neighborhood its most attractive. Setting out to walk and take photos of the trees I stumbled upon some unexpected gems of nature. Mushrooms have always mystified me for several reasons. First I like the surprise as they pop out of their dark origins unannounced. Second is the variety of shapes and range of drab colors from white to black. I also like the taste of mushrooms whether raw or cooked, but I have never dared to eat any found in the wild. I recall a family who gathered mushrooms out west somewhere many years ago and one or more of them ended up needing liver transplants, but that’s not a story for today.

When I saw these especially interesting mushrooms yesterday it reminded me of a film I saw a few weeks ago. As part of a several week discussion of death sponsored by The Center for Interfaith Relations, I was at the Main Louisville Library attending screenings of two films concerning end of life decisions. One was entitled “Suiting Dennis” and I had expected it to perhaps be about a family dressing their deceased loved one. I mean, what would you have expected? I could not have been more wrong and since we are now discussing mushrooms, I want to share this intriguing true story with you.

As some of you will recall we discussed death here extensively early this year. One of the posts was entitled “To Bury or Not” and several traditions and options were mentioned. https://crookedcreek.live/2017/02/19/death-to-bury-or-not/  The “Suiting Dennis” option is one new to me and I’m betting to most of you. I find it fascinating and look forward to both your reactions and your opinions.

Please watch as terminal patient, Dennis Wright and his family, make an unprecedented decision for the disposal of his remains. https://vimeo.com/145882693 This film is almost 27 minutes long and introduces you to Wright and his family offering glimpses into their lives together before making this some might say radical decision. 

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More Information

A trailer for the film is available at https://vimeo.com/149319345 and lasts only about one minute if you would prefer a peek before committing more time.

And for those of you who find this subject as captivating as I do, I recommend the following TED talk (7 min) by Jae Rhim Lee: https://www.ted.com/talks/jae_rhim_lee

WALK

 

Out of Darkness

Yesterday when my alarm blared, the morning was cool and extremely foggy. As I lifted my sore body off the warm bed it was impossible to decide which of its parts was more painful. Two days ago I took a hard fall and was lucky to find nothing broken as two nice folks helped me to my feet. Brisk walking two to three miles or more a day has been my main exercise for the past few years. I generally avoid sidewalks, keeping to the nature trails in the nearby Parklands. https://www.theparklands.org/Parks/Pope-Lick-Park  I should have stuck to that plan because once again my walk had been rudely interrupted by concrete here in my neighborhood. 

During the past two painful days, I had tried to decide whether I would be able to keep my commitment to participate in the “Out of Darkness” walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention* (AFSP).  I was pre-registered and looking forward to walking with the group I had recently joined, so I decided to give it a try and I am so glad that I did, even though I did not quite make the entire course. 

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Almost 600 people were gathered at the Waterfront Park here in Louisville to raise funds for suicide prevention and to promote education about suicide awareness. Tens of thousands more walked across this country. It was humbling to be in the company of so people who had been touched by suicide. We walked in remembrance. We walked in unity with survivors. We walked simply to give support, both emotional and financial.

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Walking is good exercise, even for the clumsy, but walking in collaboration with others for an important cause was worth the extra effort it took yesterday. 

Earlier this year I wrote several blog posts on the subject of death and on March 1, specifically about suicide. It is a tough subject to discuss and I will always be grateful for the person who allowed me to post the eulogy that she gave for her mother who died in December of 2014 as the result of suicide. I hope that you will read or re-read that post, https://crookedcreek.live/2017/03/01/death-suicide/ because the words written by Laurie Lamb Ray more clearly express the need for suicide awareness than I ever could. Her heartbreakingly candid account of her Mom’s depression provides a window on this subject we scarcely encounter. Yesterday I walked for Laurie’s Mom, Marilyn, and for my cousin David, both of whom I sincerely miss.

 

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Our Team

 

 

https://afsp.org

 

 

To Shoot or Not

Shooting

The topic of guns can bring out very strong feelings. I have strong feelings about the issue at the same time that I support the Second Amendment in the way I believe it was intended. That, however, is not the purpose of this post, since I pledged to not write about political topics and I believe “to have or not have guns” enters that realm.

I want to tell you about the two times that I shot something and about how very sorry I am when I recall each instance. I wonder how many of you watch Stephen Colbert’s “The Late Show.” He has a frequent segment where he goes into a confessional box and confesses to the audience things he “feels bad about.” I suppose that is what I am doing today.

Hunting

As I was growing up my father, as well as probably every male we knew, had guns. They were long guns used for hunting, usually for food. My Dad hunted, not so much because he enjoyed it, but to provide needed meat for the table. We had rabbit frequently and I remember as a child crying and not wanting to eat it. I especially detested the milk gravy that Mom made after frying the poor bunny. I protested that it tasted “fuzzy,” to no avail. I was made to eat it. We occasionally had a squirrel and once, even a goat, but that’s another story.

Long guns were also a part of our home after I married. I was very relieved when my husband gave up hunting after he realized he would much rather observe nature than to shoot it. It was his decision gradually made over time at about mid-life. I remember the one and only time he went deer hunting. He came home soaking wet after spending a few hours in a tree in the pouring rain. He did see a deer, the doe came right under his tree stand and stood peacefully as he admired her until she trotted off. He loved to tell about that one day of deer hunting. His guns were displayed on a rack in the den for years and once in a while he would take them down and clean them. Those guns remain today.

My First Kill

As a young teen, I learned to shoot a 22 rifle. I loved the challenge of holding the gun steady and aligning up the little bead thingy on the end with the target. I shot cans with my older brother and my future husband and loved to show off my girl skill. One day I was at home alone on the farm my Dad had bought when I was about 14 or 15. We often saw snakes around and especially in an old tree growing in the yard fence line. It gave me the creeps to know they were hanging around up there. On the ground, I felt we had a fighting chance of not being bothered, but I always had the feeling they were going to intentionally drop on top of me from above. On this particular day, I spotted a very big, long snake on the yard fence. He was wrapped around the wire with his head hanging down and without any hesitation, I went into the house and grabbed Dad’s rifle. I walked out into the yard, sighted carefully and shot that poor snake in the head. At the time I felt pretty good about ridding the yard of this snake. Looking back years later, I felt nothing but disgust that I could so easily kill an innocent creature that was not bothering me at all. I never aimed at a living thing again and in fact soon lost interest in my skill with the rifle.

