• Debra Berry

Welcome to My Blog Page

Updated: May 7

Blogging is new to me, that's right I am a novice here. I am finding my way as I begin to create and write and learn what this is all about. I had to look up a definition of blog/blogging. So please note I am learning as I go.

Recently, my "call to blogging" was challenged and I was inspired to join a blogging group. Thank you Paul Taubman for creating the Ultimate Blog Challenge. So here I go!

May 6, 2021: "Laughter is Great Medicine"

Yesterday, I shared a story with you about Marilyn. Today, I have another story about our time together.

Marilyn took great pride in her appearance. Even though she only wore a night gown, she gave great thought to her choice for the day. Marilyn had beautiful soft glowing skin, and every morning and night, she gently and carefully cleansed it with a bar of Dove soap and then applied her moisture. Her silvery gray hair was extremely thin. She would carefully brush it and attempt to create some kind of style.

Because Marilyn's appearance was so important to her, I washed her hair for her weekly and did the best I could at helping her style the few strands of hair that she had. Even though her hair was so thin, it continued to grow in length.

I cared for Marilyn during the initial phase of the Covid pandemic. Our state was under a “Stay at Home” order by the governor, so hair salons were closed. It had been weeks since either Marilyn or myself had had a haircut. I kept my sliver, thick, straight, and coarse hair short in an attempt to manage it’s wild unruly nature. My hair had grown at least three inches during this time, and I had resorted to wearing a headband in an attempt to keep my hair out of my face.

One morning, after I assisted Marilyn with her morning grooming routine, we headed back to her chair in the living room in preparation for her favorite soap opera. Marilyn sat down in her chair. While I was lifting her legs onto her ottoman, she looked at me and very soberly said, “Your hair looks terrible.” I looked up at her, our eyes met, and I said, “My hair? Have you looked in the mirror lately?” Our eyes met in disbelief, we were both stunned. Our mouths hung wide open and speechless. We sat frozen in time for what was probably a few seconds but felt a lot longer. Then, we both simultaneously burst into laughter. We laughed so hard we had tears rolling down our cheeks.

Marilyn was terminally ill. She was living the last chapter of her life, but she never lost her sense of humor. Marilyn laughed every day up to the time when she could not longer respond to those around her. Marilyn taught me the importance of humor and laughter even in the last days of life. She taught me it was all right for me to laugh with the dying person over the simplest things.

May 5, 2021: "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"

Marilyn was one of the the most beautiful soul's I have had the privilege of caring for during the last days of life.

Marilyn was declining slowly She had taken up residency in a hospital bed in front of the picture window of her living room. For nearly five days, Marilyn had lingered near death spending most of the days unresponsive.

During these days, Marilyn’s daughter would frequently lay her phone next to Marilyn's ear and play her favorite song for her, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, by the gentle Hawaiian Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, affectionately known as “IZ.” Her daughter shared with me this song was Marilyn’s favorite, and her mother had requested it be played at her funeral.

One evening, two of Marilyn’s daughters and a friend sat in the dining room chatting while taking a break from their vigil. I was seated at Marilyn’s bedside. It had been a long day, and Marilyn had been unresponsive all day. I decided to play Marilyn’s song for her. I laid the phone next to Marilyn ear, and the sweet melodious voice of IZ began. Within a few seconds, I saw Marilyn’s lips moving. I watched intensely and was in awe when I realized she was mouthing the words to the song. I called to her daughters and friend to come into the living room. We watched in awe as Marilyn continued to move her lips to the words.

Slowly, we heard Marilyn’s soft weak voice singing along. I began to sing softly with Marilyn and one by one the other three joined in song. When the music stopped, Marilyn’s face was joyful, she said nothing else that night and remained peaceful.

Those few moments left the four of us were stunned and grateful. It was Marilyn's final gift to us.

