She Was a Freakin’ Social Worker!

Quick note: I drafted this several weeks ago but never posted. So, the timing mentioned may not always make sense. Just go with it and read between the lines. Ha!

When I tell you the last few weeks have been a struggle, I mean the last few weeks have been a struggle. As a Social Worker, it seems that our day, our week, our month never ends. Thank God for the warm fuzzies received along the way or we’d probably just drink beer into oblivion or whiskey (verb) so hard every night until we needed our own Social Worker. (God bless the dear soul that has to be my Social Worker one day. Poor thing isn’t gonna know what hit him/her. I’m crazy now…Lord help us all after a few more years of this. Ha!) But I digress; back to my last few weeks.

As for patient referrals, I have had a bed bound patient’s caregiver admitted to the hospital unexpectedly in the middle of the night for cardiac issues leaving no caregiver in place for my patient; a patient with suicidal ideation; a patient dependent on oxygen evicted from her home who had to sleep in her vehicle for a short while; bed bugs and fire-hazard-level unsafe wiring in another patient’s home…oh yeah, and another caregiver who needed respite care at the last minute; and about a trillion miles traveled to “handle” all of this. Then of course, routine visits plus two precious long time hospice patients who I have grown to adore who were declining and I needed time (for them AND for myself) to just sit with them, rub their hair or hold their hand.

As I reflect, I distinctly recall an entry Green Beans on the Interstate where I watched a lady eat greenbeans while she zoomed in and out of traffic.

https://coffeewithpaula.com/2018/04/17/green-beans-on-the-interstate

I watched her and wondered why…why she couldn’t just take a damn minute and eat her green beans while parked.

I immediately stopped the top-of-my-lungs duet with the radio and began to ponder what the bloody hell would make her be in such a big hurry to not just take an extra ten minutes before she left home and sit, while not zooming, to eat her green beans.

Well, now I understand. SHE WAS A FREAKIN’ SOCIAL WORKER!!! 

When I got the call about my little lady evicted who was about to spend some nights in her car, it was late in the day and something had to be done. I had already had some doozies that day and hadn’t eaten lunch. I brought a salad that morning with the intentions of stopping somewhere to enjoy the salad after one of my stops. Well, I knew I couldn’t let her spend more nights in her car, therefore didn’t really have time to stop and eat that salad that had already wilted from staring at me all day. So what did I do? I ate that salad while driving to handle business. All I could think about was Green Beans on the Interstate and how I had so quickly and smoothly transitioned into a major hypocrite. Ha!!!

As Social Workers we tend to have hearts that are sometimes too big, and we just have to keep rolling and doing and calling and following up and advocating…and all the other words, that as a Social Worker on a Friday night I just can’t come up with; cognitive abilities wane fast at end of week. Ha! But this job, this career choice, this mission…is so worth the stress and fatigue and brain tiredness that we experience. We get to come home to our nice relaxing homes that have a/c, no bed bugs, electricity, a place to sit, food to eat, no loved ones who are dying, no family member requiring wound care or diaper changes. We get to come home and shake off the week. These precious dear souls we help and worry over and spin our wheels for all week are stuck in their situation 24/7. Twenty-four/seven. No reprieve. No rest. No break. We do this so that they can have hope of something better.

Jokingly, I have been known to ask the question “What the hell was I thinking?! Social Work?!” Ha! But I am truly so honored that on days like today, I get a call from a dear lady who now has an apartment to move into, “Ms. Paula, I’m here.” Tears in my eyes! What a blessing to see that dear lady come through all those weeks of hell from being evicted, spending nights in her car, a couple weeks in a hotel to finally moving into her new apartment. Blessed is what I am! I was able to be a tiny part of that woman’s life. I will never forget her and in some little selfish part of my Social Worker heart, I hope that she will never forget me either. Not really for the “toot your own horn” part or accolades of any type…I just want her to remember that someone loved her enough to hang in there with her and stand by her until all was well.