My Second Kill

There was one other incident with a gun that I regret almost as much but for different reasons. I was older and married at the time. It was winter and while the men had been out hunting, I had been playing in the snow with my younger brother. When the guys came back and started to put away the guns I realized that I had never shot a shotgun. I really didn’t know anything about them, but for some unknown reason I felt it necessary to experience shooting one, so I asked my husband to show me how. He carefully explained that unlike rifles, shotguns “kick” but I don’t think I knew what that meant. After repeatedly explaining that I had to hold the “butt” tightly against my shoulder because of the kick, I said, “Yeah, I got it” and looked around for a safe target. I aimed, I held the stock tightly against my shoulder, I pulled the trigger. Once I was able to open my eyes after the blinding pain from the gunstock recoiling, a.k.a. kicking, against my shoulder like a wild stallion I looked at my target. The poor snowman I had aimed at was full of round holes and looked back at me with dead eyes of coal. Again, I had shot an innocent and that was the last time I fired any kind of gun.

 

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The Ritz

Recollections of Travel 

One of my favorite places to stay during my travels was the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City in Arlington, VA just outside Washington, DC. It was right on the Metro (subway) line and even attached to a first rate shopping mall, not that I had much time to shop while working. I was supposed to be at this venue on 9/11/2001, but two days before I canceled my plans for reasons I do not recall. Others who attended that meeting spent several days getting home because all flights were grounded for days. One of my associates got back home to Florida via train. While I would have been in no danger, I am glad I was not so close to the horrendous disasters of that day.

Before you think I’m bragging about staying at the Ritz-Carlton, I will hasten to add I also stayed at Holiday Inns, La Quinta Suites and once at what must have been a truck stop motel in Bluefield, WV. So West Virginians don’t become offended, let me clarify it was many years ago and I know from a current Google search Bluefield has many nice hotels today. I was in Bluefield briefly to observe an eye operation at the Ophthalmic Center of Excellence. Back to the Ritz story. I was attending a conference, I believe it was sponsored by the North American Transplant Coordinators Organization (NATCO), a group to which I belonged. In the middle of the night before the conference was to begin the next day the fire alarm jolted me out of bed. I grabbed my robe and room key and followed the emergency exit lights. Down many flights of stairs, as the alarm continued to scream, I finally arrived at a door that surprisingly led me straight into the kitchen. Several people who appeared to be employees did not seem in a hurry to evacuate, but the sight that will always remain in my mind is chicken and a few other food items scattered about the floor. Pieces of fried chicken and I distinctly remember kicking a piece aside as I made my way to another door opening into the main lobby.

As I looked about the lobby I saw people looking dazed, some women were wearing fur coats, others were tightly clutching purses and a couple of men had brought their luggage down with them. I felt a bit underdressed, but I was proud of the fact I had followed emergency procedures and left valuables in the room, exiting quickly. Never mind I was wearing terry cloth, had a severely broken nail from the stair rail and no shoes. I wish I could tell you what was on fire, but I do not recall. Obviously, it was nothing significant because the firefighters soon allowed us to return to our rooms. I will never know why I did not encounter other guests on all those flights of stairs or why I ended up in the kitchen with the chicken.

Winding Up

It is time to wind up my recollections of business travel. If only I could remember more details, i.e., dates and exact locations, I don’t think I would ever run out of true stories to share. Of course some, because of confidentiality or intellectual property rights cannot be told. During those twenty-plus years, I visited over one-half of the states in the US and went to Canada three or four times.

The Transplant World

In those many cities, I worked with a diverse collection of people. There were transplant professionals, contract specialists, hospital administrators, lawyers, government and military officials and on very rare occasions a patient or family member. It was a humbling experience because each person had personal gifts, amazing intellect, and made contributions that helped to build not only a strong transplant network but a better and safer approach to life-saving procedures.

When I began my own journey in the transplant world, after a few years developing the immediate care centers, I found each day intriguing whether in the office in Louisville or in some distant city. When the first living liver donor transplant was done in the US, I was present at the hospital where the baby girl received part of her Mom’s liver. Years later, they looked me up and I was so privileged to see this young woman, healthy and ready to enter college. Her donor, (mother), was equally as healthy. Contracts were a challenge, but real people were the inspiration.

Kidney transplants from living donors were first performed in the 1950s and it was about eight years before kidneys from deceased (cadaveric) donors were viable. I became involved at the time heart transplants were first reimbursed by Medicare in the 1980s and one by one other solid organs and even double organs, e.g. heart-lung, were successful particularly after the development of anti-rejection drugs. Bone marrow and stem cell transplantation as better matching has been developed between donor and recipient have developed rapidly as well. I will always find transplantation fascinating. I was never in a clinical transplant role, my expertise in this field was administering benefits , contracting for services and third party reimbursement.

If you would like to know more about solid organ transplantation or becoming an organ donor see the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) at https://www.unos.org

Information regarding bone marrow transplants can be obtained through the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) at https://bethematch.org which matches patients and donors internationally.

And, here’s a bonus site for those who love technology. The so-called “heart in a box” is a development by TransMedics, Inc. Check it out here to see a video (<3min.) of the device with a cadaveric heart actually beating prior to being transplanted into the recipient. http://www.transmedics.com/wt/page/ocsheart-improve-tx_med

The company has also developed a similar device for lungs and livers which can allow donor organs to be transported further as well as tested and treated prior to transplantation. There is little doubt that these technologies will extend and improve life for many.    http://www.transmedics.com/wt/page/organ_care

The future is truly now. 

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Thank you for following along with me in my Recollections of Travel. 

