Holding the Space

“Be kind to the children, for they are close to the other side.” – unknown

When my father was given 3 months to live when he had the intestinal cancer, everyone had an idea of what he should do. Take this herb! Try chiropractic! I was in the “Call Hospice” camp. But my father had a different plan. Instead, he wanted to do chemotherapy. Those of us in the medical arena of his life, holding the labs in our hands, shook our heads at the futility of that… and it might/probably will make him feel much worse. We did what he wanted anyway.

My dad did 2 sessions of chemo and then said, “Call Hospice.”

His death 2.5 months later was peaceful and gentle. And he was so so loved.

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My dad, Saturno Herrera, about 1 month before he died.

When We Need to Listen

In my life right now are a couple of people who have family or friends with terminal diagnoses. Those around them are rushing to help with all sorts of remedies, diets and even insisting on the “power of positive thinking.”

Instead, perhaps this is a time to ask the dying person what they want, not foist on them what we want.

Being near those that are dying is an amazing honor and privilege. For one thing, it isn’t a sudden, unexpected moment where there are always regrets about things not said or done. When you are at the side of a dying person, you have the opportunity for completion and the giving of your heart in a way you might never have before.

It is not a time for airing grievances that will never be resolved. Not a time for your confessions of guilt (find a Priest for that). It isn’t even a time to just sit keening and crying your eyes out, the dying person trying to comfort you in their time of need.

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Nanea Reeves with her husband Vic as he gets closer to dying.

Mindfulness

Holding the Space is a concept I learned in midwifery, but had been doing a long time already with men dying of AIDS decades ago. Holding the Space is sitting quietly, perhaps praying silently, seeing golden light of love surrounding them or just Be-ing with the person heading to the other side (into parenthood/through death/in illness/etc.). Allowing the person to say what they want… rambling speech or exquisite poetry. I like to keep notes, but not at the expense of my complete attention.

One caveat: Take as many pictures as you can… with each person separately, everyone together… take pictures holding the person’s hand… get video of them if they are still talking. I have nothing with my dad’s voice on it and regret that terribly.

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Mindfulness is a buzzword right now, but if there was ever a time to be Mindful, it is when with someone in transition. Not worrying about getting to the store, checking your phone or even talking to others in the room about mundane life crap. BE with the person. Give your full attention to them. Watch them. Witness their transition completely.

If you get tired, you rest. No one can be expected to be Mindful or present 100% of the time. Do go for walks outside. Walk the dog. Eat a good meal. Be mindful of your needs, too.

There But for the Grace of God Go I

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When I am with someone in this holy place (which does include childbirth, of course), I want to share with them how I hope to be treated during my own transition through death. Not that it is my prescribed way of dying, but simply respectful and kind attention.

My family knows how I want to go. At home. People happy, laughing, music blaring, telling fun stories, remembering all the wondrous things I have done in this life. I also want to be read to. Read to me when I am tired and need to close my eyes for a moment.

But that is me. Not everyone wants the levity part that I have requested.

Perhaps the person you are with wants to smoke again, drink until they are drunk every day, wants to go out to a forest and dig their toes in the dirt one more time. Take them! Even if you have to hire an ambulance service and need to push dirt through their toes while they are on a gurney. Be creative to give the dying their wishes. If they want to watch a favorite movie on a 24-hour loop and it makes you crazy…

…so what?!? Let them!

Talk to your loved one. Ask them what they want and need from you.

Then do it.

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An added note: I understand that children dying slowly can be another aspect entirely. I have not lost a child to cancer or another illness or malformation, so cannot speak to it accurately. But, as with everything anyone in the world writes or says:

Take what you want & leave the rest.

A Moment with a Little Girl

I was at the Hematologist’s office the other day getting my weekly iron infusion (yeah, have not written about that yet, sorry) and afterward, I ended up waiting 2 hours for the medical transport to come pick me up.

Taking Notice

Sitting across from me were 2 kids, a boy about 10 with an iPad and earbuds in, sitting away from, who I found out later, was his grandmother. Next to grandma was a girl who told me she was 6. She looked bored to tears.

After a few minutes, I invited her over to watch videos with me on my phone. Sheepishly, she crossed the space between us, sitting in the chair next to me. I asked her what we should watch. She shrugged. I suggested baby goat videos; they are always great for a laugh.

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We spent the next 20 minutes laughing at the baby goat antics, my asking her questions every once in awhile.

“How old are you?”

“6.”

“When is your birthday?”

It had just passed, so I asked her if she received any gifts and she excitedly told me…

… something I asked her to repeat several times. Confused, I pleadingly looked at Grandma for help.

Shopkins

Shopkins,” she said.

I was still clueless, so told the little girl I had to Google it to see what that was. She looked at me, incredulous I could possibly have gone one day without this knowledge.

They are teeny-tiny toys… that revolve around… grocery shopping? Marketing groceries to a 6-year old? Good lord.

Oh, and there’s a whole Shopkins series of cartoons, too. My new friend wanted to watch one. I vetoed that.

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Muddy Fairy

My head was swimming after the Shopkins talk, so I decided to show her pictures of my grandkids. She liked that, pointing out various things.

I got to my grandson at a fairy birthday party, wearing wings and a crown. I told her who it was and she said, “But, he’s a BOY! Boys can’t be fairies!” I said there he is, so clearly he could be a fairy. She didn’t believe me.

I scrolled further and found the one with my grandson covered in mud and said, “See? He can be a fairy and covered in mud. Everyone gets to do that if they want to.”