Sipping coffee tonight but thinking I probably should have chosen beer. Ha! ~paula

Marriage and Term Limits

I have said a couple times lately that I think the fine institution of marriage needs term limits; like at year 15, you both could yell “SWAP”. Ha! What that vision would include is that somewhere during year 12 when you fantasize about pinching their nose clean off their face because they continue to leave their crap all over the house for you to clean, you could just tell yourself, “don’t do it, just a few more short years”. Ha! (I feel the need to insert “just kidding” right here. Hopefully that wasn’t necessary, but either way, just wanted to be on the safe side. Ha!)

I do have something on my mind though about this very topic. Picture this. You’re sitting at your desk when a new co-worker comes around to meet you. The both of you hit it off nicely and after a week or so of brief office chit chat, you go for a quick lunch one day. After several quick lunch dates that go fairly well, you decide to go out for dinner and a movie one Friday night. It gets to where you start noticing increased heart rate; a little excitement when you see this new interest round the corner to your office or when you see their name pop up on your phone; you feel your cheeks blush with certain eye contact or simple touches and just the thought of a kiss makes you giddy with anticipation. You begin hanging out more and more, determine that you are now going steady and get to the moment of saying those precious three little words, “I love you.” After that, you are attached to the person…feelings of possessiveness come into play, they are yours…your special person. You feel safety when you’re with them and seek them out while in a crowd. You’re just naturally drawn to them.

Typically the next step would include meeting the families, later getting engaged and finally marriage…Lord willing and the Creeks don’t rise. Right? So which part is the love part? All those mushy feelings or the part where you say “I love you”…which to me signifies that you will love them or continue the act of loving them for an undetermined amount of time? With this comes the question of today…is love a noun or a verb?

I’ve come to realize that we have a very skewed view of love when we see love as the noun…those mushy feelings if you will. Let me just tell you, feelings come and go as quick as Aunt Sally’s Homemade Banana Pudding or Uncle Fred’s Scratch and Win Lotto money. (insert eye roll)

Marriages have been thrown away for the sheer fact that one or both spouses don’t feel like they love the other any more. If love is a feeling, then yes, you probably don’t love them anymore. If love is an action (verb), you can choose whether you do or not. I think real change happens in a failing marriage when you come to view love as an action and not a feeling. You can make that choice to “act” all day long, but feelings, you have no control over; they come and go with the wind.

When we vow to love someone for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part, do we really know what we are promising? I’ve posed the question before…if we knew what til death do us part meant for us as a couple, would we still walk that aisle?

As a hospice Social Worker, my eyes are wide open as to what that phrasing means. We are saying that we will love our spouse until they take their final breath; that we will wipe their behind when they are unable to do so themselves; that we will make difficult decisions about nursing home placement; that we will spend some lonely years when the kids move out to live their own dream; that we will possibly lose our ability to help our mate when they experience a decline in health because we ourselves are experiencing a decline in health; we may look at each other from one wheelchair to another and chuckle at the fine situation you both find yourselves in this time.

Of course, all of this time from the aisle of the church to a spouse’s final breath is riddled with bad but also with much good. Funny memories are created from eating Ramen Noodles and dented-can-mystery-meat from the clearance bin because diapers and formula are super expensive; moments spent on the back porch after the babies are down for the night; sweet moments spent on the couch under a cozy blanket while you watch television…or while the television watches you cuddle and smooch; moments of pride as you see your children grow and chase their own dreams; grandbabies being born…just so many good times also.

I find myself back to the difficult question of how can one couple make it to the final breath and some make it only to ten years and a divorce attorney? I’ve decided it’s all in your perspective. You can make that choice to love or you can hit the road the moment the mushy feelings flee the scene. But I can assure you, the next relationship you run to will entail all of those same feelings initially but they too will finally dissipate. How many times do we change partners to chase those feel good mushy lovey dovey feelings that accompany new love? How many is enough?