 

Photos by Pixabay

 

What I Know for Sure 4

The Last Seven

As you may have noticed, this subject has been difficult for me. Quite honestly I am surprised, because I’ve been nothing in life if not sure of my opinions, but therein lies the problem, I believe. Opinions are easy to come by, easy to hold, easy to change. Knowing something for sure is utterly different. Knowing means possessing proof, irrefutable facts, it is a reality, the unwavering truth. This reality is harder to come by. In previous posts, I came up with thirteen (13), if you allow me to include those I threw in facetiously. In order to meet the high bar set by Oprah, in number only, I was determined to come up with seven (7) more things of which I am sure. After much contemplation, here they are:

14. The love of an animal is pure. They give physical comfort, make no demands, don’t pout and are quick to forgive. 

15. Death comes to all living creatures. No matter how we try to avoid this fact it is a reality. 

16. There are no perfect marriages. Some are happier than others, some have more trials, but regardless of the effort put into a marriage, it is not possible to live with another human being without some rough spots and adjustments along the way.

17. White privilege is real. The greatest advantage I’ve been given in life, I have done nothing to earn. It was provided to me at birth simply as a result of having two white parents. 

18. Time spent in nature is rewarding. The sounds of birds, crickets, and water flowing, the feel of breezes that touch one’s face, the glimpse of a small furry animal scurrying along the ground, even the faint fragrance of a wildflower are healing and rejuvenating to the spirit of who we are or were meant to be. 

19. I cannot turn over a new leaf. No matter how many times I try, simply acknowledging that I need to make a change is not incentive enough. For me to make a change, it must involve serious consequences.

20. High heels are detrimental to a woman’s health. Created in Persia (Iran today) to be worn by men riding horses, a raised heel served the practical purpose of keeping the feet within the stirrup. High heels today serve no purpose except to hobble women, making them more vulnerable not only to assault, but to back pain, falls, and injuries to the foot and ankle. Yes, I am aware that they can be beautiful and that women who are strong and agile, can look stunning wearing them, but I maintain that they are not worth the risks involved. 


We have explored and exhausted this subject for now at least. You, the readers, have contributed many things that you know to be true and they are listed below. Please feel free to comment, adding more things you have decided are true over the past month. I believe that something can be true to one of us, yet not all of us. We are individuals and we do not think, feel or believe the same. Thank you so much for sharing with me and with each other. 

What Readers Know for Sure:

I am but a microscopic speck in the great macrocosm of the universe.  
My existence has had a purpose
Life IS worth living
I am a morning person  
I know God is real
A true friend lifts you when you’re down, listens to your problems, is caring and encouraging.
Columbus Day marks the beginning of recorded history in America.
Millions of European migrants came here bringing their music, art, science, medicine and religious principles that shaped the United States.
A leopard can’t change its spots.   
You can’t go back, only forward.
You can’t change the past.
One hand washes the other hand.
You can’t change a person’s thinking when it comes to religion or politics.
What I believe for sure, you may not.
My mother, brothers, and sister have loved me unconditionally.
I have the inner faith and strength to get through very difficult times.
Teachers can change a student for a lifetime.  
Seasons follow each other.
Spring starts from the ground up.
The moon and stars follow the sun. 
Full moons cause strange behavior in people.
Everyone is either predator or prey.
Every action has a reaction.
The human body is the most incredible organism.
Every person has a story.
Every person can choose how to react to their story.
We move through seasons and chapters of our lives individually.
Some decisions are more difficult than others.
When inflated, balloons float up.  
We all die alone, even when others are around us.
We are on this earth as we know it today, only once.

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What I Know for Sure:

I love my family with all my heart.      
Having time alone is a necessity for me.
Native Americans should not be called Indians.
Dish towels should be laundered separately.
April is not delivering in March.   
Love, at first sight, is a real phenomenon. 
Depression should be renamed. 
April had a baby.
Alot is not a word.
I am no Oprah.
CPR does not always work. 
Grandparents are not infallible.   
Adventure Animal Park will continue to make money on April through May. 
The love of an animal is pure.
Death comes to all living creatures.
There are no perfect marriages.
White privilege is real.
Time spent in nature is rewarding.    
I cannot turn over a new leaf.
High heels are detrimental to a woman’s health.   

The flowers bloom, then wither . . . the stars shine and one day become extinct . . . This earth, the sun, the galaxies and even the big universe someday will be destroyed . . . Compared with that, the human life is only a blink, just a little time . . .  In that short time, the people are born, laugh, cry, fight, are injured, feel joy, sadness, hate someone, love someone. All in just a moment. And then, are embraced by the eternal sleep called death.     Virgo Shaka

Part 4 of 4

Theme photo by Akiko Kobayashi (Japan)

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)

 

 

Death – to Bury or Not

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To Bury, Cremate, Donate, Plant – Disposal of Human Remains

Another decision that must be made concerns disposal of bodily remains. For many years burial in a family or church cemetery was the norm, however that is changing for both environmental and economic reasons. In 2015 cremation rate in the US was 48.6% and expected to rise each year into the future. Rates vary across the country with over 60% in the West and as low as 25% in southern states.  There are other options, of course which actually increase the cost, such as cryogenics, ashes blasted into space or adding ashes to an artificial reef in an ocean. 

Cemeteries 

Interment in a cemetery has fallen into disfavor due to cost, but also because of what many see as misdirected use of land. While I personally prefer cremation and scattering of ashes (also called cremains) back into nature, I must admit that I have always found cemeteries interesting to visit. In old cemeteries I would go further and say that reading tombstones can be fascinating. I know that I am not alone, because many books have been written on the subject including:  9781586853211_p0_v1_s192x300 “Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography” by Douglas Keister  and  “Gone to the Grave: Burial Customs of the Arkansas Ozarks 1850-1950” by Abby Burnett which was reviewed in The Courier Journal  in November 2015. Some of my favorite epitaphs from this book are these: “Killed by a live wire” (1905), “Revenge is my motto” (1869) and “This can’t be death. I feel too good” (1906).

 

When I was in Russia a couple of years after the fall of the Soviet Union, I toured a large old cemetery that was, according to custom there, divided into sections by profession or status. There were sections for the arts with subsections containing poets, musicians and actors. fullsizeoutput_a21.jpeg There were others for military, government officials, Communist Party members, working class (the proletariat) and even the Mafia.

