The Guy, The Fella, and Where the Healing Begins

So I heard this story about a guy who was disabled.  He couldn’t get up and move around on his own.  He lay there for a long time, not far from what was a known cure.  Years and years.  He would start to move towards the cure, but by the time he got there, someone else was already being treated, and apparently it was a “one at a time–first come, first served” kind of thing.  So he stayed put.  In that same spot.

Then one day this fella who was becoming more well known in the area came along and asked the guy, “Do you want to get well?”

Whoa.  That’s kind of a personal question, right?  I mean, this fella is all in his chili.

True to form (for so many of us), the guy started listing the reasons (ahem-excuses?) as to why he hadn’t made it to the point of getting better.  No one had stopped to help him, he couldn’t do it on his own, someone else was always already there so he hung back.

The fella all but holds up his hand to stop the flow of excuses and says, “Never mind all that.  Get up, pick up your stuff, and walk.  You’re good to go now.”

What?

Yep.  It happened.  And the guy got up and took his stuff and walked away.

Cool, right?

This is the story that was shared in Evening Prayer on Sunday evening.  It’s from the Good Book.  After reading the story aloud, my pastorfriend asked a series of questions that we were to discuss at our tables.  She asked interesting questions about what would healing look like for each one of us?  What did it mean for this guy?

But she didn’t ask the one question I was expecting, the one question I kept thinking about as she read the verses from John 5.  I was expecting the hard question that she has asked us about other stories we’ve read–

Who are you in this story?

I’d like to answer, oh yes, I’m the paralytic, laying there, can’t get up.  Or won’t.  Sometimes there’s not much difference.  And yes, I have been that person.  So comfortable in my misery, in my paralyzing fear that I don’t move and take a step towards healing–yep.  I’ve been there.  The struggle is real.  That struggle to not have my identity be that of the “victim,” but instead to put the past behind me and move on.  Move towards the healing waters.  Move towards a new way of living, without all the pain from the past dragging me down.  It’s hard, and sometimes it’s a daily conscious choice I make to leave it all behind, if only just for today.  And then the next day.  And the next.  It takes work.  No wonder the guy was still lying there after all those years.

But as I was listening, I felt my heart skip a beat, as I realized who I really identified with in the story.  Not willingly, but I saw me there.  And it hurt.  Far worse than the pain of lying in my own story.  I have been the person who has walked on by someone in need, not noticing the guy who might need help getting to a healing spot.  I have been too busy or too self-involved to notice.  Or worse, I’ve noticed, and–this hurts to admit it, but there it is staring me in the face–I’ve walked on by anyway.  After all, I have things to get done, places to be, no time no time no time.

Whew.  That glimpse really hurt me.

As we talked about the story at our table, someone wondered aloud what happened after the guy got up and took his stuff (bedroll) with him.  We continued reading.  Turns out the guy ran into some Jewish leaders.  Their immediate reaction was–Why are you carrying your stuff?  Who told you to do that?  It’s the Sabbath, you are not supposed to carry your bedroll on the Sabbath!

Wow.  We found it surprising that no one acknowledged that this guy who had been over by the water, unable to walk for 38 years, was walking!  You know folks knew who he was, right?  I mean even if he was referred to as “Guy who hasn’t moved in years” or “Guy who won’t get up” or “That poor guy by the water,” folks had to recognize who he was.

And yet, instead of seeing the miracle right in front of them, all they could do is be judicial.  They didn’t celebrate at all.  Not a bit.  They pointed fingers and accused and sounded quite unpleasant to be honest.  What you’re doing is against the law and just who exactly told you to do it, because this is so not okay.

Oh y’all.

Today when I thought back over the story and that part in particular, I began to grieve.  Far too often I am like the Jewish leaders.  There, I’ve admitted it. Too often I look right past the amazing things in life and go straight to critical.

When Cooter shows me a Lego contraption he’s built, and I quickly say, “Oh yes, that’s nice” but more quickly move into the “Why are these Legos all over the floor? You have got to pick these up!”  Or his sister wants to tell me about a story she read, and I’m pushing her to finish unloading the dishwasher so we can get the thing loaded up again.  Or when my oldest tells me about an event she’s excited about being a part of and I’m giving her my recommended do’s and don’ts and safety guidelines, rather than sharing in her joy.

The miracle–I just pass on by it like it’s nothing–and move straight into the criticism and legalistic commentary.

Oh me.

