Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘Hospice’

The Energy of Human Touch

As I wrote in my book, ‘Just Behind The Door,’ energy cannot be created nor destroyed only changed in form. Understanding this concept is one thing but actually seeing or feeling it in action is another. When we walk into a room we can feel if others are welcoming us into their space. Beyond body language there is just this feeling that we get that tells us how other people are responding to our energy. It may be hard to fully explain and can’t actually be seen by the naked eye but without question we just know it – we can feel it in every cell of our bodies. Isn’t that amazing!

When we study energy and learn more about how energy can actually be enhanced through approaches such as Reiki it’s a humbling experience. Reiki practitioners are taught how to actually feel the energy of others with their hands and redirect it to help a person dislodge their own blocked energy. Reiki teaches us how to connect with the Universal Energy source and be a conduit to help others. It also allows the practitioners to attain a better energy flow in their own life as they consciously tap into the ever present energy that surrounds them.

Human touch truly is magical. It can help dry a child’s tears or let a loved one know we are there to help them when the going gets rough. When we take the time to hug someone or pat their arm to comfort them it is not merely a loving gesture. We are actually giving them energy often without realizing it. Yet, if we look closely we can see their eyes brighten as they begin to relax and breathe more deeply. Their shoulders relax and we can see the difference created from this infusion of energy. When we visit someone who is in need our presence is actually a gift of energy, carefully wrapped within the loving arms of kindness. From time to time we may hear people say they are hesitant to visit someone who has recently experienced a loss in their life because they don’t know what to say – yet in reality few words need to be exchanged because it is the energy exchange in the personal connection that is so valuable to a fellow traveler. At times it can be their life line.

We can see the beauty of this energy exchange especially with Hospice patients. As their own energy begins to fade over the course of their illness they begin to eagerly wait for their next Hospice visit. They just seem to intuitively know that they will receive the energy they need to face another day. We can’t extend their life but we can make the days that they have left just a little bit better by our presence.

Take a moment to observe the vital importance of human contact in all walks of your life and you will arrive at a deeper awareness that it is really the exchange of energy that is at the heart of the matter. It makes all the difference.

Have a great few days!

You Can’t Run Away!

Discussing death is extremely difficult for most people and viewed as the elephant in the room in many cultures. Yet, beyond birth it is the only thing we will all encounter and eventually experience. Yet, we are not only reluctant but often flatly refuse to discuss or learn more about it until the inevitable happens to us. If we are at least somewhat prepared it helps. Some people say it is just too depressing to even think about and so they choose to avoid the topic entirely until a friend or family member is involved and they must face it head on. Then the questions and fear starts in their minds, ‘How do I handle these emotions? Will I ever get over it? What’s wrong with me? Is it normal to feel this way? I feel tired and depressed all the time.’

Unfortunately, in American culture the ‘average’ amount of time the outside world is comfortable with our grief is two to three weeks. After that we are on our own. People start to avoid us because they can see we are in emotional pain and it makes them uncomfortable. It is sad that after a death, when we need people more than ever to just sit with us and allow us to talk about our loved one, yet again, they are not there. Frequently we may hear people say, ‘I just don’t know what to say and I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing so I just can’t visit.’ It’s not about words. It’s about caring, your physical presence…it really is about listening and giving people your love and energy to make it through another day.

I have experienced the tragic death of my son, many family members and dear friends. I have lived the saying, “If tears could build a stairway and memories a lane, I would climb right up to heaven and bring you home again.” I know how loss feels.

Now I volunteer for a ‘not for profit’ Hospice organization. Doing so I have had the opportunity to see a range of emotional responses to the impending death of a loved one. What has surprised me is that even when Hospice becomes involved often the family members still do not want to ‘go there’ to discuss the inevitable. Avoidance can be life altering – and freeze you in time.

That’s why I wrote my story on the topic of loss. It was my way to try to help people, who have experienced the death of someone close to them, understand that handling death is a process – a long and arduous journey – but one in which peace and acceptance can eventually be achieved. Hearing from a kindred spirit can give us confidence that eventually we will survive, even though we feel we have a hole in our hearts that will never heal.