May 4, 2021 "My Memoir in Six Words"

Recently, I listened to Wade Rouse on a Facebook Live Event . . . “Wine, Wade, and Words.” Wade is one of my favorite authors, who writes beautiful novels under the the pen name of Viola Shipman, his grand-mother's name. Wade writes and speaks from his heart. He has a tremendous connection to his audience, and I can feel his authenticity even in a virtual connection.

On this particular night, he asked the group to create a six word memoir. He explained this exercise as a way to describe ourselves, our real selves, versus our name or occupation or where we are from, those typical facts we traditionally offer when we introduce ourselves. “Just pick six words,” he said. Six words that represent you. The exercise seemed simple enough. I picked up by pen and bam, my first thought, "What if they’re not right?" I had tell myself, "No judging just write."

First attempt: Healer, Presence, Loving, Woman, Kind, Empathic.

Second attempt: Divorced, He Died. Why the Grief?

Whew, I got something done on paper. Thinking I was all set, Wade then encouraged the audience to write about why these words represent us. I wanted to be done, however I told myself, "No, you are not getting up. You are going to be a big girl and finish." So here are my whys.

Healer because I have spent forty-nine years of my life as a registered nurse and nearly 70 years learning to appreciate all experiences in my life, the good, the bad, and the ugly have made me the woman I am today. And by the way, I really like the woman I am and continue to become.

Presence: My ability to hold a space for myself and others to be. The giving of my presence provides others with the opportunity to be without scrutiny or judgement .

Loving: Simply Be Love. Give love. Receive love. Being loving.

Woman: Being a woman has afforded me the joys and heart-breaks of motherhood and grandmother-hood. Raising my family, and them raising me, is such a blessing and a privilege. Being a woman, being feminine is deliciously fun and divine!

Kind: My father’s last words and advice to me as he lay on his deathbed was, "Be Kind." Everyday those words are with me. I want to honor his legacy and that of his family. I try to practice and give kindness to other everyday.

Empathic: I feel so emotionally connected to others. Some people speak of seeing or hearing auras. I feel others energy.

Divorced, He Died. Why the Grief?: This six word phrase came to me because of my experience with grief following the death of my former spouse. We were married nearly 24 years. He died 22 years following our divorce, and I did not anticipate the grief I experience following his death. I am currently working on a book related to my experience.

Day 3: May 3, 2021 "Til Death Do Us Part, The Ties That Bind"

When I said, “I do,” nearly fifty years ago, I vowed to take my spouse “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part. We experienced the best of times and of course the worst of times. There were times of richness and times of scarcity. There were times of health and too much time of sickness. There were times of love and times of gratitude. I never imagined our bond of marriage would dissolve. However, after nearly 24 years of marriage, my former spouse decided he wanted a divorce.

For many divorced couples, especially if you have children, the ties of marriage bind you until death especially if you have children. After all, he would always be my children's dad and my grandchildren's “Papa.” We were bound for life through our children and grand-children and through other connections in our lives such as my caretaking nature and his infirmity.

Then, nearly twenty-two years after our divorce, my former spouse died. I was not anticipating the myriad of feelings that struck me especially the grief. I was stunned by it. I was a hospice nurse, I thought I knew about grief having been with countless individuals, and their families, through their dying and death. I thought I had really learned about grief when my mother, father, and sister died within fifteen months of one another. After the deaths of my parents and sister, I began to describe grief as a wave. At times, it was a tsunami-like wave unexpectedly slamming against me and knocking me down with profound sadness, unstoppable tears and sobbing, leaving me exhausted and alone. I would swirl in this grief begging and hoping to surface and breath again. At other times, it was like a gentle ebb of a wave on a lake shore. This wave quietly crept in and softly ticked at my toes but did not push me off balance. It was followed by a moment of sadness, perhaps a tear of two trickling down my cheek, and sense of missing the individual, then I would move on with my day.

