Sean’s blog: Cloudy with a chance of sane

Sitting on a patio reading. Early morning. It is a favorite pastime and a favorite nowtime. The way I see it, the math says I’ve got two or three more decades on this grain of sand in the ever-expanding universe. So many words to find.

My books don’t provide an escape from reality. If anything they help me put current reality in context. Will my learning make me a better and more just citizen? It is my aspiration.

The headlines don’t offer a lot of hope for a life of liberty or happiness for our little bit of space, much less for the rest of the planet. Turf wars and ideological terror consume the attention. All seem to propose a cause and effect based on their world view. A Christian sees it one way and a Muslim or a Jew another. A conservative and a liberal see different stories. A Second Amendment advocate and a pacifist contrast and conflict. Those in poverty and those with means have world views miles apart. The bifurcations abound. That is part of the problem. The world really isn’t black and white (pun intended). It is full of gray and loaded with color that changes depending on what truth is sought and what truth is “found?”

telepathy_logoI’ve landed, or at least am temporarily moored in a place where my truth doesn’t have to be yours. Yours doesn’t have to be mine. Truth—as one definition would offer—is a “verified or indisputable fact.” Not much fits here. Hell, we can have a first hand account and iPhone video of an event 5 feet in front of us, and what happened is seldom indisputable. How is one to believe that something someone wrote thousands of years ago, based on accounts passed down, and then translated into a different languages, and selected based on criteria of a committee is, in fact…fact…or truth? How does science render fiction that which we have faith in. And visa versa? We make these choices to follow an idea or a faith or a principle or a creed, sometimes blindly and sometimes informed. Our truth might come through our family or cultural traditions and beliefs. It might come through our personal learning and choice. There’s always Kool-Aid. Whatever our source, it is ours.

This dichotomous quest to make things fit in one box or another cheapens the ability of a human’s potential. We come by it honestly though. Because we seek more trivial pursuits, our belief systems are often informed by the less challenging and much quicker paths. A trendy author’s latest mantra. A Fox News anchor. An evangelist or a local pastor or priest or Imam or Rabi. A blogger or friend who has “inside information.” There’s “my momma said so.” They all have their place. Their own angle influenced by lots or very little input. I respect almost all of it. Your truth is your truth. I don’t want to hurt you because of it. Well, that isn’t exactly the truth…

During a visit this week to the Holocaust museum at our nation’s capital, I had this fantasy of personally arresting the demonic perpetrators of those crimes and putting them through their own devices…literally. Then, as my emotions moved to a lowering tide after almost five hours of immersion, I simply prayed that they and those like them would just “be no more.”

Later, walking the streets of Dupont Circle, I saw the vast colors and the wears and the expressions. I heard the languages and the rhythms and the noise of the city. I felt the tension and the promise of the democratic experiment that is ours. It was beautiful and tragic. It was anxious and so full of hope.

A few hours later, on the short ride to the theatre for an off Broadway production of Laugh, I struck up a conversation with our cabbie. Gatu—ten years in D.C. after immigrating from Ethiopia—had much to say about hope. An economics and political science student in his home country, he fled because of the corruption and the destruction of the human spirit. I asked, “What will change it, Gatu?” His reply was immediate: “We can. We the U.S.” He went on to offer his theories ranging from parameters for economic aid to more extreme measures. “When I have a congressman in my cab—and I know many—I am sure to offer my opinion.” This man came here to make a difference. His idealism is strong. His belief in what we have done and how we might help others is steadfast.

As we exited the cab on this cool and rainy night to enjoy and evening of players on a small stage, I had my own nudge back to the possibilities…a better part of ourselves.

It will not come through claims of “I’m right and you’re wrong.” It will never happen by carving a wildly diverse people into segments of ideology or other man made or natural identifiers and trying to win while another must lose. There are few indisputable facts. And “these truths” are worth exploring in order to uncover the others buried, or right in front of us all.