(That turned out to be the kernel I’d hoped I could impart on her young mind.)

Soon after, grandma was called back and the little girl had to go with her (my ride should have been there at any moment anyway) and she ran to go through the door.

But not before she turned around and waved one last time.

It was a good day.

My Writing Girls

My two daughters are writers.

No words can express how wonderful that makes me feel!

They both have said my example was followed.

Is this the proudest moment as a mother? It sure is close.

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My Most Un-PC Post Ever

Politically-Incorrect

I have quietly sat on the sidelines, watching the world pass me by, feeling like a really old cranky woman.

Scarily, I can relate to some of the dotard supporters.

I wonder if being Politically Correct has not gone too far. Way too far.

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Crazy Making!

Some of the things that make me shake my head in bafflement:

  • the ever-morphing gender names
  • the ease with which to transition
  • kids medically and surgically transitioning
  • how one can “be” a she/her in the morning, a they at lunchtime and a he/him by sunset… and how anger feels justified if someone misgenders the person
  • how people quash free speech in the angry alt-right
  • how stupid the president is… and no one is stopping the crazy-making behaviors before he kills all of us
  • how easily people lie (myself included)
  • how men really are led around by their cocks (blame my sex work job for that one)
  • how transwomen insist they were not acculturated into the male world growing up and insist on crashing women-only spaces
  • how people lobby to make Disney characters gay or lesbian
  • how the word “fat” is the nastiest epithet someone can call another person
  • how the more I know about Islam, the less I respect it
  • how “christians” in the US have become the most hateful people on earth (so much for cultivating new christians through love and kindness)
  • how stupid people can be not understanding kneeling for the National Anthem – they are purposefully being angry just to annoy those of us who believe Black Lives Matter
  • how a “snowflake” is now an epithet instead of a lovely geometric design
  • how “The Wall” is quietly being built and people just sit and watch
  • how Flint, MI still doesn’t have clean water (that legacy is going to haunt us for eons)
  • how Puerto Rico is being treated like shit because they are brown people and how Americans bloody well know it and don’t care in the least
  • That In the Heights in Australia was shamed into not being performed amidst accusations of whitewashing when they did their best to fill the actor slots with People of Color

I was tempted to defend myself (I use PC terms when I can, I am not prejudiced against these folks, etc.), but I am leaving this piece to speak for itself.

Thank Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir for the Craft for this vomiting of things I have been too afraid to say out loud. He tells writers to “Be brave!” and write the things that are the most difficult to say.

So I did.

(And yes, I feel shame.)

Nuts & Bolts of Calling a Doctor’s Office

This subject seems to come up a lot, so I thought I would do a Tutorial on how to get in touch with a person and not a machine when you’re calling a doctor’s office.

My first and probably most important piece of information is:

CALL EARLY IN THE MORNING!

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I cannot stress this enough. Even if you have to wait on hold for awhile. I tend to call about 9:45am. By then the logjam has passed and the way is pretty clear.

Calling in the morning gives the doctor the entire day to get your chart, prescribe meds or answer your questions. Lunch time is the usual time they read your message, so if you call in the afternoon, unless you are in the ER, you will be waiting until the next day for an answer.

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If you are really in a crisis (psych, serious fever or infection), I would call back right after lunch. Be your nicest self! NO yelling about “Why hasn’t she called me back yet?!?” crap. Just kindly say, “I need help. I am so ill. Can I come in tomorrow morning? Or might I talk to the nurse or doctor this afternoon?”

“I need help” is a wonderful way of garnering sympathy for your situation.

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A Practice with a Receptionist

If your doctor is in a practice with a receptionist, it’s easier to get a hold of the doc you’re needing because someone should always be available during the 9-5 workday.

You often will be triaged by a nurse before getting a message to the doctor. Still, the earlier you call, the earlier your voice will be heard.

Most offices close for lunch… either between 12pm and 1pm or between 1pm and 2pm. Calling then, you will get a machine. Leaving a message on a machine is like talking into an abyss. Call back when lunch is over.

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Calling Mental Health Professionals

Therapists especially are meticulous with the timing of their appointments. They are 50 minutes long, beginning at the top of the hour, ending at 50 minutes after. I have great luck calling in that 10 minute window between clients. Some will listen to messages and call back during that time, but many pick up the phone, too.

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Know what you are going to say. They have moments to figure out what you need before the next appointment starts. Write it down if you need to before you call. Be ready!

Psychiatrists’ schedules are a bit more wonky, so leaving a message might be necessary. Just as if you were talking to a person, have what you want to say ready. The more info you can leave in the shortest amount of time… being concise… helps everyone get their needs met.

Playing Dumb

When I really need to get through to someone (and you pick your battles here), I feign accidentally hitting the button that says “If you are a care provider and need to speak to someone now, press 1.” Use that sparingly, especially in the same practice. Really, judicious use, please.

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Bypassing Automated  Menus

If you’ve read this far, I get to teach you a trick I learned from another operator. Not specifically for doctor’s offices, but really helpful for banks, phone companies, cable companies, DMVs… any of the bazillion places that have phone trees you seem to be forever lost in.

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Press 0 (zero) fast, over and over and over again. PressPressPressPressPress a dozen or more times. 8 out of 10 times, this gets me to a person.

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Patient Portals

If you doctors’ office has a Patient Portal, sign up for it asap!

In the portal, you can email your provider, ask for refills, make appointments without calling and see your chart and most lab results.

Patient Portals are the best.

Patient-Portal

If I didn’t answer something, ask me about it!