Sipping some delicious warm soothing “muddy water” as a friend recently called it and thinking to myself that after 26 years of marriage…and no term limits…I might better view love as an action because those mushy feelings have been g-g-g-gone for a minute now. Ha! ~paula

For Whom Do You Sing Harmony?

I adore singing in the choir. I have some of my most carefree moments of each week…goofing, laughing, singing, harmonizing and practicing with my fellow choir members…who just happen to be some of my closest friends.

I sing alto, as did my sweet little mama. She managed to teach me that I would love choir…or else. Ha!

During my early years in choir, she was my choir director. Let me just tell you, when your mama was the choir director…you sang in the choir. Needless to say, I can’t say I always had a passion for singing or harmony, but it is now as much a part of who I am as my skin color, eye color, hair color and my facial features. I LOVE TO SING.

But to say I love to sing, is not really the full picture of what I love about this topic. I do sing pretty much all day long…in between patients, on the way to church, in the shower, while I listen to music on the beach… I even have to school myself NOT to hum while I’m in a conversation with someone because it could be construed as inattentiveness to what is being said. I have it bad. Ha! But the truth of what I love about singing is the harmony.

When I sing to the radio, I’m full on harmonizing. I sing alto in the choir which is primarily harmony. I feel a little disappointed when the alto line has to sing the melody and the sopranos have to bust out the harmony.

Sidenote: I realized recently that Sopranos don’t typically like to sing harmony either…so music writers…stop that. Ha! On second thought, maybe you should keep doing that occasionally so we are forced out of our comfort zones more often. But that’s a whole other topic.

Google depicts harmony as a noun that is: 1- the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions that have a pleasing effect. 2- agreement or concord. Synonyms: accord, agreement, peace, peacefulness, amicability, friendship, fellowship, cooperation, understanding, unity, rapport, like-mindedness. Basically, in music, harmony is a note that compliments the main note, the melody.

As you have gotten to know me…you knew I wouldn’t be able to let this go, right? You knew I would have to take this a step further. I couldn’t just let the definition of harmony be the end, right? There are so many life lessons all wrapped up into this one little topic. (#deepthinkerprobs)

I think that in life, we have to be the harmony to our fellow man’s melody.

As a Social Worker, I must be the harmony to my patient’s melody as I work along side them as they make decisions. I absolutely can not be the melody for my patient or families. They are the melody. I am the harmony. I accompany them as they make decisions they will live with for the rest of their lives. They are the lead. I provide necessary accompaniment.

As a wife, I must be the harmony to my husband’s melody. In this day and age it is frowned upon to say this, but he has the task of leading and I have the task of accompanying him as he accomplishes that task. Do I always play perfect harmony with him? Like, a big hell no to that. He makes me angry and crazy and absolutely nuts at times and I purposely turn that harmony right into a ‘dissonant’ chord. (Fellow music folks, do you see what I did there? Ha!) But luckily, dissonant chords are a ‘thing’ also. When a dissonant chord resolves itself into beautiful harmony again, life is good, right? That means kissing, folks. And kissing is good, right? Ha!

Moving right along. As a mother, I must be the harmony to my children’s ambitions in life. They have so many decisions to make along the way. I can’t run their lives for them. As much as we want to stop them from making the same mistakes we made, they have to live their life on their own. We can educate…harmonize, if you will…but we have to let them be their own melody. At the end of the day, they are the ones who have to lie their head down on their own pillow at night and live with their own thoughts. Not us. We live with our own thoughts.

I should probably revisit my earlier comment “we have to be the harmony to our fellow man’s melody”. What does that really mean? If we are always the harmony for others, when do we get to be our own melody? Almost always would be the answer. If everyone learned to compliment other’s melodies, there would always be someone available to be your harmony as well.