 

I noticed many tombstones that bore the skull and cross bones symbol and inquired of the interpreter what that meant. Her response? “They’re dead”.     IMG_4036.JPG

The skull and cross bones, while perhaps peculiar to Russia, are part of the monument period of Terror which represented symbols of fear of the afterlife. This was followed by the Romantic fullsizeoutput_a13.jpeg and then Personalization Periods.  The Contemporary period in which we now live, leads to what are often attempts at humor. A word of warning about being too creative however, as what is funny today may be confusing or fall flat when it has become outdated. A couple of examples come to mind: A monument depicting a rotary and corded telephone simply said, “Jesus Called”. I’ve seen photos of others that show a calculator, an expired parking meter and even a brownie recipe. 

One of my favorite tombstones is from Clay County, TN which explains that the deceased was “killed by bushwhackers” in 1862 in neighboring Fentress County. Unfortunately the photos taken and provided for this post by Steve Baugh have been lost due to my error.

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it” Mark Twain. 

 


Note 1/1/18:  Another Option for Disposal    https://crookedcreek.live/2017/11/06/infinity-suit/

Death – Funerals

Funerals

Funerals are not high on anyone’s list of favorite social events. Well, there may be a few exceptions. One of my sweet aunts, who will not be named here, lived a block or two from the funeral home in her small town. When she saw activity indicating visitation or a pending funeral service at the establishment, she would dress in her Sunday clothes and walk to join the mourners. She was not being nosy, there was every reason to expect she would know the deceased. She had lived in this rural Kentucky County her whole life and knew just about everyone. She especially liked the young funeral director who always welcomed her with a hug. 

Options

The funeral home industry and its traditions have changed greatly over the years. There was a time when the deceased was embalmed at home and “laid out” in the parlor for the wake which usually lasted three days and nights. Just as the wake was transferred to a formal “funeral parlor” the venue of the funeral itself has moved, in most cases, from houses of worship. Today an abbreviated period of “visitation and viewing” has become the norm and funerals are “celebrations of life”. When visiting a funeral home today one likely encounters videos of the deceased on flat screens strategically placed throughout the parlor. Often there are photos and collages and posters honoring the life that has passed. So called “theme” funerals may focus on the deceased’s favorite sports team, hobby or profession. The coffin is often closed or not present at all or there may be an urn containing ashes. The memorial service can be planned for a time in the future that is more suitable to the family’s circumstances as it is no longer necessary to have all this occur immediately after the death. This delay allows the family to be passed the initial shock of the loss and to more fully receive offerings of support and sympathy. 

So, there are traditions, there are religious cannons, local laws and there are one’s personal preferences. Your preference, what would you like your final event on this earth to be like? While you are reading this, still capable of making important decisions is the time to communicate your wishes. This can be part of the discussion when you have “the talk” https://crookedcreek.live/2017/01/25/death-decisions/ with your family. It is also helpful to have a few things written down, such as favorite poems, music, speakers. If there are things you feel strongly about clearly document those and if you have reason to doubt your wishes will be honored, they should be included in your Will, which is binding. 

Many people complete their plans formally and even pay for their funerals in advance of need. Whether planning your own funeral or a loved one’s it is critical that you ask questions of the funeral home staff and have concrete information. One common misconception is embalming is required by law. It is not and electing to not have embalming can save a significant amount of money. Embalming is a mysterious process to most of us and because of our reluctance to think about death, we often do not want to know what actually takes place in order to preserve the appearance of a corpse for just a little extra time. Further, the impact upon the environment by use of toxic chemicals can be significant. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) embalming provides no public health benefit. It also has no roots in most religions, including Christianity. For more information on the actual process you may reference http://www.fcasocal.org/embalming-facts.html

The funeral or memorial service, besides reflecting the life that has ended, should be a comfort for survivors. Those who are part of a religious community are comforted by common beliefs and the expectation of an afterlife. Music can be heartbreaking or inspiring. November 18, 2016, The New York Times asked readers what their deathbed playlist preferences would be. The range, not surprisingly varied from hard rock to classics. Probably the same music we would enjoy hearing in our last days or hours of life, would be appropriate for our service, too, as long as it would not be offensive or hurtful in some way to others.  Most of us recall fondly at least one song from each of our loved ones’ funerals. Poems are frequently read that reflect the deceased’s philosophy or special interests. A eulogy may be provided by a close friend or family member. Such a tribute should be written out so if the person delivering the words becomes too emotional to proceed, the minister or other person officiating can be prepared to read it. 

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Eulogy

This is the eulogy I delivered at my stepfather’s funeral. I was pleased to be able to honor his memory and after all these many years I still feel his life can be a lesson for those of us living today. 

We are here to honor Leroy’s memory. Each of us knew him on a different plane. He may have been your neighbor, your customer or friend, a relative, by birth or by choice. 

Whether you knew him for eighty years or eight, you no doubt, knew him to be a good person, an honest man to be trusted and one who loved the land and took pride in his profession of dairy farmer.

He was many other things too. SECURE IN WHO HE WAS, holding no old fashioned gender roles – the same hands that worked the farm washed dishes and cooked a mean casserole.

GENTLE – he watched birds, fed kittens, loved to see magnolias bloom. Small children were given his full attention, whether playing a silly game or observing an earthworm on the sidewalk after a rain.

TOLERANT – he had convictions, but allowed us ours.

A ROMANTIC – taking his bride to Niagara Falls and each anniversary giving her one red rose for each year of their marriage.

FAITHFUL – to his church and more importantly to his Lord. 

And he was, of course, many other things, but there is one last attribute I want to share with you. I learned this about Leroy after the death of his only son, Bobby.

He was a very PRACTICAL person. Even though he grieved his losses, he did not allow those losses to steal the happiness he was offered by each new day of life. He did not deplete his energies agonizing about things he could not change. I think he would remind us of that today. 

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Next time we will look at one more remaining decision, disposal of remains. This will not conclude the list of things that must be decided upon at the time of one’s death, but will have covered the most crucial ones. 

