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I ended up getting an appointment at Cedars Sinai, and how that came about is a story for another day. I drove to L.A. with my friend Cathrine and we spent the night at an AirBnB room in Venice Beach. We brought our things in and sat on the bed for a bit, resting up before heading over to the beach. It was a very plain little room, but at some point I took a closer look at one of two little paintings propped on top of a wall heater. It was a picture of a dove, of all things.

The next day, following my appt. with the doctor (and being faced with the stark reality of what I had ahead of me  (next step, being tested by a vascular surgeon), I was driving down Santa Monica Blvd. back towards the beach and the PCH – very stop and go traffic. At one point I was stopped behind a white truck and said to Cathrine, “Nueva Vida – New Life”, and she looks at the sticker and points out the dove which I hadn’t noticed.

IMG_1716 dove 2 web

What are the odds of the sign of the dove two days in a row? And New Life? I left the doctor’s office feeling overwhelmed knowing the gravity of my condition, maybe life-threatening – sooner than later . . . “When troubles surround us, when evils come. The body grows weak, the spirit grows numb. When these things beset us, he doesn’t forget us, He sends down His love, on the wings of a dove.” I don’t really know what it means. It may not mean I won’t die soon – but it does give me comfort and peace as I face the uncertainty of the coming days and weeks.

 

animal-pictures-animals-wallpapers-beautiful-white-dove-blue-sky-clouds-animal-photo

Preface: I have lived with the effects of having a genetic disorder called familial hypercholesterolemia. My dad’s dad died of heart attack at 54, my dad died of heart attack at 58, my brother died of heart attack at 43. My mom’s mom died of heart attack at 61, my mom’s brother died of a heart attack in his 40’s and my mom died of heart attack at 62. In my late 40’s I started having angina and at 48 I ended up having emergency quad bypass surgery. At that time my total cholesterol was over 500. That was 19 years ago. I have been on statin drugs ever since my operation and eventually my total cholesterol has been in the low 200’s. Gradually I have been getting plaque buildup in my carotids. There is a blockage in the artery to my left arm and they can’t feel my pulse any more. Over the past year I’ve been experiencing fatigue and achiness in my thighs when I walk which has become worse lately. Went to a chiropractor to see if I had any spine/nerve issues. She ordered an xray of my spine and told me I had a lot of calcification in my abdominal aorta. Long story short, my cardio dr. is going to refer me to a vascular surgeon.

Do I need to say, this is pretty scary at this point?

Here’s my story – it took place yesterday. I had an appointment for a massage for my hips and legs at 12:00. I got a call asking me if I could come 45 minutes later just as I was backing out of the driveway. So, I decided I would go window shopping or something – in other words, I had a little time to kill. Now mind you, if I had to be at my appointment at noon I would have been on a mission to get there.

So as I’m driving down Graves Creek Rd. I come around a bend and see a pigeon sized white bird standing in the middle of the road. As I passed it I was surprised that it didn’t take flight. Looked in my rear view mirror and saw it still standing in the same spot. Well, I did have the time, so I turned around and went back and pulled over to the side of the road. It still didn’t move. Another car comes by and thankfully threw on the brakes to avoid hitting it . . . whew! I looked around inside my car and lo and behold, there was a sheet (don’t usually drive around with a sheet in my car). I walked towards the white bird and it then finally moved – walked, didn’t try to fly. I was able to throw the sheet over it and wrapped it up and called a vet friend – she told me I could take it to the Atascadero Pet Hospital and that they would get a hold of Pacific Wildlife Care. So I drove over there, they took the sheet in the back and put the bird in a cage. I asked them what kind of bird it was. They said it was a dove.

Done. Now I had to get over to the other side of town for my massage. You know how we get busy and sometimes don’t have or take the time to reflect? So I go from a somewhat hectic situation to laying on a table in a serene setting, having someone taking care of me (Alitorias Therapy). And at some point a song comes into my head – I can only remember a few of the lines to it: On the wings of a snow white dove, He sends His pure sweet love . . .

On The Wings of a Dove by Dolly Parton

Well, it stayed with me after I got home, and when I had time I went on YouTube and found the song – and these lyrics that just touched my heart: “When troubles surround us, when evils come. The body grows weak, the spirit grows numb. When these things beset us, he doesn’t forget us, He sends down His love, on the wings of a dove.”