“Your true character is most accurately measured by how you treat those who can do nothing for you.” – Mother Teresa

Just sipping some Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée Coffee and thinking about puttin’ on a kitchen concert. Where’s my spatula mic??? I’m about to bust out some major harmony…whose gonna tackle the melody for me??? ~paula

What Am I Running From?

Have you ever wondered what wakes a person up in the morning? I’m pretty certain it’s safe to say I have never wondered what wakes any specific person up. I’ve never sat at my desk or on the church pew and wondered “Hmmm? What ringtone wakes so-and-so up every morning?” Cuz, quite frankly, that’s just weird. But just incase you’ve ever wondered what wakes me up, it’s the dreaded RADAR ringtone from my iPhone!

This morning, as I scrambled to snatch and strangle the culprit of what I considered the most dreaded sound to have ever pierced my ear drums, I had already begun to try and come up with a legitimate reason to call out of work. I was exhausted and wanted to go back to sleep. I didn’t hit snooze but I did decide to set the alarm for thirty extra minutes.

Honestly, I didn’t get another second of sleep during that thirty extra minutes. I just kept mulling over any reason I could possibly think up that I could use to call out. Nothing sounded legitimate and I absolutely refused to lie about a reason for calling out.

Any of you that know me well, know that I despise calling out and rarely do. I do believe that situations arise that make it super legitimate to call out, but some people look for reasons all the time and actually use them. Those are typically the co-workers I do not respect. (This is not to be confused with scheduled vacay days. Scheduled vacay days are a must when trying to maintain sanity.) But, I believe that when you agree to work for an agency…you agree to work for an agency whether you feel like it or not. They pay you whether they feel like it or not, right? So, with a little bit of work ethic, let’s come to work people. (That was my version of a public service announcement and general pep talk. Ha!)

But, I digress.

This morning I kept hanging out on my pillow. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to copy/paste a smile today. Making small-talk seemed positively abhorrent. I had no desire to do anything productive. No motivation. No energy. But still, I had no true or legitimate reason to not go in to work. I wanted so badly to call out just because but I could find nothing honorable in that.

Why didn’t I want to go? I love my job. Some would say that with drops of sarcasm but I do truly love my job.

As any good Social Worker would do, I began to analyze where in the world these feelings were coming from. What was I running from? I had no specific task that I dreaded for the day. I had no huge to-do list that was daunting. I had no specific problem cases that kept me wanting to hide under the covers. I had nothing that hurt, ached or felt sick in any way. What was I running from?

I came up with absolutely nothing. So I got my behind up, nursed a huge cup of coffee as I sat on the couch and stared off into space and then left for work. (Somewhere in the mix, I did brush my teeth as well.)

As I turned the first big curve in the road, my thoughts began the old familiar slide show that is so common for my morning commute. With the steering wheel in one hand and coffee cup in the other, I allowed my mind to flash to my sweet little mama. I watched snippets of her final days and mulled over priceless conversations that I will cherish for the rest of my life here on earth. I pictured some of the wonderful, intentional moments spent with family during her last year; laughter, tears, hugs, food, more laughter…did I mention laughter?

I thought of all the things I absolutely long to tell her; things that I know she would want to know. How Dad is doing, what is new with every single person in her little family, if we are taking care of Dad as we had promised. Hunter is doing an amazing job in band and loving it. Kelsi is beginning college and has the world at her fingertips. Zack is now a band director and lives in Florida. Madison babysat this summer full time and did an amazing job. Lee and Ana are killin’ it with their college classes. And p.s. Lee drove me in his car and I almost peed my pants…it was the most exhilarating feeling in the world! Ha!

Before I knew it, silent tears rolled down my face. Not a loud ugly cry…just the silent I-miss-my-Mama cry that is part of who I am now.

I’ve learned that, for now, sorrow and hurt still well just underneath the surface, waiting to burst forth whenever I will let them. Just underneath the smiling face that says “I’m okay” are tears that wait patiently, ready for a moments notice for the go signal. I miss my mama.