This breaks my heart.

Something else breaks my heart.

The world is mourning today a great entertainer.  Someone who touched so many lives.  All day folks sharing their own stories, their own connections with him as though they knew him.  And I suppose in a way we did.  Only we didn’t know about the struggles.  We didn’t know he could use a helping hand.  Or a listening ear. 

And this part of his story and the story from Sunday night have intertwined in my heart and made me aware–of my shortcomings and how I need to work to see the folks around me.  Really see them.  Take time to listen.  To hug.  To tell folks what they mean to me.  Take time to hear what they really need and not just make assumptions.  I need to stop judging and start embracing, loving, caring.  Who knows what difference one moment of caring and loving and compassion can do?

I know of one moment that made a huge difference.  It’s not my story to tell, so I won’t, but I will share this.  It was because of someone who opened her eyes and saw another hurting so badly he was moving away from the healing fast, it was because of her caring and noticing and taking a moment–because of her, someone I care about very much is alive and well and loving on other folks this very day.  And making such a difference in this world. 

Because she noticed.

I think that may be where the healing begins.

It is with my whole heart tonight, that I think on this and make a promise to myself to notice.  To slow down and take time for what really matters.  I need to let go of things that are superficial and dig deep.  And love. 

May we make each day a day of noticing.  Imagine all the good that could do. 

Love to all. 

 

A Thank You to Our Nurses With Love

pic of nurses' weekThis is Nurses’ Week.  It is my pleasure to send out a big hug and many thanks and a virtual cup of coffee with a fresh Krispy Kreme to each and every nurse who has touched our lives.  We have been blessed by your kindness, your skills, and your dedication to what you do.  Thank you.

My first eye-opening experience with those of this profession was when I started work with our local Hospice in the Fall of 2000.  For over two years, I worked as a team with these beautiful people who made the journey from this life to the next one a lot more peaceful and a little less frightening.  When Mama and Daddy made the decision to call Hospice for Daddy in September of 2011, I was so hoping for just the right person to come in.  And she did.  A sweet spirit, calming and loving.  She was just the perfect person for Mama and Daddy.  And when Daddy was gone, she still cared for Mama.  Because of her, Mama found a whole community of people who loved and supported her through the next fifteen months.  And when Mama left this earth–our wonderful nurse was there, loving us and Mama, and holding Mama’s hand.  Just as she did a week later when our cousin Miss Betty took her last breath.  I know that calling her an “angel on earth” seems rather trite and cliche’, but I don’t know how else to decribe her.  Without being intrusive she became a part of our family.  To this day.  I love her with all my heart because of what she did, but even more because of who she is.  It takes someone special to be a nurse.

When Mama went for the second HospitalStay in January, we felt like we were old hands at this in some respects.  This was, however, my first experience with ICU nurses.  PHENOMENAL.  These men and women do so many tasks that are delegated to others on other floors.  I’ve watched them do things that I won’t describe here, but let me tell you–hearts of gold, stomachs of steel.  Enough said.

I won’t be able to mention each one, but most of them were pretty doggone great.  The joke amongst the family became that I got into in-depth conversations with the people who took care of Mama, while my baby sister felt like she was interrogating them by comparison.  (She would say, “Tara asks, ‘So where did you go to school?  Oh that’s great,’ while I say (in clipped sharp tones) ‘So.  Where did YOU go to SCHOOL?!  OH, that is just great.” )  I just shrugged at her version of it, and said, “I’m looking for my new BFF for-evuh!  I’m convinced I’m going to find her during the HospitalStay.”   And I tried.  We met some interesting people.

Tony who-smelled-good was our first nurse that night when Mama was moved unexpectedly to the ICU.  He was on again when she was rushed to surgery the next night.  He cared for her after the surgery.  He is precious to me because he is one of the few who remembered her awake and alert, how she smiled and made conversation through the pain.  He comforted her in her anxiety as she headed down to surgery.  He was the one to whom she bragged about her soon-to-be-born grandson.  He smiled and listened.  Listening.  That is huge.

Andrea was another beautiful soul from the beginning of our stay.  She had Mama several times before we were moved to the STICU.  She and Miss Betty, the patient care tech, made a great team–comforting us in our concerns, answering our questions, and oh, the healing laughter.  They laughed and filled that room with joy.  They told Mama, who was still sedated, funny stories and made up nicknames for each one of them.  Andrea left us a note on the obituary on-line.  That connection.  Thank you.  She let us know Mama was more than just another patient.  She was also one who let us stay even though visiting hours were over.  She knew the situation and decided accordingly.  That was such a gift.  We didn’t really know it at the time.  I will always remember this beautiful woman who was a surprise to her own Mama–she was a twin born to a woman expecting only one.  What a precious surprise she was.