Death – Obituaries

Your Obituary

In our last post I asked you to consider writing your own obituary. I realize this exercise may be daunting for some. I recall teaching a class on “Death and Dying” in the community many years ago when one man, a church deacon in his 60s, was visibly upset by the prospect of writing about his own death. We become accustomed to employing diversionary tactics when thinking about dying. We talk about “passing away,” “going to sleep,” (which can frighten young children), “gone,” and of course that favorite one “if something happens.”  Acknowledging death is inevitable is not obsessing, but accepting it as part of the landscape, just as the seasons of the calendar, so are the seasons of life. It is my hope we will experience life more fully when we realize it is fleeting. 

I have not heard from anyone who worked on the suggested assignment, but if you did you may have looked for help on the Internet. There are countless sites offering advice or even templates so that you can just fill in the blanks. I am sure many are good sources, but one that impressed me with its variety of obituary types was https://www.obituaryhelp.net.  Some prefer to leave this task to funeral home personnel who have training and experience in the proper structure of obituaries. If a formal format is preferred, then providing the names, dates and personal information to the funeral home will be all that is required of the family when you die. Since obituaries should honor and reflect the life of the deceased, writing one’s own ahead of time might be more personal. This can be detailed or perhaps just a theme, special quotes or anecdotes you want included.

Some general guidelines for writing your own obituary include:

  • Write in the third person. 
  • Keep it short. Some obituaries are so long they are not likely to be read in their   entirety, if at all. Another reason to trim it down, is cost. Newspaper charges for this service are expensive.
  • The cause of death may or may not be included.
  • Keep your draft updated. It may be a good idea to add notes for your family as you think of things over time. 

Some Favorites

I have read obituaries for years and often been teased about this routine, long before I reached my current age, which is well within the obituary reading range. It isn’t so much I am looking for names I recognize, although that is part of it. I find obituaries to be interesting reading. It is true there are accounts of tragedies, infants and children, those who died without any “next of kin,” but there are also the ones that are inspiring or entertaining. At one time I had a collection of hundreds that were keepers and somewhere along the way they became lost or perhaps I became embarrassed, but now I only have a few dozen. One I no longer have referred to the deceased as having “Slipped the surly bonds of earth” and that line fascinated me so I did an Internet search and found it was from the poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr, “High Flight.”

Another newspaper page that I recall, but no longer have in my collection listed two separate obituaries that could only happen in Kentucky: both “Bubba” and “Buford” died the same day. A favorite from November 2016, has verses of songs interspersed throughout. These included the music of The Beatles, The Spinners, Poco and Steely Dan. The obituary itself is full of fun, travels and adventures of a 68-year-old.

Nicknames are sometimes fun to read while imagining their origins. Some I recall include:  Baldy, Tooter, Snuffy, Catfish, Peanut, Honest Frank, Blood and finally, Poboy & Buster for the same man. Curiously, of these clippings only two females had nicknames, Mu and Big Mama.

Looking Ahead

As you continue to work on your obituary please also think about your preferences for a memorial service or funeral considering music, speakers and perhaps who you would like to deliver a eulogy. Following those topics we will discuss disposal of remains and suicide in future posts. 

Eventually, grief will be discussed comprehensively, but we may decide to hold off and move on to lighter subjects for a while. Feel free to provide feedback on this, as well as, anything you have to share. 

 “High Flight” John Gillespie Magee, Jr

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, —and done a hundred things you have not dreamed of —Wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air . . . Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace where never lark or even eagle flew – and, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod the high un-trespassed sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God.  

Death-Hospice

Follow Up

To follow up on important topics from the last post in this series, please read the comments left by “Lula.” Remember that little black bubble at the end of each post?  fullsizeoutput_9edJust click the bubble on Death Decisions (Jan. 25, 2017) to read the important information she has shared with us. 

Lula shared interesting information about a service which sounds like a good idea for anyone, but especially those who travel often. I am not familiar with Living Will Registry, but you can read about Lula’s own experience as a frequent traveler (in her comments) as well as reviewing the service Online.*

One issue that Lula mentioned is Emergency Medical Services (EMS), when called to a home, will likely begin CardioPulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), even if one has a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order on a Living Will. I have always heard the same thing, but an official form** in this state (KY) is meant to address this problem. You should check with your own state, city and/or county for the law where you live. Regardless of one’s current health status it would be helpful to fully understand the guidelines before a need arises. It is understandable this is a potential for problems. The very fact EMS is called indicates an emergency and they come prepared to do what is necessary to save lives. If one has a terminal condition CPR is not likely an appropriate response, but it is unfair to expect emergency personnel to make that distinction or take that responsibility. 

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Hospice

Having Hospice involved in end-of-life care can often prevent such situations from occurring. Hospice is a national organization with local offices across the US, providing palliative care to patients facing advanced illnesses and to their families. Palliative care involves relieving pain and enhancing quality of life (as opposed to addressing a cause and/or cure) and may be provided in the home, special centers, extended care facilities or special units within an acute care hospital.

When Hospice care began gradually in the US, during the second half of the Twentieth Century,  there were specific parameters regarding how long a patient was expected to live in order to be admitted into palliative care. Although this is no longer the case, it is a lingering belief and can make it hard for families to approach the subject. I personally feel Hospice is extremely valuable in providing clinical, pastoral and grief support as well as practical assistance with medical supplies, equipment and even volunteer and respite care. Extensive information is available from National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization*** (NHPCO).

Possibly many of you used Hospice services for your family or maybe a close friend and I invite you to share your experience with us if you are comfortable doing so. I will share that in my experience with loved ones the service was not instituted soon enough. In one case, incredulously, it was not possible to get the physician to admit the patient was dying and by the time a referral was made the patient only lived a few hours. The other personal case was just the opposite. The physician recommended, even urged, Hospice service, but the patient wanted to wait a little longer, not realizing the time would approach as quickly as it, in fact, did. In each case the patient did not receive care that would have perhaps eased their passing. I painfully share this hoping it might prevent others from waiting too long. 