After the tears dried and my thoughts cleared, I had a very important epiphany for the day.

I was actually not running from anything earlier this morning. I was trying to run toward the grief that engulfs me sometimes. If I had listened to the hints my body gave me this morning, I would have stayed home to grieve appropriately today. I tell my families often to not run from their grief, embrace it, ride the waves, feel the pain, but always, no matter what, be honest and truthful about where they’re at for the moment; get it out in some healthy way. I apparently haven’t listened to anything I’ve said during the last 18 years of working with grieving families. (I’m apparently a slow learner.)

Yes, I arrived at work with a mildly red nose and puffy eyes…no make-up remained whatsoever…but everyone showed kindness and it was never mentioned. I sat down at my desk and got on with the work day. Busy with stuff, my mind shifted fairly easily from my little mama to other things. I was okay. But had I done myself an injustice? Maybe if I had just allowed myself to remain at home today, I would be a little ahead in this crazy game of grief. Maybe I would still be as far ahead of the game because I at least gave myself the hour commute to spend with my grief. Who knows…certainly not me. I’ve learned that, for the most part, grief is a guessing game where flexibility is a must.

Sipping coffee tonight and wondering who noticed how I set my alarm to address me each morning. Ha!!! Also wondering if you can tell the oftentimes capricious nature of grief through this entry…tears and sadness this morning; laughter and light hearted comments tonight. ~paula

A Social Worker’s Heart

Sometimes your determination to have a middle-of-the-day visit, forces me to drive 50 extra miles because my other scheduled visits were all on the other side of the county.

…but I agree because my Social Worker heart cares about you and I genuinely want to visit with you.

Sometimes the 50 extra miles I drove to back track and meet at your requested time, makes me late picking up my kiddo at the end of the day.

…but I will do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you and your situation may be a little more dire than my own.

Sometimes I frustrate you because I won’t call a resource for you or complete a form for you.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart wants to empower you to tap community resources on your own.

Sometimes when I’m sitting in your living room, holding your hand while you share of your anticipatory grief, I’m trying not to squirm because I haven’t peed in hours.

…but I endure because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Sometimes while driving to your house, I skip running through the drive-thru for lunch because it might take too long and I don’t want to be late.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Sometimes when I listen to your grief story it makes me sad about my own grief story.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Sometimes I cry when I leave your home because my heart breaks for your grief or because I know, before you do, the gravity of the loss you are about to experience.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Sometimes when I say hard things to you, I wish someone other than me could have said it, would have said it or that you would have just made better choices on your own.

…but I would say them all over, again and again, if it would help you because my Social Worker heart cares for you deeply.

Sometimes, on the night before my visit to your home, I had to stay up all night with a sick child and I’m utterly exhausted and worried you will take my yawns for boredom or disinterest.

…but I come on into work because my Social Worker heart cares about you and am neither bored nor disinterested. Just tired.

Sometimes I am actually disinterested in what you are saying because I just received a text from a family member that said “call me as soon as you can” and it created worry in me for my family’s well-being.

…my Social Worker heart cares about you deeply but it also cares fiercely about my own family.

Sometimes I’m grumpy because I didn’t get to drink enough coffee before I left home or my husband and I were on the outs with each other, but I force myself to be pleasant with you and caring because my grumpiness was not caused by you.

…I protect you from my personal grumpiness because my Social Worker heart knows you did nothing to deserve that.

Sometimes when you’re grumpy with me for no known reason, I bite my tongue so as to not respond with grump because I know I didn’t cause your grumpiness either; most likely your circumstances did.

…I bite my tongue to maintain a working relationship with you because my Social Worker heart knows you won’t be grumpy by the time I leave your home…if I did my job correctly.

Sometimes I arrive at your home immediately after hanging up the phone from a disgruntled caregiver who just cussed at me mercilessly for something that had nothing to do with me, or maybe that did have something to do with me, but I figure out a way to provide you with smiles and concern while I’m with you, as if nothing happened.