Sean

Sean’s blog: then school and new school

I may be getting old. But I would never consider myself old school. Each of us has our nostalgic placeholders—those “better days.” For me, the eras and decades and have their own indelible place in my journey. The games, the people, the fashion, the shows, and yes…the music.

For me, music serves many beyond a rhythmic and melodic stream for a set of earbuds. It puts life into some kind of perspective by validating or contextualizing my own experience. It is therapy. A song can reach out to me and say, “I’ve been right where you are and can say it better…or differently.” When I pick up my guitar late at night on my deck or get behind a mic at a wine bar, I grow a little. I discover something around the lyrical corner that was unexpected and good. I do play or listen just for the hell of it at times. But music generally has a purpose for me, even if a small one.

Which leads me to this morning.

Every couple of saturdays I sit down early in the morning at my favorite cafe in my little village—Rush Espresso—and order up the greatest latte on the planet and select and purchase some new music. I gravitate towards singer songwriter, R&B, Americana, Indie, and World. But I dig most all of it. This day I was looking for a new work out set…spirited and full of beat.

I opened the home page and scanned the top albums. It was then that I had a “then school” moment. Of the top 10 albums, 4 of them were labeled with explicit content warnings. I jogged to the hip-hop category and 9/10 had the same warning. In a moment of irony, the #1 album, the Empire soundtrack, has no such warning. The rest just pissed me off and I actually began to have one of the correlation arguments in my head. “And we wonder why some kids—and adults—have manners and respect and dignity erosion.” I heard my dad in my voice and in my head. Yikes!

Then I paused and faced it unapologetically. This has nothing to do with being old school or out of touch. Vulgar is vulgar; hate language is hate language; disgusting is disgusting. Every once in a while there is art to it. I doubt many will agree with me, but I have case in personal point. Eminem, to me, is and was an artist…a poet with a story that could only be told in some cases through the lens of the tragedy and pain of the Detroit streets. His experience bled through his lyric and his beat. You could feel the streets and the crime and the struggles.

The list of albums with the explicit warnings seems to be less about art and expression as falling in a cultural pattern of shock expectation. It is the iTunes equivalent of Wolf Blitzer’s “BREAKING NEWS.” This guy can’t begin a show without breaking news, even if it was breaking yesterday. The programming assumption—based on my entirely uneducated guess—is that without breaking news the average Situation Room viewer will switch channels.

A striking, but even less interesting corollary here. Most of these “artists” have cleverly found a way to offer a mechanical rhyme of explicit content to appeal to a growing herd of shock-feeding sheep. Eminem offered anger mixed with sadness and a drive to get out. Extreme as it was (and is), it had certain place among its more tame community of song. Most of the posers today offer vulgarity in order to create a revenue stream through shock and “awe-t.”

As I winded through my disappointment and wrote it off to a desperate clip in musical history, I dropped in on several artists whose vibe was up and spirited and fun and lyrical and didn’t have to go off color to make a point. What a concept. I landed on and downloaded the Empire soundtrack (the only one on the hip-hop chart without a warning) and then moved over to grab Olly Murs’s new album—which is a blast.

It’s one thing to express. Its quite something different to wrap your rhyme in crap and sell it as art. That’s not old school thinking. It’s an opinion about a troubling pattern that shadows the real artists out there who can say—and sing—what they have to say without a rating.

The price of membership

It was inevitable. The emotions and the insensitivity that holds hands with ignorance was sure to find its way to the halls of our places.

I was leaving one of our hospitals last night following a medical staff meeting. I stopped by the office on the second floor to grab my laptop. It was just after 8:00 PM. I prepared for the 100 mile drive through the cold North Carolina night.

As I approached the elevators I noticed a woman sitting on the bench in our alcove. Another peering out over the courtyard from the nearby balcony. Both of them donned in colorful hijab. “Good evening” I offered to the young woman on the bench. She mustered a polite smile and and returned with an almost inaudible, “Hello.” A tear clearly streaming as she sat, hands crossed and head down.

I approached and asked if there was anything I could do for them. “I don’t want to intrude, but can I help?”

