Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hope -- More than a Town in Arkansas

Hope.  Hope is one of those words, over used, under understood.

I sort of think I get hope.  I think I understand hope and I’m pretty sure I recognize that without it life is, well hopeless.  Can you think of anything worse than being or living in abject hopelessness?  I can’t.

There are all kinds of hope.  There’s Bob Hope, the Cape of Good Hope, I hope you are well, my best hopes for you,  hope springs eternal and one of my faves, hope and change.  There’s I hope my parents are healthy, I hope my children are happy, I hope my grandchildren are safe, I hope our leaders are wise, I hope my wife is free of infection, I hope the next illness isn’t her last. 

Then there are hopes and prayers, for me, that’s the big one.  For me, hope is really nothing more, but nothing less, than a prayer, a prayer for the future; because hope is almost always about the trails we have yet to walk.

Marty, just by surviving the two strokes and a myriad of other bodily insults, has inspired hope in me.  Yes, I hope she stays healthy; I hope she continues, even ten years past the events, to improve, to get smarter, to get healthier, and to get stronger.   Mostly she simply lives and breathes and shows me that hope does spring from rather dark times.   

What Marty has taught me, what she lives every day is very real, very tangible hope.  She takes her own hopes and mine with her everywhere, every day.

Hope, and maybe a little bit of denial, is what sustained our family in the darkest days of our journey.  Hope is what I had when I looked at her broken body too close to death and whispered, don’t you leave me and she said, I’m not ready yet.  Hope is what she had, we had, as we came home and started a forever journey in recovery from the strokes.  Hope, sometimes, is all we or any of us have.

Hope is a new born baby, hope is a smile in the face of adversity, hope is starting anew or continuing an old trail, hope is at the bottom of the mountain and at the top, hope is for all time for all people.  Hope is what keeps all of us taking the next step, hope is how we battle fear, how we battle our own demons, hope is how the least of us continue their struggle to be the best of us.

When I look at my children and grand children I have hope for what lies ahead for them and for our family.  I am amazed at how smart, how dedicated, how loving, how strong they all are.  They will have trials, they have had trials, but they will move forward and carry my hopes, and their hopes forward through their lives.

I look at my bride, I see her as she is, I remember her as she was and I have hope, I believe in her, I believe in her life and our life, and I hope and know that love is there and we are better than okay.

Hope is not magical thinking.   Hope is a serious process about real things, future things.  Hope precedes action and action fulfills hope and all of that makes life worth living.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Death's a Bummer

It’s a familiar conversation.  It’s not new to either our talks or thoughts.  We have thought and talked about it before, maybe too much, maybe to the point of ridiculous, who knows.  It was a beautiful day outside so why not go outside and talk about death and dying.  Don’t you do that?

The home health nurse, a woman we have known for years because her son and our daughter were friends, brought it up in a recent visit.  She is a familiar face; certainly the topic of dying wishes is a familiar topic.  She wanted to know, we needed to decide, what do we want, what does Marty want if, God forbid, IT happens.

I told the nurse we knew, I told her we had already done the whole DNR thing at the hospital, I told her I had the medical power of attorney and Marty and I had had THE talk.  She said we needed to talk some more.  

So once again, we played the whole, let’s pretend you stopped breathing game.  Oh boy, fun times at the Kinards house. 
The weir d thing is, somehow, some way it seems different, the whole let me die thing, when you are at home, as opposed to being in the hospital.  I really really didn’t like saying, “Sure, don’t make her heart start beating again” when we were in the hospital.  

It’s exponentially harder and cuts more to the bone for me to say “let her die” when we are in our home, a home we have had for almost 30 years.  It feels different, in our home it feels more like quitting than it does in a medical setting.

We talked.  It was a lovely day outside so why not talk about dying.  It was like spring, the sun was warm on my face, it was relatively quiet, and the wind wasn’t blowing, so why not visit about how you want to be treated in a near death situation.

Marty is almost always game for the discussion, she never really shies away from confronting her own mortality and she has never, not one time, not one scintilla waivered about what she wants.  She very simply does not want to be restarted, she doesn’t want heroic measure, she doesn’t want tubes down her nose, her throat and in her body, she wants to move on when that moment arrives.

I know, without a doubt, without any equivocation what Marty’s wishes are about all of this.  The question has never been knowing, the question has and always will be my own courage to step back and let her go.  I can talk about it, I can talk a really strong game, I can say, “Sure, you bet, whatever you want.”  

Can I do it, can I let go, can I be strong enough, can I be certain enough, can I be resolved enough to be what Marty wants me to be?  The truth is, I don’t know, everything is a theory until you are confronted with real life.

I don’t know about this whole dying thing.  I know people who are convinced that there is more existence after life.  I don’t know if I’m there, I envy that certainty.   I wish death didn’t seem so dark to me, but it does and I don’t know if I can simply watch my passion pass on without fighting one more time, I simply don’t know.

What does make me feel better is what Marty told my some years ago  in one of our many conversations about living and dying.   I asked Marty if she was afraid of dying, if she worried about it at all.  She said of course she worries about it, and then she looked me straight in the eye, broken brain and all and said, “But really, I think that dying is just another way of being.”

That makes her feel better, and guess what; I’m going to go with her on this.  

I hate the conversation a lot more than she does.  She knows, and I know this is talk that needs to happen.  You should do it too.