#12 — Life is so very close to death

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Photo by Seif Eddin Khayat on Unsplash

I startled awake to the BEEEP of an alarm. I pushed myself up from the bench where I slept. I staggered to the bed where my son dozed in a morphine haze. 7 seconds later, our night nurse was at his side.

“Don’t worry,” she said, pressing buttons and straightening the tangle of tubes snaking around Sebastian’s arm, “It’s just a signal to add antibiotic. Everything’s fine.”

I nodded. She smiled. “Go back to sleep,” she said, but she knew as well as I dd that that’s a tall order.

Sleeping in the ICU is tough. Even tougher? Spending the night in the pediatric ICU (intensive care unit), or PICU as the locals call it. …

5 ways to help yourself manage when you’re managing someone’s suffering

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Photo by Iluha Zavaley on Unsplash

It’s Monday and I’m sitting in the hospital hallway trying to stop my heart from jumping out of my chest. It’s throbbing 9 million miles per hour. I’m not sure my ribs and skin can hold it in much longer.

I take a deep breath. Close my eyes. Calm down, I tell myself.

Not working.

Ding. I glance at my phone.

Children’s Hospital: Just starting procedure. Sebastian is doing fine.

The nurse’s message is meant to be communicative. Helpful. Comforting. Instead, it makes my heart accelerate. My head aches. My eyes sting.

It’s the beginning of my son’s 9-hour surgery. And it’s already the longest day of my life. …

Because I can’t get off the couch right now

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Photo by Benjamin Combs on Unsplash

Today was a biggie.

I got up early. Showered. Dressed. Then drove an hour to take my son to Randall’s Children’s Hospital in Portland for pre-op testing before his 9-hour surgery next week.

Our surgeon is great. Personable. Knowledgeable. His staff is friendly. A hospital concierge even walked us from lab to lab for Sebastian’s bloodwork, EKG, and other tests.

Afterward, five hours later, we had sushi at this cozy, cute place off Burnside Avenue.

“How are you feeling?” I asked my son for the 24th time while pouring myself another thimble of hot sake.

“I dunno,” he said, followed by, “A little nervous. But it’ll be fine.” He didn’t say any more. …

Light & love is still possible in spite of everything

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The holidays are upon us.

Soon, our Insta feeds will be overflowing with crafty, cozy décor ideas, fuzzy, funny Santa hats, and the eager sharing of family traditions. But (presumably and hopefully) it won’t be filled with pics of the whole extended fam in matchy-matchy argyle sweaters or large crowds around a turkey-laden table.

This year, like every year, I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. Since I’m in rainy Oregon, it’s a long shot. I fantasize about waking Christmas morn to the soft, steady drift of white snowflakes outside my window. Usually doesn’t happen — but there’s always the dream.

I’m also dreaming of something else for the first time: a small Christmas.

#3 — Put yourself in time out.

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Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

Thank you, thank you. Whew: what can I say? Another year, another Bad Mom award. Thank you — again! I owe this to all the great moms out there who I aspire to be, but won’t — at least not anytime soon. I owe this award to my ingrained impatience and irritation. Oh, and I can’t forget my snarkiness and sarcasm. Where would a Bad Mom be without those? But thank you — -I’ll put this on my messy counter along with the other 27 Bad Mom statuettes. Thanks again! …

And 3 ways to love your body more

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Photo by outdated key on Unsplash

It’s Monday morning. The first text pops onto my screen. It’s my friend, L:

I need to lose 12 pounds.

What? I think, still half asleep.

Before I can respond, the phone buzzes again. It’s from another girlfriend, T, who lives 2 states over. Bzz. Bzz. Bzz. She zaps me with a barrage of photos: Headed to a coffee date. Which top makes my stomach look flat?

I study them. T is gorgeous. She’s so cute and perky it’s kinda irritating before 8 a.m.

They’re all super great, I respond.

Be serious, she texts quickly back. Pick the best one. …

Real love gives and forgives — and pauses can be permanent

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

In college, my aunt wrote me letters.

My Tante Geranda wasn’t just any run-of-the-mill aunt. She lived a long way away — a whole continent, in fact. She had recently retired as head dietician from a large metro hospital. She was also a life-long nun of St. Vincent’s order. And she didn’t speak English. Not a word.

She wrote to me in German. Long, lovely letters in that curvy, ornate cursive that no one uses anymore. She wrote to me on cards showing green scapes of the Black Forest or wavy swathes of the Black Sea. …

It’s a duet I dance daily. It’s better than dealing with death.

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Photo by Thomas AE on Unsplash

Denial: he’s a handsome, eager partner. Willingly, I waltz with him.

Gracious, debonair, he offers his hand. I place my palm in his, and we’re off, spinning and twirling in unison, sweeping away mad moments, whisking troubling truths beneath our churning feet. We foxtrot and we tango. The midnight hour chimes its clamorous clang. We dance on, he and I, oblivious and obstinate in our dreamy duet.

It’s easier to dance with denial than to walk with that other permanent partner, pain. Denial is a better conversationalist, never pushing the issue, not forcing his agenda. He nods when I talk, commiserating. He prefers things this way: light, airy, superficial. He’s not one to get too deeply involved. Denial is a flirt and a tease. You keep thinking things are fine just as they are, he smiles with that beautiful, debilitating smile: I’ll pretend they’re fine as well. Things are good between us, like this. It’s best to leave certain topics tucked away. I’ll pretend if you’ll pretend. Just smile. Tonight, we’ll grab a drink and dance, just you and I. No more, no less. No pressure. …

Holding in the Light

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Photo by Hassan OUAJBIR on Unsplash

It was late when I got the call. Or maybe it was early.

Either way, it was 2 :19 in the morning when I rolled over to grab my phone where it buzzed on the pile of books near my bed.

The name flashed: Shay. I quickly answered. On the other end, a sob. My brain shook awake. I sat up. A quick chill ran from my neck to my toes.

Shay cleared her throat. Her voice was low. It trembled with a current of fear, pain. “It’s Em,” my friend said. “They just took her to surgery. …

It’s a stunningly simple Quaker idea that’s easy, simple, and profound

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Photo by Samuel Schneider on Unsplash

I sank into bed.

It had been a long week, followed by a beautiful, difficult weekend. My brother-in-law died suddenly last Tuesday— and the shock continues. On Saturday, we gathered in a small group to celebrate his life, to recall his handsome smile, and to comfort those closest to him.

In bed that night, I closed my eyes. I thought of my sister and her children. I gathered them in my mind. I saw them suspended in a giant open hand bathed in the golden light of love. I kept them there, holding them in the light.

I held them there even as I succumbed to sleep. …


Dr. Audrey

Life is better with words — and dark chocolate.

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