She thanked me and said they were there visiting a brother who is very ill, but progressing day by day to a better state. Her mother approached and offered a pleasant greeting of her own.

She went on to tell me that the family in the room next to their loved one was making it clear that they didn’t like being around “Those people” and that one had just made the comment: “Do you feel good about what happened over there yesterday?” He was obviously referring to the tragedy in Paris.

Not one to confront, they turned and retreated for a moment to our little safe corner to gather their emotions and leave the sickening prejudice that found them in the hallway of our place of healing.

Sadness gripped me and my chest tightened. I took a deep breath and offered a sincere apology.” The girl said, “It’s not your fault…we get this.” That may be sadly true, but they were in my “house” and dealing with their own tragedy of a hurting loved one. They deserved to be here to be cared for AND cared about.

We talked for a moment more about their brother. They offered high praise for our nurses and doctors and so many others who unselfishly and compassionately offer their talent and heart to keep this good man here for those who so clearly love him.

In a moment of the greatest irony, the young lady said, “If I could, I would offer my scarf to cover your ears as you go into this night.” We all laughed. A brief and light moment in the midst of such pain. We parted with nice thoughts for one another.

I offered my own prayer for them as I drove the long stretch of highway to Charlotte. I prayed for his healing and for their peace and joy. I prayed for the other family that they too find their own peace and comfort as they were surely dealing with their own pain. I hoped that one day they might find that under the corporate dress, the jeans and flannel, or the hijab there are humans with common values and hopes and love.

As I wrote to another friend yesterday, morality (or lack of it) is not a product of religion, nor is it “faith-based.” A call to good may be a part of your faith or religion. To suggest that those who don’t subscribe to your belief system are any less “moral” is the stuff of the finest folklore. But humans will do what they do; rationalize their actions by associating it with some club membership.

I want to thank our caregivers—representing almost every known religion and faith—who come together inside these walls to be a part of making THIS life one that is as full as it can be. And for those same caregivers who lovingly put their arms around those whose time it is to leave and hold hands with those left to grieve. The God I know is disgusted with the terror in Paris…and wherever else it rears its monstrous head. He is just as disgusted with the prejudice offered in the name of said club membership—be it geographic, ethnic, religious, or ideology—invented by man for the sake of order and justification.

To my new friends…be well. You are good souls and I am honored that we may care for you and your family. To the many thousands of our people who show up every day for the better of person kind, I am honored to be with you.

Peace.

Sean

Sean’s Journal: “We choose life!” My talk with survivors and those who embrace an end to this season.

I greeted each patient. Each survivor. I had tables set up with fruit and coffee and juices and water. The conference room was lined with comfortable chairs and nice decorations. A gift and a fuel card, along with a “release” form, accompanied each seat. The elder ladies were dressed in Sunday dress, colorful hats, broaches, summer scarves and all manner of style.

I introduced myself and made small talk before our group chat. The heat of the day, the news of Winston-Salem, kids, and summer plans.

conversationThe conversation would soon move to the more serious. Life and death and the in-between.

This was a chance to learn and to grow our service to those who have lived with and do LIVE with cancer. These brave and open women accepted my invitation to meet and share their experiences. Some were new to their diagnosis. Others in remission. A few in late stages and terminal. They were all connected by these terrorist cells — pun intended — and all were more than willing to offer me thoughts on what we could do better and what we do so beautifully well to serve and love them through their trial.

We spoke of the science and the art of care. We talked about the technology and the skills of caregivers. We talked of processes and navigation and finance.

The conversation always circled back to what mattered most: compassion. With all the appointments, chemical “cocktails,” surgeries, radiation, specialists, locations, clinics, information and so much more, what they talked about the most was…

…hands held, stuffed Teddy Bears, blankets, kind words, tears shared, open honest conversation–filled with empathy–about choices, and our presence in the way they needed it the most.

I was left with one indelible impression. They were all, every one, grateful for the life they now have. I have been around those less grateful. This fucking disease can bring extraordinary anger and sadness. It turns idealists into cynics. It changes a person. On this day, these women laughed and held hands and compared clothing and “nipple tattoos” and moments of truth.