…but I do it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Yes, your request seemed small. No, I haven’t gotten around to doing it yet because there were a million other small requests on my to-do list before yours and sometimes I don’t have enough hours in my day. Yes, I feel guilty. Please know I’m working as fast as I can.

…I often come in early or work late because I genuinely want to help you because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

Yes, I sometimes run behind schedule because a family needed me a little longer. Please be forgiving, as you might be that family one day and I will give you the time you need as well.

…I will stay as long as you need me because my Social Worker heart cares too deeply sometimes.

I have cried with families. I have cried for families.

…I do it because my Social Worker heart cares deeply and hurts for and with you.

While I was strong for you as your loving spouse of 60+ years took his last breath, and just days before, while I taught you how to support him and comfort him at end of life; I still grieved over the loss of my precious mother.

…but I did it because my Social Worker heart cares about you.

I’ve allowed silent tears to stream down my face as I hugged you in your loss while I continued to grieve from loss of my own.

…I keep doing this because my Social Worker heart cares deeply and won’t let me stop.

I sometimes have exciting plans for a beach trip with friends coming up and I’d like to share it with you because we have become accustomed to sharing small trivial personal things with each other, but I hold back because I know you won’t be able to take anymore trips like that and I don’t want you to feel left out or sad.

…I do that because my Social Worker heart cares about you deeply but also needs to rejuvenate so that I can keep on helping you and countless others like you.

Sipping coffee today, thankful for this Social Worker heart of mine and the countless families who have blessed me more than they will ever know; far more than I could ever return to them. ~paula

Mr. Man at the Rest Area

The other day I was working my way through the work day when I realized I probably just attended a Divine appointment.

The day began as a typical day would in the world of Home Health and Hospice Social Work. I finished up documentation from the day before, faxed last minute details regarding an inpatient rehab stay for a patient that was no longer improving at home, discussed a case with our Occupational Therapist and made arrangements to retrieve items ordered to increase a patient’s independence at home, reviewed a case that had possible caregiver breakdown; all while sipping cold but yummy coffee like a boss! (Wait, if I was a boss, someone might have heated it up for me. Ha!) Four patients awaited my arrival and I was ready to get on the road to see them.

With the length of time in the office and all of the coffee sipped, I knew to potty before I left because one thing for sure was that a bladder was not designed to hold an entire pot of coffee for very long. So. All tasks completed…it was time to hit the road.

I put all of my Social Work paraphernalia in the car, walked around to the driver’s seat but noticed just how disgusting my ride looked. The mud from south Alabama dirt roads after rain was accompanied by the routine road filth that builds up week after week. My guess was that the thick layer of filth on the outside of my car had to be effecting my gas mileage by now. So the next stop was the 5 minute automated car wash.

Finally the work day was back underway as my sparkling ride veered into traffic and cruised toward the first destination; music, of course, set just right. After numerous miles were made and several sets completed of the travel concert that was a constant while in the car, the first destination was getting close. It then became evident that another potty break was necessary. Damn coffee slowing my roll again!

In perfect timing, I noticed a blue rectangular suggestion beside the 4-lane that a Rest Area neared. I traveled the distance, whipped into the parking spot, shut off the engine, jumped out, locked up and sprinted through the rain that had begun to drizzle with the expectation to dash in and dash out.

Wrong.

That was when Mr. Man at the Rest Area (MMRA) entered my day.

Brief pleasantries were exchanged as I entered and walked past the man behind the counter. When I walked to exit the rest area though, I mentioned that I hoped the rain would stop soon because I had many miles to accomplish before the work day was done. He commented, “I know what you mean. By the way, can I ask you a question?”