Websites referenced:

*Living Will Registry http://www.alwr.com

**KY DNR Form http://manuals.sp.chfs.ky.gov/Resources/sopFormsLibrary/Do%20Not%20Resuscitate%20Form.pdf

***NHPCO http://www.nhpco.org


Coming Up

We will look at Funeral and Burial Planning in the next post. I realize this may be a bit too pushy, but if you are so inclined how about working on writing your own Obituary before then? Then we will work together. Your participation is great and makes our experience together so much richer. Thank you!


“I find it delightful that the optimal way I can live my life from moment-to-moment is also the optimal way I can prepare for my death, and equally delightful that acknowledging our future death is a prerequisite for living a truly joyful life now.”  Ram Dass, Still Here

Death – Decisions

Decisions

It is understood that family units are all different and may be made up of biological or chosen family, spouses or partners, relatives or close friends. We will use the term “family” for those closest to you. These differences may dictate what, exactly, you need to do to from a practical standpoint to prepare for your death, but regardless, the first step should be honest family discussion. We’ll call it “The Talk.”

The Talk

It doesn’t have to be a formal meeting. If you and your family are open to the discussion of death “The Talk” can be in increments and flow from normal conversations. When discussing the death of an acquaintance it is a natural time to say, “When I die, I prefer . .” Since such discussions may not include everyone who needs to hear, having your wishes in writing, leaves no doubt or confusion. So, what do you need to talk about and how will you document it?

Living Will

Legal agreements can be our guides. Let’s start with those things usually addressed in a Living Will. If you are diagnosed as terminal and are no longer able to make your own decisions, because you are permanently unconscious or otherwise unable to express your wishes:

  1. Do you want treatment withdrawn except for pain control?
  2. Does that include withdrawal of food, water?
  3. What about a DNR (do not resuscitate) order?
  4. Do you wish to participate in anatomical donation?

Decisions for #1-#3 can be very difficult for a family member. You may have no doubt that these life prolonging actions are inappropriate or undesirable for you, but to your loved one it is not that clear. To them it may feel as they are hastening your death, while you are more likely to feel that such measures would prolong suffering. If this has been discussed and documented ahead of time, there is less anxiety when the decisions must be put into practice. Physicians, emergency personnel and hospitals must provide every means available to save a life if they have not been given the legal right to withhold those interventions. Resuscitation (CPR) will be initiated, regardless of the patient’s prognosis, unless there is an order in place for DNR.

Number four (#4) involves whether you would like to donate organs for transplantation or all of your body to science. If donating the entire body is your desire, besides documenting, it is best to make logistical arrangements in advance. Most such donations are made through a university or medical school.

Organ donation decisions are often made long before formal end of life planning. In most states one can designate the wish to be an organ donor while obtaining or renewing a driver’s license. Organ donation more specifically is addressed in the Living Will. If you have explicit wishes, maybe you are willing to donate corneas, but not hands for example, this needs to be legally documented. On this subject people often think first of heart or kidney, organs which dramatically save lives. In fact, donations may be made of tissues such as skin which is used as dressings for severely burned patients or bone for spinal surgery. There may be personal or practical reasons for specifying exactly which organs/tissues you are willing to donate and these can be itemized in your Living Will.

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Consider Donation of Organs or Tissue

Transplantation is a subject that I feel strongly about, having worked in that field for many years. I find it unfortunate that after over sixty years of successful transplantation, only 52% in the US choose to donate. If you have not already made your decision, please give some consideration to it now. There is no lack of information available to answer any questions you may have. I recommend calling your local/state donor affiliate or researching Online.

The United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) is the national organization which governs transplant facilities and Organ Procurement Organizations (OPO) in the United States. Their website probably contains more information than you would ever need: https://www.unos.org

Cornea transplantation differs in some ways from other donation and a good site for more information is https://www.donatelife.net/types-of-donation/cornea-donation/

Bone marrow and stem cell transplantation is still in the experimental phase for cadaveric donation, but is showing promise. If you are interested you may find information at the National Marrow Donor Program: https://bethematch.org

Your Surrogate

A Living Will allows one to record legally, exactly what one wants and does not want. Or, with this document you can authorize a HEALTH CARE SURROGATE, sometime referred to as a proxy or Medical Power of Attorney (POA), to make these determinations for you at the time of need.

Choosing a Health Care Surrogate is a very critical decision. First, of course, is that it be a person you trust. Your designated surrogate should be geographically close if at all possible and should know your wishes before accepting this responsibility. A few of the subjects included in a legal Surrogate Designation are:

  1. Access to your medical record
  2. Right to choose your health care providers and long term facilities
  3. Withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment

This legal document names your surrogate and an alternate surrogate in the event the first person designated is unable or unwilling to serve at the time she/he is needed.

Update and Storage of Documents

Sometimes we change our minds about the directions we’ve given and the Living Will and/or Surrogate Designation may require legal revision. These documents need to be reviewed on a regular basis. If our wishes remain the same, it is probably advisable to initial and date each page to show that they remain current. Having your Living Will on file at your hospital can make it difficult to keep current. I would trust a photocopy carried by my surrogate (and in my car’s glove box) more than the hospital’s computer system. It goes without saying that original documents need to be stored in a locked fireproof box and that your surrogate and/or POA has access.


“It seems to me most strange that men should fear; Seeing that death, a necessary end,  Will come when it will come”  Shakespeare in Julius Caesar

Death – Intro II

Introduction II

As we move forward discussing the topic of death and end of life decisions, in particular, I refer you back to this blog’s first page, HOME. At the bottom is a disclaimer and it is important that you review it at now, particularly this:

The content of this blog is not intended as advice . . . . Information contained herein is not presented as medical, legal or clinical recommendation . . . .”

And, I would add:

  1. It is extremely advisable to seek legal counsel from an attorney for estate/end of life planning.
  2. Forms are available Online for your review (or printing), but I caution you to use either the US Government (https://www.usa.gov/federal-agencies/a) or (https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs), your State Government (state laws differ) or the American Bar Association (http://www.americanbar.org/groups/real_  property_trust_estate/resources/estate_planning/living_wills_health_care_proxiesadvance_health_care_directives.html) Websites. Using these sites one can avoid ads and scams.