There I sat in all my healthy state. Thinking about the times I lament over things so inconsequential. These beautiful women stare at death. Some have stared it down. Some have looked it in the eye and resigned to meet it with grace. Others look right past it and just wait and live.

Through the laughter and tears and open conversation I learned so very much about just how right we are in our mission of medicine and compassion. I learned also what we can do to be so much better.

I honor them this morning by also being grateful. I am grateful for those who surround me with love. I am grateful for the music I get to hear and get to play. I am grateful for the woods and the water and the bikes and the boats that make them my friend. I am grateful for the words of poets…words that wake my emotions and challenge my mind. I am grateful for the years I spent with my best friend, Tybee. I am grateful for work that matters…for work that adds life, comforts, and in some cases heals. I am grateful for my health, no matter how temporary it may be. I am grateful for this day. I will use it to be a better man.

Sean’s Journal: A Human Berm

I was biking today. The weather perfect; the trails covered in riders. Experts, enthusiasts, and newcomers all dawned in gear and enjoying the greens and blues and black diamonds.

There is a really fun ramp on the southern loop. I came up on it, moving pretty quickly, and then braked to a sudden stop as I found Ryan, a kid of about 8 or 9 standing next to his bike at the base of the ramp, staring at the incline. As he considered the challenge, his head bobbed back and forth between the mildly intimidating ramp entry and the sign reading “EXPERT ONLY!”IMG_2498

His dad was on the other side cheering him on. “Ryan…it’s your call. But, if you do it, you will need some speed and keep your eyes ahead of you.”

I smiled and decided to join the party.

Hopping off my bike, I asked his dad if I could add an idea. “Sure, man.” Ryan smiled.

I asked if he knew what a “berm” was. “No,” he replied. I said, “Are you nervous about going over it”. He offered a little courageous scowl and said, “Just a little.”

“Well, you’re better than me. I didn’t go over this thing until my fifth time to it.” He looked surprised since I have a cool bike and all the stuff.

“What if there was dirt that went from the ground over there and built right up to the sides of the ramp? That’s what a berm is. Would that make it less scary?”

“Yeah, I guess,” he said. “Well, let’s pretend there is a whole bunch of dirt surrounding this ramp. Picture it. Your dad and I can get on each side and pretend we are the berm.” His dad chimed in, “Yeah…we are the dirt, buddy.” He jogged to the opposite side of me. We stood there with our arms outstretched. I kind of expected him to look at me like I was an idiot and to offer a kind of “Thanks anyway (dork).” He didn’t.

Without saying a word, Ryan got off his bike and jogged it back about thirty yards. He didn’t stop or contemplate or hesitate. He tightened his helmet, placed his feet firmly on the pedals of his Specialized 26er, and headed right at us. His dad didn’t say a word as Ryan raced to the ramp…determined…excited…eyes ahead…

“YEEEAAAAAHHHH!” Dad yelled as Ryan crested the ramp, sailed through the main flat and pulled on his back break for the descent. Ryan never looked back and headed like an X-Gamer to the next element. His dad yelled, “Later, friend,” as he jumped on his own bike and chased his young rider to the next stage.

I smiled and thought of how many things I have feared in this life. How many “ramps” were just too intimidating and prevented me from crossing the thrill and joy of the passage. For those times when the courage made its way to me, there was a berm. Usually someone, or many, who believed in me and stood at the side and cheered and ensured that the possible fall would be less hurtful because they were there.

I actually dig a bit of risk. I like the unknown. I gravitate to the trails less-traveled, even with some trepidation. There might be a reason why they are less-traveled. The idea of a berm…a friend, a love, a value, a belief, a wonder makes these risks seem safer. In some cases, inviting. I want to go to those places where discovery will lead to new wonder. I am finding them, little by little…day after curious day.

