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hospice

Living Each Moment

I have dreams and plans and goals, and they have driven my life forwards.

Without these dreams, these goals I may not have achieved the many things I have: studying to become a doctor, publishing a couple of books, finishing an Ironman. The goal somewhere out in the future became the thing to focus upon, to strive towards, to hold like a beacon before me. I wanted children, then I wanted them grown up.

I yearned for marriage, then later divorce – more than once. As the mirage future took up my time I forgot to truly live in the present – the only real moments in a life.

My books were autobiographical – while writing and promoting them my gaze turned back in time. The long-cold past, unchangeable, unforgiving, stared back. Old hurts were reopened, long forgotten slights recalled and rekindled. The present took on the stain of long ago. It became difficult to feel the heat of the sun, as yesterday’s cloud enveloped me. The past is no place to waste our days.

Now I work in Hospice, caring for the dying. There’s nothing quite like a terminal diagnosis to focus the mind. Through this work I am learning to live each moment, to savour every second, each sacred sensation, to truly be present to the only time that should matter – the here and now.

This doesn’t mean abandoning dreams, looking forward to a hoped-for future. Nor does it mean abandoning memory, recalling our stories, assessing our past experience. It simply means really living each moment, paying attention to the here and now.

The fluffy toy poodle is licking my arm and face as I write this blog; her breath smells of old bones. I can hear my partner’s children watching the Three Amigos on television, there is a cool salt breeze off the sea that flicks the bedroom curtain across my line of sight.

This is now. This is true sensation. THIS is living.
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Serenity

I’ve had the most rejuvenating weekend of my life. Alone at home (unless you count twelve hens, three roosters, four toy poodle puppies and a kitten…) I was able to spend my time reflecting, evaluating, thinking and worshipping in my own quiet way. I didn’t see another human. The television stayed turned off, I didn’t answer the phone and the Blackberry was left in my car. No people, what bliss!

As a hospice doctor my week is spent comforting others, giving energy and love and compassion to all who need it. This sometimes means colleagues as well as patients and their families. And it should be no other way. I exist to bring comfort to others. However when the traffic feels all one-way, when its give and give, without quiet time to refill, my spiritual well can slowly dry, and parch.

The signs of this are snappiness, finding certain people I just can’t feel genuine compassion for, yet over-relating to others. Another sign is the black humour of those who work close to death surfacing more often.

This weekend alone was just what the doctor ordered. I’m replete, ready to write and love and enter the world again.

I often wonder why I – an introvert - chose medicine, ministry and public speaking. All things that require close and frequent scrutiny and interaction with others – often many people at a time. Not a good recipe for one who loses energy to others and gains peace and recharged batteries only when alone.

I wonder if the jobs chose me?

Today I worked on a quilt I am sewing for a dear friend, and wandered in the garden, savoring the quiet, observing how raindrops trembled on buds just about to burst with life. It’s spring – in my busyness I had barely noticed the signs of new life all around me.

I was overjoyed to see my known world suspended upside down in each shimmering droplet . I am here – this is where I belong, my Turangawaewae – my place where I can stand.

The land, the birds, the lake, the sky – they will remain after the new owner and I are well gone. They know me and accept me here. I can stand proud in these gardens I have cared for – and will continue to do so.

The quilt is bright, spring colors – the purple of irises, the yellow of daffodils, the blue of a sky new-washed with warm rain. I will fill it with wool from a young lamb, and give away my gift of springtime love and new growth.

Because I once again have hope and love to give away.

Thank you, God for solitude - and the many other blessings that have crept up while I hid in my cave. Thanks for poodles, fresh brown eggs, and this lake and garden.

Thanks for the joy my work gives to me, and the love and care I can give to others.

Special, special thanks for solitude though. I’d forgotten how much I need it.

Lauren


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