With that small question, my inner spirit cringed such a deep cringe that the professional poker face I own almost let me down. I didn’t have time for a long conversation. I didn’t want to answer any long nursing questions. (I wear scrubs and sometimes get the most in-depth nursing questions before I can get the phrase out of my mouth “I’m not a nurse, I’m a Social Worker.”) I just didn’t have time. I had patients. But with my most interested upbeat voice and accepting facial expression, I exclaimed, “certainly”.

MMRA proceeded to ask if I was a nurse, to which I explained, I was a Social Worker for a local Home Health and Hospice. This prompted MMRA to share of his grandmother who passed last year, his grief journey through the last few months and that their family used a competitor of ours who he thought did a wonderful job taking care of his beloved grandmother. I assured him that there are several wonderful hospice agencies in the area who mostly employ the same general types of people; ones who are compassionate, have a deep rooted love for all people as well as the genuine desire to help their fellow man. MMRA voiced agreement that it must be true.

But as we chatted further, I’m not certain that he ever truly asked the specific question for which he stopped me; I was fairly certain he wasn’t going to just ask if I was a nurse.

He mentioned studying to be a youth pastor, driving the church van and that he wanted to share God’s love anytime he could. He voiced that he knew I must be a Christian due to my caring nature, which I confirmed. He later mentioned that it’s easy to say we’re Christians but it’s hard to truly act like one; to which I firmly agreed.

He talked of an aunt that retired within the last few years from an agency where I used to work. I reveled in an it’s a small world moment as I shared that I remembered her very well and had actually just driven by her home within the last two weeks working in an area that was not typical for my work day. How strange that I would run into the nephew of this lady after I had just passed her house in an area that I hadn’t been for over five years. Crazy.

Chatter died down and I really had to get to my four patients so I bid farewell and headed to my car. All I could think to myself was why in the world did that conversation happen? I had always been a firm believer that things happened for a reason; this random conversation would be no different.

Maybe MMRA needed a moment to honor his beloved Grandmother with shared memories to a complete stranger? Maybe MMRA needed to affirm his faith and his decision to become a youth pastor by sharing that with a complete stranger? Maybe MMRA knew deep down this complete stranger needed a reminder that being a Christian is more than just singing in the choir and doing churchy things; that it’s more about a relationship with a Heavenly Father, sharing God’s love to the world and making certain you are walking in His will? MMRA’s comment, “sometimes you’re the only Bible a person will ever see” played over and over. The reality sank in deeply; Paula does not always look like a Bible; Paula does not even look like a Bible most of the time.

Sipping coffee this morning and wondering if Mr. Man at the Rest Area knew he had an impact on my heart with that random…or maybe not as random as I’d like to think…conversation. ~paula

I ain’t doin’ it…or am I?

Sitting at work a few weeks back, I pulled up the next bereavement phone call that I needed to make, briefly reviewed the case and dialed the number. As the ringer summoned my bereavement client, I cleared my mind with nothing but thoughts of the moments spent just months ago with this dear family. A wife who fought a tough battle with Alzheimer’s. A husband who spent as much precious time as he could with a wife he had adored for over 50 years. Two adult sons who wept like babies when their precious mama took her last breath. I was instantly snapped to attention with the surprise of a deep chuckling voice that said “hello”.

I immediately shared my name, reminding him of my affiliation to the hospice agency who cared for his late spouse and shared with him that my intention today was to check on him and see how he had coped so far on his journey through grief.

He shared with me that he had met someone new and had been spending quite a bit of time with her lately, a person who was also widowed fairly recently.

My “judgy” nature, as the teenagers call it, came creeping out as I peeked back into the chart to see just how long his wife had been gone…six months. Six short months. As I forced myself to focus back on the words flowing through the telephone receiver, I picked up on “getting remarried” and “deciding which furniture will be kept” and “my boys aren’t okay with this”.

A couple of times during this call, I could tell that she must have been near as my client would mumble something I couldn’t understand or chuckle at a joke to which I had not been privy. I encouraged my client to attend our support group, assessed for needs and provided education regarding the phases of grief, as I do every bereavement phone call. When no needs were voiced, I ended the call with please give us a call if we can help in any way.