Sean’s Journal: Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

April 22, 2014

We began our operations leadership meeting this morning with music. Our special guest, Tom, a retired computer programmer also spent years as a rock-n-roll band leader. Now he volunteers at one of our largest hospitals. He journeys the halls and sings and plays his guitar for patients in Hospice, Palliative Care, and Oncology.

Between songs he shared stories of some of the patients he spent time with. One was an early stage Baby Boomer now in the latest stages of cancer. She was actively dying. Within days or even hours of completing her time in this space. Tom wasn’t aware.

GuitarangelHe sang for her. She smiled and said, “How about Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door?” He appreciated her spirited sense of humor and gladly played for her. She thanked him and said, “Play another.” Tom played and they chatted for a moment more. As he packed up his weathered acoustic, he said…

“Ill see you Monday.”

“No, Tom, you won’t. I’ve been told I probably won’t make it through the weekend. Will you consider singing at my funeral?”

Tom replied, “I’ll do anything for you.”

She died that Saturday. He sang the following Tuesday.

From our earliest moments with lullaby’s from a mother, to our final hours with hymns or favorites at the graveside, and all the times in-between, music is such a critical connecting element.

I will think of Tom and his gift to our patients as I sing tonight. I will thank my fellow troubadours at Open Mic for how they each add to the joy of this life. I’m going to call Mom and thank her for encouraging me to listen to whatever I liked growing up. I will call my sister and thank her for playing guitar and for being the first to get me interested in one of my own. I’m going to take the long drive home today to my North Carolina home and turn up the volume along the way.

This Love Disrupting

As I study and attempt to apply the whole idea of presence and mindfulness–a full time quest–to my personal and professional life, I find so many treasures of connection. For many years, rounds were more of an inquisition or an interview. A series of questions, all good ones, but almost teaching patients to our test.

Now, I just greet and listen to their story. Whatever story it is, their stay with us, their life in or out of our care, whatever is on their mind.

Eunice is a soft-spoken, petite, perfectly mannered, self-educated, adorable lady who has spent 91 years on this planet. She sat in her chair, a blanket wrapped around her waist. She was just finishing her lunch. He hair wrapped in a knitted cap from her daughter. She proudly pointed it out to me as she turned and smiled at her daughter sitting on the couch by the bed.

With almost a century of story with her, she has seen a lot. We spoke briefly of her experience through the hardest times. Physical trials through times of extreme poverty. Emotionally through the toxin of racism. And now, spiritually as she confidently and peacefully addresses her mortality. Yes, all of that in about 30 minutes.

I asked, “What have we done right for you? What can you tell me that will help us improve?”

She touched the napkin to her lips. Eunice cleared her throat and said, “Excuse me,” as she shifted to sit up a little straighter in her chair.

Her voiced raised a bit as she said, “It’s been wonderful!” She turned her view to the nurse assistant and the nurse who joined us in the room, pointed her finger at them both and said, “Because they make me feel loved.”

The room was silent. Smiles beamed from ear to ear on the faces of our beautiful caregivers.

There was a little more chat and we offered our best and thanked Eunice for her time. I leaned in and we exchanged a hug.

I shared this story in a meeting the following day. There was clearly a mix of positive energy and some tension in the room. I opened up the dialogue. One colleague asked, “Don’t you think ‘love’ is a little much?” The question opened and thoughtful conversation about the nature of compassion, empathy, and yes…love as an expression of our care. We landed in a soft place of openness to the possibilities, the responsibilities, the burdens we share for our patients, and the privilege of caring. thumbnail.aspx

I can’t say whether our two nursing staff loved Eunice or not. That is theirs to offer. But Eunice felt loved. Love transcends customer service; it offers a degree of commitment and trust; it is an unexplainable connection at the level of the heart. Who is to say what rules or boundaries there are to love? There isn’t a protocol or a clinical pathway. No service standard or guiding principle. It is something in me offered to you. Something in them offered to her and in return.

I would hope that true empathy, the kind that comes from a compassionate spirit goes so far as to make those suffering feel…loved.