It is difficult to express what those words meant to me.  The vessels in my body are clogged up. I could have a heart attack or stroke at any moment. No matter what happens, I have been given a peace about it. But I also have a fighting spirit and I’m not going down without a fight. There is an uphill battle I’m facing and I’m taking it on. That entails researching my options, which, believe me, is not an easy task. I have many to thank who have been an encouragement to me along the way. Including since only today, Catherine Davis Ahmed, the Director of Outreach at the FH Foundation, who gave me some invaluable advice on where to seek the best care available for my condition.

Ultimately though, what I want to express is – always have an open heart, ears to hear, eyes to see, the little (or big) signposts that are set before us that we can easily miss in our busyness, our haste, our focus on a goal that diverts us from being able to recognize the message of a dove . . .

pexels-photo- mali maeder

The Dream Foundation is the only national dream-granting organization for terminally ill adults and their families.

The Dream Foundation

This organization in Holland was created by Kees Veldboer to help the terminally ill to have positive end-of-life experiences.

“Even more beautiful than the work this organization does, though, are the things its patients are asking for.”

ambulance

ambulance 2

Here is the link where you can learn more about it and see photographs taken that show the tremendous value of granting end-of-life wishes.

AMBULANCE WISH FOUNDATION

Maybe this will spur loved ones to consider ways of providing a similar experience here in our neck of the woods.

I started this blog, I think, about a year after my 28 year old son died in a traffic accident in 2007. At first I would write about my feelings, personal stuff. Eventually, I began to write more about things that would come to my mind, like memories of my brother Frank who died of a sudden heart attack when he was 43, many years ago – or share articles or songs that seemed relevant. I let my postings lapse for quite a while, but lately there’s been something on my mind about the subject of death and dying and grief. The fact that they are subjects that are often hidden in the shadows and I feel a need to help bring them into the light.

Today I was made aware of a documentary called In The Parlour: The Final Goodbye. It takes – “Both a critical look at the American relationship with death and an inquiry into the home death care movement, In The Parlor: The Final Goodbye takes viewers on a journey where very few have gone, and challenges us to reflect on this uncomfortable subject, which so often is hidden away and ignored.”

In The Parlor: The Final Goodbye  Here is the link to see the website and trailer for the documentary. Also, the film will be screened twice at the SLO Film Festival March 17th and 19th.

Hopefully sharing this will be a new beginning for my blog evolving into a vehicle with which I can help bring more awareness about this issue. This documentary is a good beginning. I would be more than glad to have comments and questions that will help lead to more open discussion on this “uncomfortable subject.” I encourage you to scroll back through past postings – you may come across something of interest to you.

I read the news on facebook on a friend’s post. Her friends’ little boy, who just turned 3, died in his sleep the night before Easter. This morning it hit me. No one – no one who has not lost a child can ever fathom the depth of agony of the parents. It brought me back to remembering the night we got the call. The day after, and the days after. I honestly don’t know how we endured the devastation of not only losing our son, but the trauma of the sudden loss. My heart just breaks knowing what this other family is going through right now. There is nothing at all anyone can say to take away the pain. Nothing.

But I got to thinking what did help. Our friend and pastor who came in the wee hours of the morning and sat with us. He knew there was nothing he could say – but his being there meant so much. He thought of who to call and made the calls. The parents aren’t capable of doing anything in their state of shock. Our closest friends showed up in the morning just to be with us and to take over, making sure certain phone calls got made, making sure there was food in the house – being there for us to lean on and to love us and support us.

So that is what came to me this morning. I’ve often heard people say they don’t know what to do and so sometimes they do nothing.  For the friends and family of this young couple and their two other children (this is important – I’m not saying everyone – they can’t handle being inundated – this is for the people who know they are the ones to be there.) – There is nothing you can say. But you can Be – you can Do – you can take the wheel for them. Make calls, take calls, shield them from people or things they can’t deal with right now – make sure they have meals – wash the dishes – help with the children – make a list of the people who want to help and let them know what they can do. And be there if they need a shoulder. It may not seem like much to you, but it is huge to them.