Sitting on bed one morning, I was overcome by those unstoppable tears. I didn't know what was going on with me. I kept asking my self, what is this all about. After several moments, I realized I had been hit by the tsunami wave of grief. I was grieving my divorce again and now grieving the death of my former spouse. In the days and weeks that followed, I found myself alone with my grief. My family and friends did not or could not understand why I was grieving. I would hear, "Why are you so upset? You have been divorced for twenty-two years." I would later learn this reaction by others is refereed to as disenfranchised grief, the

grief that goes unacknowledged or unvalidated by social norms.

In the future, I hope to share with you more of my story of the binding ties of my marriage and eventual redemption of divorce.

Day2: May 2, 2021

In her book, Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul, Naomi Levy writes, ““Birth and death are moments of creation. They are the prime moments.”

I grew up in a time when people did not talk about dying or death. In fact, the subject was quite taboo in my world. Even as a young nurse working in a hospital, the subject of death was not a common topic of conversation amongst those of us caring for the dying . In fact, I don’t recall any attention to the subject when I was in nursing school.

Never did I dream or have any intention of making a career working with dying individuals and their families. But one day, following a very difficult time in my personal life, I found myself in a new city beginning a new adventure as a hospice nurse.

My first day at hospice, I vividly recalled a passage from Stephen Coveys’ book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “... to touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.” I instantly knew I was about to walk on some very holy ground with dying individuals and their families. I spent the last 15 years of my nursing career caring for dying individuals and their families. They taught me many lessons about life and death.

What a privilege to walk alongside the last path of life with someone. It truly was holy ground I ventured on with each individual and their family. I was blessed to assist and support them as they created the prime moments of their dying process and death.

I have been blessed to walk on holy ground and to help others create their prime moments during their dying experience and death. I believed caring for the dying and their family was my passion and purpose and perhaps that is true. However, I received the greater gift, from those who allowed me on their holy ground.

Day : May 1, 2021

My aunt is the most angelic and dearest women in my life. At the age of 19, my uncle brought her to the tiny little home she still lives in following their wedding. Like my aunt, her home is welcoming and filled with love and precious memories. She raised four boys there with a kitchen the size of a postage stamp. I am not kidding, if you open the oven door there is only room for one person to remain in the kitchen.

Now, sixty-five years later, my aunt lives alone. At the age of 86, she is dealing with major health issues and aging changes. Because of chronic renal failure, my aunt was faced with the decision to have dialysis. Initially, she wasn't sure she even wanted to start down the path of dialysis, however she did make the decision to "give it a try." I am a retired registered nurse so, I stayed with her for a few weeks as she began dialysis and dealt with the new changes in her life. The first few weeks were difficult for her physically, emotionally, and spiritually. She was also facing the reality of whether or not she would be able to remain living independently in her home.

One evening while I was staying with her, I heard her on the phone talking with a friend. Like my aunt and many elderly individuals, my aunt’s friend is also dealing with chronic illness and aging changes. I heard my aunt say to her friend, “Veronica, we have to learn to grow old and live with the changes how age is bringing.” Later, I told my aunt I overheard this part of her conversation, and I shared with her I thought her remark to her friend was a beautiful, positive, and a challenging sentiment about “growing older.” She replied, “We had to learn as toddlers to walk and talk . We had to learn in school to read and write. We had to learn as young adults to be wives and mothers. We had to learn new roles and skills all of our lives, and now we have to learn how to be old as our body changes, and we cannot depend on it to do the things it used to for us.”

How thought provoking to consider “learning how to be old.” We have all heard the adage, “aging with grace.” My nursing specialty was gerontology, the study of the process of aging, and the particular challenged of the older adult. I worked with the elderly for over 40 years, but the concept of "learning to grow old" was beautiful to me. Aging is hard work and encompasses many losses in our lives. But, learning “to grow old” is about a new challenge, an acceptance, and a peacefulness. From today forward, I use my aunt’s wisdom of “learning to grow old” as I continue to support elderly individuals and their families navigate the path of living with chronic illness and aging.

I am grateful to my aunt in many ways. Helping her through this change in her life is both a privilege and a blessing for me. I am learning everyday as I watch and listen to her find the way on a new path.

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