Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Study in Kindness

Today marks 1 year since the police chase/car accident that I survived with my friend Nancy -- and I don't use the word survive lightly.  It was a moment to believe and disbelieve all at once.  And it was the first time in my life that I actually knew I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.  
So wrong....

So let's right it .... that's the thought I woke up with this morning.   I have replayed the events in my mind a million times and when my mind takes a break from it, residual pain in my body sends a reminder.  While doctors and friends were concerned that I had broken or torn something, I intuitively knew that the only thing broken was my spirit.   But I have healed -- slowly, surely, gratefully and I am here to say that the greatest component in the get well equation was kindness.

Recently, a study was done at Stanford University that reveals a growing body of scientific evidence  that kindness holds the power to heal.  The study states that kindness should be viewed as an indispensable part of the healing process.  After all, it's been in the Hippocratic Oath for over a century: "I will remember that... warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug."    Kindness then is something we take and something we give and in the process of it all, it becomes the greatest of healers.  Distribute abundantly!

I know that it was not my fault for being down, but I also understand that it was my responsibility to get back up.... "pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again."  Today I thank my dear family and my dear friends for the tireless way you listened to my story especially when it was repeated often,  for holding me while I cried,  and for celebrating me back to life. Thank you for helping me get back up! Especially, I thank Nancy for holding my hand when I asked her to-- in the middle of the darkness and trauma.  I can still feel the electricity of her touch in that moment-- it made us safe I think.  The simple act of holding hands creates a bond and the strength of a bond with another human can take you to places unimaginable.  There is a force in it.  

My idea of "righting" the wrong is to continue on the path I've just recently started to reclaim strength in my body. Slow and sure! I want to work harder at being kind to myself so that I can spread greater kindness to all of you in my life who matter.  And I want to stop looking over my shoulder. Noone knows what's coming,  so look forward, move forward  and live passionately.

Today, hold hands, be kind, and celebrate those you love. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, 
"You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late."

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Pajama Game

Why am I showing you a photograph of my mother in her pajamas? Read on...

I don't know what it is like to be 95 and I don't know what it is to be one of the last of the "clan" standing. My mother does.
Last week, her long time friend Ruth Dussia passed away.  Ruth's husband Steve and my father worked together and our families socialized for as long as I can remember.  Eventually, with both Steve and my father gone, Ruth and my mother began checking in on each other more frequently and then nightly. I don't know what all was discussed but I know the conversations were long and animated and that sometimes, my mom had to hold the phone at arm's length to make it through all the "excitement" on the other end!  I can tell you that I never got a call in to my mother between 7pm and 9pm and that I learned to remind my mom to tell Ruth when I was in town. If we went out for dinner and missed that call well...  let's just say the police was not the welcome committee we were hoping for!

Although Ruth was younger, it was my mom who took her to her doctor's visits and kept her company during her many trips to the hospital and rehabilitation centers.  My mom took her baked goods, listened to all her complaints and helped her son Brent understand what was going on.  She was the ultimate friend-- there until the end.  An angel...

I had been keeping tabs on Ruth's health for a long while, so when I got the call that she passed away, I was not surprised. My mother put on her brave voice for me until finally it cracked and stopped. It was during those seconds of silence I knew that I would drive home for the weekend to hug her and bring some cheer-- a little surprise.  The day before I left, I got an email that said she had sewn a complete set of pajamas for herself, button holes included. She also added, " My head and fingers still work."  This was her grief therapy and her own little self-test.

I set out for Ventura with the pleasure of knowing that we would soon be seeing each other. When I arrived, the house was dark and I worried that I would scare her if I rang the bell. I decided to call her and say that there was a dinner delivery at her back door.  She had changed into her pajamas and was ready to settle in with a book for the evening. I told her I would stay with her on the phone until she opened the door.  The look on her face was priceless and those pajamas... WOW!
We hugged, cried, ate, talked and finally went to bed.  She said she sleeps so well when there is someone in the house, and I in my childhood bed, sleep like a child.  I am still a child-- her child and I am so grateful for that.

We went to our favorite Lucky's the next night to celebrate Ruth's life and with the clink of our lemon drop and martini, sent our blessings into the night.  The fire place was crackling,  the room was full of life and cheer and we even had a bit of comic relief in the form of Ellen Degeneres at the next table.

When it is time for me to go, she always walks to the end of the driveway to wave goodbye. This time was no different  except that I wasn't as sad as sometimes. Why? Well, seeing her in those pajamas with that big smile... how could I be?  If there was ever a doubt in my mother's mind that she was fading, life came back into full focus that weekend. We had the best time and I left knowing that she is still in the game.  The pajama game!