I have been fortunate to receive emails from many people who have read my book. I am grateful to each and every one of you who took the time to respond. Recently, I have had two nurses contact me after reading it. Since both have experienced death in their own families as well as in the medical profession, I was particularly moved when they also took the time to write to me. A quote from one of them said:

“Anyone who has ever lost a loved one really needs to read Mary’s book, “Just Behind the Door.” It’s raw, it’s honest and one of the very best I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a TON of them.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling with the loss of a loved one please consider
reading the book and then pass it on. When we help a fellow traveler along the way we help ourselves and that is what life is all about. As hard as it is to accept at times, ‘All is as it should be.’

Have a great few days!

Living with Joy

Piers Morgan interviewed American stage and screen actress Valerie Harper last night on CNN. After winning her battle with lung cancer in 2011, she has recently been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Her doctors told her that she has only weeks or months to live. She decided to go public with her health issue to remind us to focus on the things that are really important in life and to live life to the fullest. Knowledge of one’s impending death strips away the minors in our thinking and allows us to get to the majors – the true heart of the matter. She looked and sounded radiantly happy, even joyful at times, and it took my breath away. It was the kind of happy that we rarely see but recognize it as coming from somewhere deep, deep inside.

Some things she said she has learned and wanted to share were:

Don’t miss one hour of today thinking about tomorrow
Whatever lies ahead is just that – ahead – and not now
Refuse to think of the should haves, would haves or could haves in your life

Her point was to not let fear of your tomorrows or regrets of your yesterdays control your life. Since none of us gets out of here alive we need to learn to enjoy the ride. Each of us has our own unique lessons to learn and it makes sense to surround ourselves with positive energy as we are learning them. Yes, issues come up, challenges can momentarily reroute our path but everything that happens can be viewed in either a positive or negative frame – an opportunity to grow in wisdom or not.

Valerie also mentioned the topic of forgiveness. She said it is giving up the wish that the past could have been different and releasing the energy we are using to keep those regrets alive in our minds. Better to use that energy making today all that it can be.

When Piers Morgan asked her how she wanted to be remembered she said, “Up and off the couch!”

Valerie Harper is such an inspiration – a model – of how to accept the inevitable without anger or regret but simply with a sense of peace. A knowing and accepting in her heart that ‘all is as it should be.’ In facing her imminent death she is valiantly using the last bit of energy she has to reach out to us with a gentle reminder about the importance of truly living in the now. She is modeling a love of humanity that is so heartfelt it seems like her life mission. She is teaching us how to live as well as how to pass on with dignity and grace.

Watching her was both inspiring and humbling. I thank her for all that she has done to entertain us in the past and all that she is doing now to guide us in the present. Happy journey Valerie!

Let’s make it a great few days by putting her ideas in action!

Greater Happiness

Every day we live on this earth plane gives us the potential to achieve greater happiness. No matter what our conditions are at the moment our attitude determines our altitude. It really is an inside job! If you reflect on today, what did you see, do, or say that brought greater happiness into your life or the life of another person?

Sometimes, a short period of reflection gives us the opportunity to think about a ‘do over.’ Maybe we were a bit too abrupt when responding to someone or a tad judgmental regarding someone’s situation. In retrospect, we realize that since we don’t walk in their shoes we really can’t completely relate to or understand their issue. The best we can offer is empathy. A listening ear as they process through the latest challenge in their lives. Showing concern for others is an elixir for our own happiness as well.

Think about someone you know that just seems to be happy most of the time. What do they know that you don’t know? My guess is that they realize they are responsible for their own happiness and success and that it comes from being true to themselves. They let their heart rather than ego lead them. These folks take things in stride and accept the fact that challenges happen to everyone. Yet they choose to see past the current issue and have faith that it will be resolved over time. Their mental energy is spent doing, creating, and believing. Fear, anger or regret are not things they choose to accept in their lives.