The kind of end of life decisions we will focus on are sometimes included during estate planning which deals with financial issues. Money management is not part of our discussion.


Future Posts

In the next few posts we will discuss the following topics, some more in depth than others:

  • Power of Attorney (POA)
  • Living Wills
  • Health Care Surrogate/Proxy
  • Organ Donation
  • DNR (do not resuscitate) orders

Other topics in the future will include: Funerals, Obituaries, Grief and Suicide.

In the last post I asked you to say the words: “When I die” and to acknowledge we are born terminal. Some of you responded with your thoughts and experiences and I appreciate your honesty and willingness to share. It is not surprising there are those who are not ready to talk about such personal feelings. Discussing death is difficult in varying degrees based upon our past experiences and other factors, e.g., religion, age, health status. It was reassuring some of you have already taken formal steps to inform others of your wishes at the time of your death.

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Reader Feedback

Marybeth, while sharing that her parents were very organized in having preparations in place for death, also 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? ” This is a valid observation, because while losing a person one loves will always be painful, there are many variables which affect how we react and how we grieve.

Rita discussed the awe of her own conception which is the beginning of the brief interlude we have on this planet. We often hear “cradle to grave,” which sums it up.

Finally, Lula shared the preparation she has made for her own death having had that responsibility for deceased loved ones. Such experiences in dealing with the estates and last wishes of others certainly point out the value of thinking ahead and making the decisions we are about to discuss.

Thank you to each of you who shared.

With the next post we will begin discussing the person (proxy) who makes medical decisions for you when you are unable to express your wishes. That person may be designated in a Medical POA, a Living Will and/or Designation of Health Care Surrogate.

“Life cannot exist without death; neither can death exist with life.” Osho Rajnish


Past Problems with the COMMENT Section

Some have expressed frustration with trying to comment on posts. I understand and I admit it isn’t easy to figure out and I’ve made some changes AND mistakes along the way. To comment on any post click the little bubble below and right on this page. If yours is the first comment that little black bubble will have a + sign on it. If others have already commented there will be a number in the bubble. Either way, all you have to do is click the bubble and a space will be provided on which to write.

Here is a screen shot from my phone that shows the illusive “bubble.”

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Thanks again!

Death – Intro

Introduction

How many times have you heard someone say, “If something happens to me?” Have you said this? Often, perhaps? I know this may not be what you want to hear, but I must tell you, it is not “if,” but “when.” And, it is not “something,” but it is “death.” Practice with me, say, “When I die.” Did you say it aloud? How did it make you feel? My purpose in this exercise is not to make you uncomfortable, but to help you acknowledge you will die. Of course, you know it intellectually, we all do, but we live and speak as though it is not certain. I am not referring to religious beliefs about the hereafter, but about the here and now. Once we accept the fact we are all born terminal, it is easier to make certain practical decisions. It is more likely we will have important family discussions.

In future posts I plan to examine this subject in more depth. The goal is that, as a result, you will take positive steps to help yourself and your family face this most difficult day that will come to each of us. I also hope you will trust me that this topic can be brought into the light in a way that alleviates some of the dread often associated with the word “death”.

We will examine some of the decisions that need to be made through legal documents and family discussion. We will look at funeral planning and resources available. We will definitely discuss ways to comfort those who grieve, e.g., what to say, not say. If there is adequate interest and feedback, this series can encompass topics such as suicide, CPR, hospice and more.

Thank you for beginning this discussion with me. Soon, we will look at Living Wills and other documents that each of us needs to have in place. Meanwhile, I would like to hear your initial reaction/thoughts regarding our approaching this subject together.

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“Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true story teller who would keep that from you.” Ernest Hemingway

Maggie

I am trying to follow as you approach the traditional pearly gates. Your steps are small and carefully placed as you painfully make your way toward the splendor of light, white swirling clouds and music from unfamiliar instruments.

Your thin and arthritic hands grip tightly the walker, which you are holding closer than usual. Your shoulder bones show through the cotton gown and your head is not quite as erect as I am used to seeing. The white hair and the frail old body are the signs of your years and you appear as Mother Time herself.

Are you afraid? Sad? Shy? Are you remembering us and longing to return to planet earth? Would you? If you could, would you turn and hurry back this way rather than continue toward the unknown?

Do you see your sister up ahead? Are you making your way toward the arms of your mother?

Your steps are slowing now. You stop and rest as though to consider something important and I think I see the slightest turn of your shoulder, but I can’t be sure, perhaps it is only my own selfish need.

I don’t know how, but I can see your face as you continue to walk away from us. Your eyes are filled with the purest joy and I see both the delight of a little girl who knows she is special and the wonder of a mother who holds her infant daughter . . . and we have only your memory while heaven has a new matriarch.


Recently, I ran across the words above that I had written at 11:30 p.m. on January 12, 1998, immediately after the death of my dear old friend, Maggie.

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Phillip

Like a Little Blue Bird

He ran from room to room, a blur of blue, little legs bouncing in small jerky steps, sliding on the linoleum and sucking butter from his finger tips that had so swiftly dipped into the bowl. He kept looking back over his shoulder, his pale blue eyes both joyful and afraid. As young as I was I knew this was a triumph for him, something much more significant than it appeared. Was it Mother’s look of fear that told me? Yes, it must be that, or was she more sad than afraid? Finally her hand roughly caught hold of his blue jumpsuit and his forward momentum was halted like a tiny bird flying into a window. My heart pounded as I waited for her to spank him for running away from her and for stealing the forbidden butter. I wanted to cry out, “He’s just a baby, he just wanted to taste it.” As I held my breath, remembering the sting of her hand, I was amazed to see her start to cry holding him close while he wiggled to free the buttered hand and get it to his mouth.

Christmas is Coming!