Eunice, may you continue to bring the joy you do through your smile and words and gentle presence both here and in the next places. Thank you for spending time with me and our team. To Kristen and Charise, thank you for doing what so many of our amazing people do…lead with the heart and heal so beautifully.

Sean

Sean’s Journal: A Few Moments with Alex

I love making administrative rounds. These few hours ground me and remind me of the burden and privilege we carry. Greetings, welcomes, thanks, small talk, serious talk. The visits are never ordinary as each patient has this journey…this unique experience…this story that is there staring at me and waiting to be heard.

“Alex” offered a half smile as we entered his room. I introduced myself and inquired about his stay. I scanned the white board on the wall and remarked on some of his goals and offered accolades for his general surgeon. It seemed a pleasant and uneventful encounter. Then he stared at me with a look that was saying, “You really have no idea, do you?”

I pulled up the stool that was tucked under the counter. I asked if I could sit. I asked about his home: he had none. Family: none. Friends: none. He rescued me from empty chase for filler in his story.th

“Where does the name ‘Keyser’ come from?” he asked. I told him what I knew of its goat path to Ellis Island. “As romantic as it sounds, I have no idea of its true history.” He smiled.

“Does a name make you someone?” he asked me. Curious, I thought for a moment and replied….”I guess it gives us context for an image of who we are.”

A bigger smile crossed his face and he said, “I like you, man.” Then, his eyes changed and softened, his smile relaxed. “I don’t know if my name is necessary for anything other than to paint that board up there.”

His eyes never left mine. Mine never left his. I sensed he wasn’t finished with his thought.

“I am walking anonymity, Mr. Keyser.”

I sat quietly, never asking him to elaborate. I didn’t offer a retort or an encouraging word. It wasn’t time.

“But for this pain inside, you would have never known me. Just a straw in the bail…not even a needle to be found.” This rugged poet of a man shook me with his words.

He wasn’t cynical or bitter–just sort of resigned. “It’s really not so bad, I don’t have to worry anyone or make them afraid.”

My chest tightened and I fought back a tear. I leaned in and said, “No one should be anonymous. You are with us now. For this time you are…Alex.”

We sat silently for a moment more. His nurse assistant knocked and entered, asking permission to take care of some things. Alex smiled and said, “Sure, Dear. I’m just chatting with my new friend.” I stood and said I would like to come back and visit more. He politely nodded in agreement, sensing it was unlikely, but considerate.

I stepped out of the room and took a deep breath. My body felt a rush of cold. Mildly choking from the lump in my throat.

It snowed the next day. I worked from the comfort of my home. I talked to my daughter and my mom and my friends and others I love. I ate and played my guitar by the fireplace. I don’t think often about what it would be like without all of this. I am grateful for every person and every thing and every moment, but there are times when life crowds the gratefulness. Alex brought me back.

I returned to the hospital Friday. I didn’t check the patient list, I just walked to his room. Another patient occupied the space previously his. I remembered our few moments with a stool next to a bed in a quiet room of contemplation.

Alex, you are not a straw in the bail. I hope our time offered your body a chance to heal. I hope our time offered your spirit some comfort. I hope you find a home, friendship, and a family beyond the new one you have in us.

Sean’s Journal: Solitude

A walking paradox. I treasure the time in the gatherings of many. Though my time alone becomes increasingly critical to my health…emotional, physical, spiritual. My growing distaste of small talk and materiality is at a tipping point. So much of it serves to veil the deep passions and the trials of those around me. I avoid the very places I used to love for an absolute fear of the same introductions followed by the same topics and the same questions and the same looks that bounce around a room with kinetic–or should I say pathetic–energy.

They…we… mean well. Its manners, I guess. But, I find myself shying away. And I’m not shy. I find myself more in retreat. I typically swan dive into life. Is this a primer for a life of a recluse? A proverbial Howard Hughes.

I don’t think so.