What can you do tomorrow to empower yourself to achieve a happier, more successful life? Have you thought about a goal that you want to achieve? The Universe will deliver to you what is foremost in your thinking. There really is power in the practice of positive thinking. Your free will is just waiting to kick in to manifest your affirmations and desires. You just need to turn on your mental switch that says, ‘I can.’

Have a great few days!

Remembering Others at Christmas

During the Christmas season it seems like there is not enough hours in the day to get everything done. In addition to the gift purchasing, wrapping, tree decorations and outside lights to put up there are the Christmas cards to send. You might think twice this year about actually sending them. We debate all the reasons, as we try to get everything else accomplished, why the card thing could just be put aside- just this year.

I had a personal reminder this week of the importance of reaching out to others by sending cards. For those who have read my book you know that I am a Hospice volunteer. I have had the good fortune of being with my special person for 1 and 1/2 years. It is rare to have a patient last this long once they are officially determined to be hospice eligible. However, for this length of time we have visited weekly, discussing the books she reads, and I take her lunches that she can only dream about since she has been home bound for 2 years. Can you imagine literally not leaving your house or room for this length of time? And yet she does so with acceptance and grace. At 91 years old her mind is still sharp. It is her body that has given up the go. She basically lives in a 14 x 14 area that has become her entire life. She can no longer write the letters herself but loves to receive cards in the mail. It is her only contact to the outside world that she once knew.

Our job as Hospice volunteers is to bring a little joy to our patients during whatever time they have left on this earth. A big part of that is to keep them connected with others so they, temporarily, can forget about their situation or the inevitability of what they will soon be facing.

Just like last year, I asked her who she would like to send a Christmas card and letter to this month. She was able to give me a list after working on it for a week and then a few ideas verbally on what to say in her Christmas letter. Coming home I transcribed her thoughts and printed it on cheerful Christmas stationary then began addressing the envelopes. To my utter surprise she had 18 different people on her list for cards! She will probable receive 15 or so in return. That means that she will have 15 opportunities to read, remember the special memories of these folks and smile as she momentarily touches the outside world from her hospital bed. That may sound like a small thing to some of us but to her it will make this season, no doubt her last, something to remember. She has said to me many times that she can’t figure out why she is still here. What lessons does she have yet to learn, she questions. I think it is not her lessons to learn but her lessons to teach others, including me.

The next time I become harried with the things to accomplish during the holiday seasons I will remember with gratitude the fact that I can still do them. Christmas cards and letters will no longer seem like a chore to accomplish but something to be done that may make someone smile who receives it. All because of this special lady.

Regardless of our age, when the student is ready the teacher comes along. I was grateful I was reminded of the importance to keep this practice going. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we lived to 91 and still had 18 people to send and receive cards from? It is humbling and significant to think about how this woman has change people’s lives and continues to do in her ninth decade! She is a reminder of what the season is about, reaching out and touching the lives of others and warming their hearts.

As you check off items on your ‘to do’ list this week remember that there are others who really are interested in what you have been up to this year. They do want to stay connected in your life. Whatever form of communication you choose it will bring a smile to them as they remember a special memory of something you did together. As you read their messages in return you will also smile, remember and be grateful to have them in your life. It is funny, life is just like that, what goes around comes around.

Have a great few days!

Embrace Happiness

I read a book recently entitled, “be happy,” by Robert Holden, Ph.D. The subtitled says ‘release the power of happiness in YOU.’ I must admit until I read this book I had not processed the thought of happiness in quite the same way. Holden says, “Maybe we get stressed and depressed because we forget how to be happy.” The eight week course that he has transcribed in his book offers great food for thought. For instance, he asks us to think about who is the happiest person we know. That will give you pause as you think of at least 10 people and their attitudes – do their really embody happiness? Well, I can think of two people. One person gets up in the morning and the first thing she says is, “It’s a beautiful day.” It can be raining or snowing but she is happy to be alive. Being around her causes you to see more of the positives in life. What a lesson for the rest of us. We remember the statement that teachers come along just when the student needs them. Another person I know will often have music playing in her house and do a little dance step as she is at the stove making dinner. It makes you happy just being in her presence. Both of these people genuinely love life. Do they have stresses and challenges like the rest of us – absolutely – but they refuse to let go of the happiness that is their birthright.