As I sat in the aftermath of the call, my heart was breaking for the sons who were having to deal with their grief as well as the gravity of seeing their father move on.

Grief has numerous layers. The loss of the person, the loss of hopes and dreams of future events with this person, loss of tasks or traditions that were contingent upon that person’s presence, loss of interest in past enjoyments due to all of the strain from grief, loss of identity after the loss of this person and just the raw pain that is present from having watched a loved one suffer through end of life. They are not easily worked through. Which phase of grief held these sons hostage?

I faced my own grief for the moment and realized that part of my own grieving process is negatively effected by the fact that most around me have moved on. There is only one other person who feels the same depth of loss that I feel after losing my sweet mama and that is my little brother. My dad is grieving as a husband, but my brother and I are grieving as children who will never again see the woman who kissed the boo boos, spanked our behinds, fed us and was always our biggest fan. We lost our biggest fan.

We will never again listen as two parents share stories from our childhood. We will never again have two parents that are present at some function solely to be our support. In my reverie, I suspected my client’s sons were haunted by the fear of being forgotten without two who shared knowledge of their childhood. Haunted by the fear that a new love interest of their father somehow decreased his ability to love them as much or deem them with as much importance as before. My mind questioned whether his sons felt like the life with their mom seemed less important than before. Devalued, if you will. All I could think was somehow one loss had produced a million losses and time continued to march on as if nothing had happened. Utterly infuriating.

There are still days when I cry a few different times within the same day; some days I cry none at all. Most only see the cool, calm, collected me. Most would be surprised at the level of hurt I still feel most days. Am I intentionally trying to hide this pain? Not really. I just feel like most can’t handle being present for my grief as often as my grief is present with me.

I don’t ever want to be the person someone dreads to see coming. You know the type I’m referring to; the folks that have woes they intend to share with every last person with ears. (Drives me nuts. Ha!) Those are the ones you quickly learn to never ask the question “how are you” because they will most definitely tell you and it won’t be a simple “good”. They are the ones who didn’t get the memo that you don’t really want any answer other than “fine” or “doing well”. Ha!

But there are no days that go by without seeing my little mama in my mind; whether it be something pertaining to her final moments or a moment where we belly laughed or a moment where we disagreed. Some good moments. Some bad moments. All of which are neatly tucked away in files in my mind, ready to be pulled up, reviewed and cherished at a moments notice.

There are no days that I don’t feel a tug to spend moments thinking of her; wishing she could be back here…not sick…but the her that was with us before pancreatic cancer entered our world. I long for the days when she was full of life and wanted nothing more than to see the precious family she loved so strongly.

My brother and I have become so much closer during this time. Honoring mom’s deepest wish to have family stay strong. Well, her deepest wish was for us to take care of Dad. But second to that was keeping family knitted together so tightly that nothing could slip between one fiber.

I feel as if time continues to march forward as I continue to drag my feet. Terrified of moving so far away from days when she still lived and breathed and laughed and loved that I’ll forget something; something about her voice, her mannerisms, her likes, her dislikes, the sound of her nails clicking on the ivory. I want to retain it all. Keep it safe in my heart. The fact is that memories do fade; my heart pleads for them to remain vivid.

Is it okay that I still cry when I sing certain songs? Is it okay that my heart aches to see others who don’t still long to have her back as deeply as I? Is it okay that there is a gaping void where a whole, unbroken, uncracked heart used to beat? Is it okay that I’m not ready to move on yet? Is it okay that I just feel like I owe her a few more months of wallowing in this funk?

I’m not certain that I have answers to any of those questions other than grief for me is what grief is for me. I have learned to be okay with wherever I am for that day or that moment. There are no other options.

Sipping coffee tonight out of my “I ain’t doin’ it” mug and realizing, you know what, I am doin’ it…and mom would be proud. ~paula