Heading to Houghton/Hancock
The past two years here in Door County, WI, have been both extremely busy as well as transformative. Finally, this past spring, we began to feel settled in our new home, and to put down roots. Our home in the UP sold, which freed us from the responsibility for it’s upkeep and concern, and allowed us to move forward here.
Our choice to move back to Wisconsin was the correct one for both my husband and myself. Yet a big piece of our hearts still remain in Houghton and the Keweenaw Peninsula. Family, deep friendship, fun, and the incredible raw nature of that area constantly call to both of us. Now that we are settled here, and free of homeowner chores in Houghton, we are returning next week for a much needed visit. This trip can be solely for fun and connection, and will include a ski trip as we travel back home.
I am pleased to have combined this with an opportunity to speak to the Finlandia University Nursing Students. I will be speaking about end-of-life, the differences between acute care deaths and those within hospice care. I hope to share my own experiences with them, and to learn from these bright and passionate students. I was an adjunct instructor there for a period of time in our years in that area, and I have a deep respect for the nursing education that these students receive. Kindness and compassion is paired with professional and technical expertise, and they graduate with the benefit of all. I look forward to meeting this group of senior students, who will graduate in spring. I know that I will leave richer for this meeting.
Door County’s Natural Beauty
Our winter temperatures have varied greatly these past weeks. Following many days of unusually warm, damp and foggy weather, they plummeted into subzero wind chills just after the holidays. This week, our days have become brilliantly sunny, and more normal temperatures have returned. Perfect to enjoy the incredible natural beauty of Door County, where I live.
After spending yesterday morning writing, I happily pulled on my boots and bundled into my ski jacket and hat. My husband and I drove to nearby Peninsula State Park and hiked through one of the wooded trails. Winter has changed this landscape; the view from deep within the forest still provides views of the snow covered waters. We found other kindred spirits along our path, many with snow shoes to allow leaving the path. It was an invigorating hike, and I felt the knots of life gently falling away as nature’s beauty took its hold.
I was surprised, though, by the sting on my cheeks from the chill. Our walk back to the car was at a faster pace, and my thoughts turned towards a steaming cup of coffee or cocoa. Next time I will bring a scarf to shield my face…and today’s plan to use the rowing machine in the comfort or our home seems more welcome than usual!
Our Touch, Our Light
Love through touch
I have been away from my hospice nursing job for several weeks, since I changed my status to working less regularly. It’s been a transformative few weeks, and I look forward to focusing on my end-of-life consultation more fully. But I did work this last weekend, venturing out to see our patients in various living situations throughout our service area. It was bitter cold; subzero temperatures had immediately followed the first heavy snowfall in over a month. As my tires passed the many miles, the snow groaned beneath them. On this early Sunday morning, I watched the sun begin to glow. I found myself reflecting on the care our team provides as I reconnected with patients and coworkers throughout my day. I was greeted warmly at each home, and made my visits alongside several of our CNA’s (Certified Nursing Assistants).
I always value each member of our team, and our unique roles that we provide. But on this cold, almost eerie morning, I was blessed to assist with the very intimate and personal care that the CNAs were giving. I marvel at the competency they use, lovingly turning those that are very near death. I watched while they swiftly and carefully provided skin care and positioning while teaching and supporting the family members that knew them very well.
As an RN, I form my own professional and close relationships with these families. My role brings an intimacy of its own, and I incorporate my loving presence of healing as a Reiki Master. But assisting my teammates this weekend, I felt their love pouring through the care and concern they provide. It appears to be a natural outpouring from deep within these CNAs, and the patients and family members respond to it. Their role often makes them the face of hospice, and the incredible group of CNAs that I am blessed to work with, make all of our lives richer each day.
As we begin this new year
Loss and grief at the holidays
The holiday season is coming to a close. As we begin our new year, many people feel relief to return to their own lives and schedules. These weeks of family and friends, festivities and excessive food and drink makes our usual lives feel welcome again. For some, though, the new year comes following the loss of someone dear to them. Or for others, an expected death looms on the horizon for the days and weeks ahead. For these, my prayers and love is sent with you.
Loss and grief are never easy, and must take time and support to slowly integrate these feelings into the new normal. But a loss at the holidays is even harder, as the rest of the world seems to shout with joy at every turn. Having experienced this myself, many years ago, I can affirm how lonely and surreal it felt. I hope that for anyone that is going through this right now, that you can find both close relationships to share this with, but also professional support as you move ahead.
There is a component that I want to touch on; while perhaps loss at Christmas time seems so significant because of the joyous season that others are wrapped in, it also happens because of this joyous season. As the world celebrates with prayer and gratitude for all, celestial light pours out to our world, and the portal opens ever more fully. Those souls that are close to death, or being called there, much more easily let go and return to their true nature.
I know these words would not have felt helpful to me during my time of loss, but they do now. I picture the very blessed event that happened in sync with the divine blessings of this time. I pray that you, in the years ahead, may also feel this.