Holden also talks about the importance of making happiness a conscious intention. For instance, if the first thing you tell yourself when awakening in the morning is that, “Today, I choose to be happy,” you automatically start your day with more positive energy. It may sound a bit strange but think about the alternative. If we don’t put our intention out there we just let life happen to us and we may have the tendency to see our glass as half empty rather than half full. Granted the same amount is in the glass but it is the ENERGY we bring to the thought that can bring happiness and opportunity to us – or not – for the rest of the day.

Think about the people you like to be around. Of course they are good listeners because everyone likes to have someone listen to them but in addition they actually cause you to feel more hopeful, more energizes (there is that word again!) just being around them.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all committed to bringing more happiness to ourselves and others? What activity gives you energy? I love to put my ear buds in and walk a few fast paced miles in the morning to music. My neighbors just wave as they see me walk through the neighborhood sometimes singing along with the lyrics. Guess what – maybe a smile came across their face as they watched me and maybe it will be infectious. Life is like that – we often mirror the energy around us.

What can you do tomorrow to let the world know that you are glad to be alive?

Have a great few days and remember – think happiness – it is your birthright!

Healing Through the Holidays

Another Thanksgiving and so many reasons to be grateful and yet… Although we may be struggling with the fact that there is an empty seat at the table, we remember the holidays when everyone was taking up their assigned seats and passing the turkey and gravy. Laughing and sharing what it meant to be together. Those were the times…

Loss has a way of catching you unaware especially during the holiday season. It creeps up on you and renders you speechless in mid sentence. Your voice catches in your throat and you pray not to be obvious to others. You think to yourself, I need to brush away my tears quickly so I don’t upset others. It is amazing what we do to appear strong to others.

The holidays are challenging to get through normally. Add the life changing event of loss to the mix and sometimes just getting through rather than celebrating is the best you can do. It’s okay. Most of us have been there or will be going through it sooner or later. No family escapes the sadness of losing a loved one. We are all travelers on this same path. It is predictable but not invited. The timing may be different but the gut wrenching ‘whys’ and ‘if onlys’ are the same. Maybe if we try to reach out and grab the hand of a fellow traveler and let them know we care both of our paths may be smoother. It’s worth a try.

Our loved ones want us to remember the special times we had, the unconditional love that still exists in our hearts and reflect on the gifts – large and small in our lives today. We see the victims of Hurricane Sandy and realize how quickly life can change. We have experienced devastating change in our own lives and have been altered -bruised and beaten- but we continue on because we realize that our loved ones may be gone from our physical presence but we will always have the special memories the ‘Kodak moments’ to remember. Memories like precious gems that grow more valuable with age are gifts that last a lifetime. We close our eyes and see the smile, hear the humor and feel the intensity of our loved one. We know we are enveloped by their unconditional love. When we feel the chill of loneliness surround us, we have only to remember the love. It will warm us and light our way toward tomorrow.

On one level we know there was a reason for their passing, ‘To everything there is a season.’ But knowing is one thing and understanding much less accepting is another. Our hearts and minds struggle to function in concert. This cruel twist of fate seems impossible to understand but eventually we stop fighting and demanding that it be different. Eventually, we move to a point of recognizing that we have more lessons yet to learn. Is is hard? The toughest thing imaginable. Can we speed up the process? No, we all heal in our own unique time and space.

So when you sit down with family or friends over this holiday let’s remember that our loved ones are around us always. We have learned a great many valuable life lessons. We are strong, we are survivors. Most importantly, we have learned both the value of unconditional love and that the energy of our loved ones last forever.

Robert Frost wrote a poem that may speak to you. It is entitled Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

On this Thanksgiving eve may you remember yesterday with love and peace, celebrate today for the opportunity to make the day a little brighter and look forward to the challenges of all your tomorrow’s because you are loved.

As Frost said in another poem..
I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Have a great few days!