May I please fill your half-empty glass?

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Facebook has, yet again, provided me with fodder for another blog post. As a writer, I am endlessly fascinated by the many ways people process information. My mother did tell me it takes all kinds to make the world go around and she was so right.

A friend re-posted a story about the actions of a specific location of a well-known pizza chain. (I like to believe it is a true story) Management and staff had noticed several homeless people who had been picking through their dumpster after hours to find their next meal. This pizza chain posted a sign at their front door offering these same homeless people the opportunity to come in to the restaurant for two slices of pizza and water, no questions asked. Naturally, this warmed my heart. What a wonderful gesture towards people who have obviously fallen on hard times, for whatever reason.

And then I read the comments that followed the story. The first posted reaction was much like my own. This act of human compassion restored a little of their faith in humanity. The second reaction took me completely by surprise. The words written were, “I just see them publicly shaming a homeless person”.

I’ll be honest, I do not have a clue what it is like to be homeless. I have had the good fortune of continually being employed, having a roof over my head and being able to feed myself on a daily basis. Having said that, I cannot imagine if I were homeless and starving I would think I was being publicly shamed by being offered a meal I did not have to dig out of an over-sized trash bin. I would see it as a blessing, a message that someone wanted to help me in any way they could, regardless of my situation.

How horrible it must be seeing the world through such a myopic lens. The things we don’t understand, things we could never fathom in our daily lives, make us uncomfortable and say or write things without really thinking. If you can only see the negative in the story of this restaurant offering a meal to the homeless, I would like fill your half-empty glass so you can gain a new perspective and remind you of the other saying my mother was fond of was, “you should walk a mile in their shoes.”

 

 

The Art Of Reading Through Tears

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I knew it was a risk. I had been told about a book called The Art Of Racing In The Rain and had all but ignored it…until now. I began reading this book in the waiting room of my Honda dealership while passing time during an oil change and brake pad replacement. It was a fitting scene.

The book is narrated from the perspective of a dog who belongs to a race car driver. Although I am not a race car driver (perhaps only in my mind), the irony of sitting in a car dealership while beginning this book was not lost on me. I devoured the first half of the book in two hours while waiting for my car to be serviced. I sat in a small, sparsely furnished area with three very large men and openly wept while devouring every chapter I could of this novel.

There is an underlying joke between my friend and I that we would be gold medal winners if the Olympics ever created a competition for crying. Sitting in the waiting room of that car dealership while reading this book was certainly my qualifying round. Initially I did my best to conceal my tears, but these three men were on to me from the appearance of the first glistening tear that tracked its way down my cheek and they made every effort to not make eye contact from that moment forward.

I have a dog who recently turned twelve and has health issues, and the narrative in this book hit very close to home. Every well-paced paragraph reminded me that I may be mere moments away from having to realize every truth written in this book about an aging pet. It was eviscerating, but strangely comforting.

This book gave me a gift. I now know that I will have the strength to make that tough decision because it is what is best for her, not for me. Her comfort and her dignity come before my need for having more time with her. And as I cry writing the end of this post, I know it will be one of the most difficult decisions I will ever have to make, but one that has to be made….for her.

 

How do you say goodbye to someone who is dying?

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As someone who loves words and has no trouble putting my thoughts into sentences, I am at a loss for what to say. If you read this post a couple of weeks ago, you will know I received the difficult news that a group of ladies who annually visited the lodge will visit no more. In three short months, one has progressed rapidly into Alzheimer’s disease and the other was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and is being cared for in her home to make her as comfortable as possible in the last few weeks of her life.

How do I say goodbye? I know, in essence, what I want to say but the words won’t come, perhaps because saying goodbye sounds so final. She is not gone, but saying goodbye makes it feel like I have accepted her fate and I have not yet come to terms with her diagnosis and quick deterioration.

I want to tell her how unfair it is she didn’t have a chance to fight, because I know she would have fought like a warrior, but I know she already knows that. The words I send to her will be words of appreciation for the short time I was able to spend getting to know her. My words to her will be warm and heartfelt. But the time I spend writing them will be heart-wrenching and leave me feeling slightly eviscerated.

I didn’t know her for very long but her absence will be felt on May 28th when the room they shared at the lodge remains empty. I will miss you, Barb, and I hope we see each other again on the other side.

 

 

People die twice

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I attended a dinner last night to honor my best friend’s brother who was killed in a car accident five years ago. Family and friends gathered to share their stories and keep Cam’s memory alive with their fond and funny recollections of a man whose life was cut too short.