Janel, and I may not be spelling her name right, took the time to teach us how to take care of Mama.  Mama ran fever a lot, and for several reasons, they couldn’t give her medication to bring it down.  Janel was the one who said “Let’s mini-skirt her and wipe her down.”  She would tuck the gown up a bit, and then she used a wet washcloth and wiped Mama’s arms, face, hands, and legs.  She asked if we’d like to do that.  Thank you, Janel.  Because of her, I wasn’t afraid to move around the wires and cables and touch Mama, love on her.  Though Janel was only with us one day, we started asking other nurses if we could do that, and by the time Mama was moved to the STICU we just started asking for washcloths and telling them what we were doing. Janel believed in the family being a part of care.  She even said, “If she were my Mama, I’d be crawling in the bed with her.”  She got it, and for that I give thanks.

There were so many other great nurses and patient care techs who touched our lives with love and a tender touch.  I am thankful for each and every one, even the ones who kept “ma’am”ing me.  (Boy was that hard to hear!)  I would have taken any of them as my new BFF for-evuh.  Loved.  Them.

When our cousin Miss Betty was admitted into the hospital in Warner Robins two weeks after Mama, our family decided it was best if Miss Betty didn’t know about Mama being in the hospital.  She would not have understood.  Mama was her guardian, and it only would have frightened her.  We hoped it would not be necessary.  And it wasn’t.  Just not in the way we anticipated.

So each time we spoke with a new nurse at the hospital there, we explained two things–that Mama was in the hospital so we couldn’t be there as much as we would like, and that Miss Betty wasn’t to know about Mama.  The team of nurses on the ICU and step-down unit were so incredible during this really hard time.  They became Miss Betty’s new BFF’s.  It was precious the night that I was visiting with her, and the night nurse Miss Cece came on, walked by and waved.  Miss Betty waved back, and said, “That’s my friend.”  I never worried once about Miss Betty’s care.  To this day I give thanks for that great group of nurses.   From the first day with Amber who took Miss Betty and my sister under her wing, to our last night with Mary, who was there to mother me as much as to care for Miss Betty, we were blessed with caring, compassionate people–among them Willa, Brett, Brandi, Cece, Mary, and so many others.  If we saw one in the hall, even when she wasn’t Miss Betty’s nurse that day, each one would ask how things were going.  They remembered and cared.  One I owe a great deal of sanity to is Aimee.  On the way to see Mama during one of the very strict visiting times at the hospital in Macon, I had hoped to have time to swing by the hospital in town to see Miss Betty first.  The skies looked ominous, traffic was awful near the Base, and I knew that if I did drive to Miss Betty’s hospital, I would probably only have 1/2 hour out of the two hours allotted to visit Mama by the time I could get there.  With no other options, I called and asked for Miss Betty’s nurse.  Aimee.  I told her my situation and asked that if I got there a few minutes after visiting time was over, could I please still see Miss Betty before I needed to head home?

This sweet and compassionate woman gave me the gift of grace.  “You go see your Mama.  Take your time, drive safely, and when you get here, no matter when, you can come on back.”  I cried right then and there.  Later that evening when I finally arrived to see Miss Betty, Aimee was there, ready to change shifts.  She stayed to ask how things were going in Macon with Mama.  She listened and she laughed with me and let me just be.  What a gift of love.  Tonight I am particularly thankful to Aimee for my being able to have that visit with peace in my heart, as it was only three days later that I had to tell Mama goodbye.

Dear nurses, you have a thankless job.  I know.  I saw and heard things during our HospitalStay that broke my heart for you.  But please hear me say this, I owe you all a debt I can never repay.  You took the time to make sure my Mama and Miss Betty were safe and comfortable and had the greatest of care, just as you do for each one of your patients.  And you took the time to talk to us, to answer our questions, to listen to our stories, and to just let us be.  You are loved and treasured.  Thank you all, those whom I have met and those whom I have not.  Please don’t ever doubt that what you are doing is making a difference.   You are healers of body and spirit.  With your gentle hands and your full hearts.  Thank you.

pic of heart with bandaid