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Not wanting to see any more, I returned to looking at the toys in the Montgomery Ward Catalog. As a first grader I had little understanding of calendars like the one hanging on the wall in front of me. But, I did know that it was December and December meant Christmas which reminded me that I had a letter to write to Santa. Mother said my baby brother, Phillip, wanted a teddy bear and I should tell Santa, since Phillip was too little to write. I guess she hadn’t noticed that I couldn’t really write either.  It seemed a better plan for our big brother to do the letter for both Phillip and me, but maybe at twelve he was too big, because he sure didn’t seem interested in Santa Claus. So, I guessed it was up to me. The days passed and when we were almost half-way through December according to my teacher, I could think of nothing but Christmas. It didn’t look like Christmas or even feel like it at our house, but I knew it would come, because nothing can stop Christmas.  It was there near the bottom of the calendar and each day brought us closer to that magical morning. On the day that the calendar said thirteen (13), for the first time, that I could remember, my Mother sent me to bed without tucking me in. It was okay, because I knew Phillip had been crying a lot and I believed that his stomach hurt. He needed Mother more and anyway, I was a big girl.

Dad

The next thing that I remember was a big rough hand shaking my arm. “Wake up, wake up, now,” my Daddy said. I must be dreaming, my father never woke me up and besides I could see through the slits of my eyes that it was still dark. The covers were warm and I sank farther into the featherbed hoping the bad dream would stop. There it was again, “Wake up, now,” and then the covers were drawn back and I was assaulted by blinding light, cold air and the acrid smell of burning wood. Even sleepy and confused, I understood, suddenly, that this was no dream. My father’s face was not familiar. His eyes, usually smiling for me, were solid black and his mouth, under his large humped nose, was drawn down tightly. I was afraid when he started to push my arms into my coat. What was he doing? Where was Mama?

Before I could figure out any answers he did the strangest thing.  He wrapped the bed covers around me and even partly over my head and he began carrying me through the house. It was then that I saw where my mother was. She was holding Phillip and washing his little naked body. Surely he was cold, even in front of the glowing wood stove. Why was she bathing him when it was still dark outside? He didn’t seem to mind. He was just lying across her lap, not kicking or even looking around as she stroked him with tfullsizeoutput_819he wet washcloth. Before I could say a word my daddy walked right out the back door, still carrying me. The covers fell from my head and I felt ice cold wind hit my face and my bare feet, which by now were dangling out of the bottom of the mound of quilts. My daddy pulled me tighter and I was comforted by the smell of stale tobacco and fresh soap which I knew so well. As he carried me through the yard, the grass crunched under his feet and he was holding me too tightly. With one eye and my nose buried in his neck, the other eye could see the stars. Smoke was curling from the chimney in the center of our little house and the smell of the burning wood, from out here, was more pleasant. I felt him bend forward and heard the car door open and then felt my quilt-wrapped body touch the car seat. I wanted to ask where we were going and why we were alone, but I could not make words hook onto the questions and even if I could have, my mouth would not have spoken them. I was shaking hard and the smell of gasoline from our old car made my throat burn. Then I glimpsed huge snowflakes swirling in the two white trails of light coming from the front of the car. Snow! Could it be Christmas?

Grandparents

Finally, Daddy told me, “I’m taking you to Miz Sea’s” and I felt a little bit warm. The car sped over the gravel. I bounced on the seat because I could not move my arms pinned deep inside the covers. We didn’t have far to go and soon we were turning from the gravel of Crooked Creek Rd. onto the gravel of my grandparents’ road. Before we reached the top of that short winding road, the porch light came on and showed against the brown siding of the tiny house.  As my Dad set me inside the front door, he said to Mammy, my grandmother, “His fever won’t come down. We’re leaving for St. Joseph’s.” Without a word she put me in bed beside my grandfather, who didn’t say anything, although I knew that he was awake. Mammy tucked me in and I watched her kneel beside the couch where she slept, close enough that I could reach out and touch her. She began to pray. As I went to sleep she was saying, “Not our will, but yours’ be done.”

School

At Marlow School later that day, the snow stopped for a while and we children were allowed to go out for recess. I stayed on the porch and watched the kids who had boots playing in the schoolyard. A girl who was just getting there was walking straight toward me.  This was unusual, because the kids from the big room, grades five through eight, never paid attention to first graders. She stopped, looked at me for a moment and said the two words that punched me in the stomach and sent me falling. I fell back and back with my arms held wide as though I was trying to fly in reverse. All the time I floated my feet somehow stayed in contact with the concrete floor. As my back touched the clapboard of the building I melted and ran down the cold boards, my warmth causing steam to sizzle and then rise when it encountered the icy floor.  The cold seeped into my body then, freezing it solid so that her words could no longer penetrate.  Now, the only thing that could pierce me for the rest of the school day was the stares from dozens of eyes.  The eyes belonged to the students who had witnessed the words that knocked me down, her words that caused me to freeze into a block of ice.

An icicle was stuck in my throat, causing my brain to hurt like it did when eating homemade ice cream that my mother made in the summer. I thought about Mother and wondered if she knew that girl would say those words to me. I wondered if my big brother had heard them, too. Then, I remembered that he had not been on the bus that morning. Where was he? I had always felt safe knowing that he was in the schoolroom right next to mine, the one with the other big kids. They had a man teacher with an arm that didn’t move and I was glad that I was not old enough to be in that room.  Both my teacher’s arms could move and once today she used them both to hug me. Mrs. Morgan was pretty and she was kind, but why had she let that big girl say those hateful words? Why didn’t she make her take them back?

The bus ride home was much quieter than usual and I missed my big brother being there with me. Even though kids were all around me, I was alone and still frozen solid. Most of the children were staring but not in a mean way. I think that a girl offered me gum, but I am not sure. I sat, cold and hard, and watched the scenes passing the frosty window of the bus. The farms along Crooked Creek Road, where we lived, had turned to a thick blanket of white since I rode the bus from my Grandparents’ home that morning. The hills, trees and barns looked as though they had been covered with vanilla ice cream. I felt my heart begin to soften and to thaw a little, as the snow reminded me that nothing could stop Christmas.

Home

When the bus stopped in front of our house I saw that the snow in our yard was not smooth, but messy with footprints going off in all directions and there were cars that I did not recognize parked next to the road. Strangest though were the tire tracks that went right up to the front porch. That didn’t make any sense. Neither did the little white coffin that stood in our living room when my Mother met me at the door.

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