Probably taken in the 50's

Probably taken in the 50’s

In a nutshell. I was born a girl. Dad wanted a boy. Two years later, Frankie arrived. I grew up on the outskirts – feeling left out, I became an outsider. I got really good at it the older I got.  My dad got my brother involved in sports and that was their world. The “family” would sit in the living room watching their tv shows while I had my own little world in my bedroom. My record player and records, jigsaw puzzles, paper dolls (who got their own designer clothes via Miss Donna). I even devised a way to play Monopoly by myself. My experience with my dad: he was distant, non-affectionate, critical, harsh, very proficient with the belt. By the time I was in my mid-teens, I grew to hate him. Not proud to reveal this, but I used to wish he would have an accident and die riding home on his motorcycle from Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, Ca. to home in Torrance. The week after I turned 19 I married a guy who had given me the attention I never got at home (it didn’t last long – no surprise.) In my early twenties I would visit my parents (I loved my mom and she loved me the best she could.) My dad and I became somewhat cordial, but never really had a relationship. He had retired from the army and I watched him become more and more depressed and (looking back) tired of living. When I was 27 he died at 58, suddenly, of a heart attack. Not proud to reveal that I had no feelings of sadness. Buried and gone.

Probably taken shortly before he died in 1976.

Probably taken shortly before he died in 1976.

Fast forward to the present. Through time I had thoughts about him. I was told he hated his mother. Left home in Iowa at 18 to join the army. Fought in WW II. — I discovered when I was 16 that he had been married and had two kids before marrying my mom. — I know next to nothing about him, his family, his war experience – except I think my mom said he was in the Battle of the Bulge and that he saw his best buddy get blown up. So why all of a sudden, at 66, is it really starting to hit me – a feeling of loss? Regret? Sorrow?

Well, there have been three recent triggers. I read a book called Decorations in a Ruined Cemetary by John Gregory Brown. I wrote a review of it that reads, in part,  “The enigmatic father in the story brought my own father to mind – a person I never really knew or understood. The author writes, ‘Eventually I came to understand some of what was at work between my father and Murphy. Unable to meet each other on equal terms, they chose not to meet at all but to orbit around each other like two separate planets of entirely different composition. It was, I realize now, the way my father dealt with just about everyone, including his wife and children.'”

Then, I recently saw a movie called The Judge with Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr.. By the end of the movie I was struggling not to sob out loud in the theater. Whereas many reviews put the movie down as too cliched, etc., the relationship issues between father and son pierced my heart. Not one review picked up on how a parent child relationship can go off course through a series of misunderstandings, missteps, mistrust, to the point of becoming irreconcilable. What touched me was that through circumstances, the father and son were sort of forced to confront each other, peeling away the layers of built up resentments and coming to an understanding of sorts, as well as forgiveness.

Unexpectedly, the third trigger was seeing the movie, Fury, which is set in Germany during WWII as the war is coming to an end. It portrays the horrors of fighting in a war; not an easy movie to watch. I think because I had already been opened up to thinking about my dad, this hit me hard. I was given a glimpse into a war experience that he had never talked about. Was this what he went through, so to speak? Was this bottled up inside him and then festered through the years? Other memories I have of him are that he often didn’t feel well. He would come home from work and would have milk toast for dinner because his ulcers hurt so bad. He would sit and watch tv clinching his shoulders which usually bothered him. He didn’t engage much, except for his involvement in sports with my brother. Before his heart attack he would have died of bleeding ulcers if my mom hadn’t intervened (against his wishes as he lay immobile in bed) and called an ambulance.

So now, decades later, I have regrets. I was too damaged myself before he died to care. I regret that I never got to know him. Where did he come from? Why did he hate his mom? Why did he never talk about the war? Why did he never reveal he had a family before us and that I had a brother and sister? Why did he never have relationships with any of his relatives except for his brother who was 10 years younger than him? Oh, and Aunt Helen (his mom’s sister) – the sweetest possible lady who we would visit maybe once a year. Consequently, there is a huge gap in the history of who I am. Why does that matter, I ask myself. What is it that makes many want to build up their family tree, to know more about their roots. I will continue to ponder this, but I needed to get these thoughts and feelings out and look at them lest I bottle them up. Which I have learned through time and other experiences, is not healthy for me, and ultimately, not healthy for the relationships that I treasure if I want to be a giving, generous, nurturing wife, mother and friend.

Another take-away for me – and a huge reason for sharing my story: I want to run around and shout to people, “Don’t wait until it’s too late to reconcile with someone in your life with whom you are estranged – a dad, a mom, a brother or sister . . .”  –There is an important exception. If there is a toxic person in your life and you tried your best , let them go!–