Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Trailing the Crepe

Well, I’ve got another funeral tomorrow and just to tell you the truth, I’m not happy about it. I never like funerals on the front end. I dread them because of the overcast of sorrow they carry around with them like dark and damp mosquito netting draped all over. I guess it’s the same thing that people feel about reading this blog. In the blog ratings (believe or not there are such things) this one keeps dropping. Who wants to read about death and dying? Who wants to go to funerals?

Actually, we have a chaplain where I work who loves to do them. He’s a strange bird but he’s loved by the hospice staff and his patients because he gets something about funerals that I only admit about half way through them; they are incredibly healing if they’re done right.

My sister jokes about an incident when she was attempting to be the teen sophisticate at a banquet with some very important people at the head table. She went to the lady’s room and upon her return, detoured across in front of the room to be seen. It was only after she was seated next to her date and her best friend that she discovered that she’d trailed a streamer of toilet paper all across her parade route.

I feel like that when I leave the family at the grave side except that the streamer is black crepe and after having facilitated so much grief, it flaps unceremoniously in the tail wind of my car like a coattail hanging out of the driver’s door. I’m glad it’s over they’re glad it’s over and we all hope that the preacher gets out of sight ASAP.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there’s no resentment in that wish to be rid of me nor is there in my wish to be gone, it’s just that there comes a time when the healing has to be about drying tears not bringing them. The best thing for me to do after saying all the right things is to mount up and ride off into the sunset. It’s sunset on this tragedy that brings the cooling breezes of a more personal night and a restful slumber.

Meanwhile, I need to think about John and what I know about him and how to make poetry out of his dying. Not so that there is an abundance of pretty words but so that people can be free to weep and then to heal. And there it is. Just what Chaplain Fred knows about funerals that makes him so good – it’s all about healing. God, help me remember that.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Nanny and The Princess

Steve’s a lucky man. I told him so when I was there last Monday. He was sitting on the steps leading from the basement room while his mother-in-law, Nanny, lay nearby on the sofa and his granddaughter rumbled up-and-down-and-all-around the steps, my chair and her Nanny. They’re 90 years apart in age. Nanny is 94 and Princess is 4. This was shared like some sort of insider knowledge that I was let in on rather than clinical information. I was intrigued with the idea as I watched Nanny and the Princess interact.

I asked the princess if I could write a story about her and publish it on the web in my blog and she grinned a little at the idea and said I could but I couldn’t use her name because of the HIPA law. We tried to figure out a name I could call her. Her pink jacket says “Princesses” all across the back like a team jacket for some Tinker Bell squad. So Princess it is.

Of course, in the words of Joe Friday, all the names in this blog are changed, “to protect the innocent.” I really didn’t want to change Steve’s name because his real one fits him and his solid masculine presence in Nanny’s darkened basement room. He loves her and I can see it when they have these little barbed exchanges that are two-thirds ribbing. It’s said in the house that he can do more with Nanny than even her daughter, Ann (I used “Ann’ here because it sorta fits her and I like the name). Ann exudes patience with Nanny and Steve. Sometimes I hear her exasperation and worry that this all is harder on her than anyone will ever know. But she is a feminine counterpart to Steve and it all seems to be working as well as it could under the circumstances. They are a pretty incredible team in the matter of caring for Nanny and the Princess.

I decided to write about this because the Princess brought me her Tinker Bell Squad Jacket and pointed out the three princesses embroidered on the back. She informed me that they were, “Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and some other figure that I never heard of from, no doubt, some Disney film. So in my ornery style with bright little girl types, I purposely got them backwards over and over in ways that had Princess standing with her hands on her hips saying, “NO, that not right.” (Except she did the “no” like little girls do when they’re annoyed – “NO wa”) I looked over at Nanny and she had a look of pleasure on her face that I loved and I knew I had to share the magic of the moment.

“Oh, this is Cinderella and THIS is Sleeping Beauty.”
“NO wa. THIS is Sleeping Beauty and THIS is Cinderella.”
“Okay, okay. I got it. Wait a minute, who’s THIS one? I know THIS is Cinderella – “
Groaning at my utter stupidity, “NO wa.”
(Nanny was still adoring her great grand daughter with her eyes and the love flowing from her, across the floor in front of the grumbling gas space heater, past my legs, spiraling all around the little girl was like pixie dust)

I looked up at Steve who had had an awful cold. “You’re a lucky man, Steve. You don’t feel like it right now but you’re a lucky man.”

“I dow id. Imb a lucky bann.”

There’s so much that’s hard about hospice but when I see a family create magic out of the sheer hard work of caring for each other, my spirit is lifted on pink sparkling pixie dust spiraling ‘round and ‘round between the heavens and the earth where love really works.

I’m a lucky man too, Steve.