A signal adjustment is in order. I feel restored when I stand before a piece of art; when I listen to a song with story layered on thoughtful melody; when I notice the tone and inflection in another’s voice in conversation…and the meaning in their eyes; when words of poetry have so much life I might as well be reading in brail and feeling each word; when I am on a bike in the woods hearing the crackling mulch under the wheels or on my kayak in the marsh; when I sit quietly and scratch the bridge between my loyal pup’s nose and forehead (R.I.P. Tybee).

SolitudeI am going to the beach soon.

No computer. No phones. No “i” anything. Some hardbacks, my first guitar, a bike, a boat, and this old body carrying a mind too full and a spirit needing to be filled.

Not seeking an epiphany. Not expecting an Oprah moment of discovery or Maslow’s self-actualization. Just peace of mind. I expect to run and purge. I expect to rid myself of any demons of cynicism that try to create a beachhead against my joy. This is a life of joy.

Ride. Dive. Swim. Sing. Be quiet and let it in.

Sean’s Journal: Gliding in the Sunset

December 2013

I opened the door and swept my shoes over the mat and shook the drops of rain off of my coat. She was sitting in a chair in my den, the television on, the screen blue and blank. Mom was clutching the remote in her hands. Looking at it as if it was going to wake and speak to her. Her face showing a mix of frustration, confusion and sadness.

I said, “Hi” and asked what she was up to. She mustered a token smile and replied, “Oh, nothing much.” I asked if she was having trouble and she nodded her head. Mom had been sitting there for the better part of an hour or so, hoping that pressing a combination of buttons might miraculously mix and find a channel, any channel interesting enough to stay with. She was afraid to mess with this device for fear of pushing the wrong button and losing connection. It had happened before. It had happened again.

The look on her face told a story. Her eyes spoke volumes of her current lot. In these later years she has less independence and more challenge. More fears and less possibilities. Ironically, she is one of the most positive people I have ever known. Optimism’s reality can be squelched or at least derailed for a time by the body and the mind’s loss.

And here am I…frustrated from time to time at her inability to get past it, or get over it, or make a different choice. Who the hell am I to dare get mad or frustrated at her for those things that swell and choke out so much of what was.

We children can sometimes deny time’s affect. Life is this majestic sea that, with all of it’s mystery and beauty, also erodes the land’s edges.

I am a student of empathy and wonder if I am the least empathetic with those I love the most. I chase possibilities and hope while cursing mortality’s riddle.

Within the last two years she has lost the privilege of driving, had a knee replaced, suffered from arthritis in her back, has seen the pressure of her blood rise and fall like tides, has struggled with deteriorating vision, and has had memories leave and return almost at their own will.

With all that, still smiling. Asking about MY life and work and love. Grateful for most every moment. Nostalgic but still speaking of dreams for the future. How would I be in the same circumstances? How will I be in those circumstances?IMG_5547.JPG - Version 2

I watch silently from a hallway on this Christmas Eve morning. She sits and stares at her crossword puzzle book or at the paper or the television. Turner Classic Movies or The Weather Channel or Joyce Meyer. Some curious mix of living in the past and anticipating the days ahead.

I have so much control over what, when, how, and where I do things. My choices remain seemingly infinite at this decimal of life. I have health and good work and means. My challenges are significant, but I am able to fight them…or negotiate them. What if I couldn’t? I don’t know the feeling that surrounds trying to force a body or a mind to do what it wont.

Tony Robbins can’t motivate you to remember what happened only moments ago when it chooses to leave. Charles Stanley can’t pray you through a body that won’t run with you again. There is only so much a jungle fruit or herb remedy can do to reverse the outer layer’s signs.

Life changes. We adapt. We focus on less, but with more intent. We make choices…a proverbial fight or flight. Some are good fighters and good flyers at heart, their wings clipped, if you will.

Not her.

Determined that she will fly again. She might need help getting altitude and then be more of a glider than a jet. Now leaving this metaphorical jaunt to say this… I love you. I am grateful for having the privilege of spending all these years with you on the same planet. I wish proximity had been more kind. Sis and I will tow you to a higher place and be a part of your gliding for years to come. We begin, again, now.

Sean