I have written before that I fall back on words for comfort during times of turbulent emotion. Words give me the ability to process things in a way that nothing else can. I was shocked to find out that many of Cam’s family habitually read my blog and even more overwhelmed when his mother quoted back to me words I had written after his funeral in this blog post.

The patriarch of the family got up to make a speech and was joined by his wife close the end of his rhetoric. Stepping out of her comfort zone, she regarded the faces staring back at her and gave a speech of her own. Her words punched me right in the heart and, not surprisingly, I cried.

She spoke about a woman who told her ‘people die twice’, once when they stop breathing and again after people stop talking about them and cease to say their name. Instinctively, my hand went to the tattoo on my right forearm I painstaking endured in honor of my parents who have both passed. This ink on my skin continually starts an exchange with people and I happily talk about my parents on a regular basis.

This yearly event, held at the cottage Cam held so close to his heart, is a way to keep the discussion going, a way to keep Cam’s name in the conversation and a way to ensure he will never die a second time.

 

 

 

Hold everyone close

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When you work in hospitality, relationships are naturally created with the people you meet. For the brief time they are in your presence, they become an extended part of your circle. You share stories, you share laughs and you create a bond that continues to grow with every visit.

I have had the good fortune of nurturing a relationship that was created with six women who visit the lodge every May. Their connections run deep and they have spent the majority of their lives weaving themselves into the fabric of each other’s reality. I have had the honor of being a part of their lives for two days every May for the last seven years. They are the personification of friendship. They share a sisterhood that is evident and they spent their time at the lodge basking in old memories and creating new ones.

But all of that has changed. One of the ladies called yesterday to tell me their group would not be returning to the lodge. In the few short months since they bid us farewell, one has been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and one has progressed rapidly into Alzheimer’s Disease. As I sat in stunned silence listening to their friend on the phone, it was all I could do not to burst into tears in my office.

These women were some of the first guests I met when I started my new job at the lodge. They embraced me as if I had been a part of their lives for decades and each one has had an impact on me. I cannot begin to tell you how deeply I feel their pain. I can see all of their faces and can hear the laughter they shared during every visit. I can flash back to taking their group photo on many occasions and cannot begin to express how heavy my heart is as I write this post.

I know the future for these ladies will be forever changed. My sadness drastically pales in comparison to what they will be forced to face and I can only hope they find comfort in their memories. I will always hold on to the times they created some of those memories at the lodge and included me in those moments.

 

A simple hug

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I saw the pain in your eyes,

that is why I couldn’t look away.

And the only thing I could think to do,

is give you a hug.

It won’t fix anything,

It doesn’t make things better.

But it does let you know,

beyond a doubt,

that you matter to me

and I will always be there with open arms,

open ears

and broad shoulders.

Your friendship is a part of me now.

And you know I will always be there

whenever you need me.

(image credit)

 

 

Did they grow on me, or did I grow on them?

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Twice a year, we have a bus tour company bring a group of seniors to the lodge. Some of the faces are familiar but many are new to us. One particular couple has been to the lodge several times and, each time they come, they have kept to themselves and not engaged with us in a way many others do….until this trip.

When they arrived on Monday, I greeted them by name and welcomed them back to the lodge. I pointed them in the direction of their room and they ambled off to settle into the place they would reside for the next three nights. They came in for the 4:00 pm welcome coffee and cookies, got comfortable in their seats and made little conversation with the others on their tour.

By breakfast the next morning, something had changed. As she made her way into the lodge, her arm found its place around my waist and she let me walk her to the table with our arms around each other. He steered his walker through the door and followed us. I asked if they would like a pot of tea and, for the first time in their past four visits, he actually smiled at me. The tea was delivered, breakfast was ordered and we found ourselves absorbed in a conversation beyond their breakfast preference.

To say I was astounded would be an understatement. The word curmudgeon always sprung to mind when I thought of him but his smile has since changed my mind. I honestly cannot tell you if they grew on me or I grew on them, but my relationship with this couple has grown. They no longer regard me with contempt but embrace me with their smiles and their gratitude.

Perhaps moments like these can change our first impressions. Two people who struck me as being eternally grumpy now present themselves as two people who have had their share of struggles and still face each day with determination. My wish for them is that they continue to rally and I truly hope to be able to greet them by name if they are able to make it to the lodge for another visit.