Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Gratitude Day

As my closest family and friends know, I struggle with the major holidays. If I had my choice,... I have no idea what I would actually do instead. Hide? Go away?

For the past several years, I have tried to figure out how to engage in holidays without stressing out too much. I think I have come from such an intense family that working my way through the years of three major meals on a holiday and all the family dynamics that went with it, created such a headache and indigestion. And, that was before we left for the first home.

Sitting in meditation this morning, there was such a nourishing element to the practice today. I bow to the group and our little sacred space. May we each show up as we are and be fully awake to the basic goodness that is already there.

With deep gratitude, I thank my fellow meditators for continuing to show up and share in the silence that breaks through my drama and stories. Goodness knows my family has given me plenty of grist for my practice. Peace be with you. And my family? May peace be with every last one of you, too.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Heroic Walk Into Life

Yesterday in the midst of everything, my youngest daughter sat down and told me a wonderful story of the human spirit.

Last month, my daughter kept telling me that she had been having thoughts of a mother of a student who attended school with my children. This woman was always a spiritual ray of sunshine, but her life was a mess.

She developed Lupus way back in the 1980's and her husband left her for another woman as the disease progressed. The stress that followed caused many more health problems, including many hospitalizations. She even lost her eyesight at one point. Ever since I have known her, she has had the moon face of someone on Prednisone or steriods.

In a way that only God knows how these things connect, my youngest had a flat tire two days ago. So off to the garage on the spare she went yesterday. The tire shop was busy, so she decided to go to the community park nearby. It was a beautiful and exceptionally warm day for November. As Youngest Daughter walked down the street on the way to the park, she recognized it as the street where this woman had lived.

Youngest Daughter decided to see if she could figure out which house is was. Ruling out the house with the iron work, she focused on very elderly couple leaving a nearby. She saw a woman on the porch with a walker, who looked a little like our friend. As she walked by, she saw into the doorway where a banner stated: S., Welcome home. Youngest Daughter approached her and asked her if the woman was S. and then identified herself as a now 25 years old young woman.

Sure enough, it was our friend, S.

Our long ago friend and Youngest Daughter sat on the sunny front porch and talked for two hours. They shared hopes and dreams and caught up.

But this was no ordinary catching up.

S. had balloons in her home that said, "Welcome Home!"

Indeed, she was back from a very, very long journey.

She had just returned from a nursing home stay. One of many.

However, there was a time before where her return was less planned.

She had ran away from a nursing home in town that she felt was abusive and neglectful. This was one of the several nursing homes that she had lived in the past few years. She had also spent time - one full year - in a coma which atrophied her muscles. The nursing home staff were insistent that she could not go home.

After a year-long coma and even longer recovery, she took her walker, packed a small suitcase, grabbed her pillow, and started walking. The staff followed her in an uproar. The police were called. She said there were probably 20 people following her and trying to stop her.

She kept walking.

She made it seven blocks from the nursing center before police began threatening to arrest her for some trumped up charges and hand-cuff her. They tried to say that since she had no home, they would consider her homeless and take her to go to jail.

She kept saying, "I have a home." But no one believed her.

She kept saying, "Call my daughter. She lives and works nearby." But no one did.

Only one of the police officers took her seriously. He found the daughter's number and so the daughter was called. Soon afterwards, she came and picked up her mother. She took her to the mother's home which was just a few more blocks away.

She said, "Only a handful of times have I felt such intense joy as when I got home."

As my daughter tells it, our friend cried as she relived her experience in sharing her story. She told my daughter that the police had broken her by being so threatening to her. Yet, somehow she picked up enough of the pieces to make her way home.

Thank God that S. found the courage to own her life, her freedom. Her life has never been easy since I have known her. There were many times, when no one would have imagined her living this long. Yet, she has! She hasn't be able to do this alone and currently has a team of in-home aides to help off and on. But she is living a heroic life on her terms.

I am so glad that there is a Divine energy in the world that pierces our consciousness. I am so proud of my daughter for following that hunch and being the sensitive person that she is. She was the perfect person to hear such a tender story.

When Youngest Daughter returned to the garage, the car was just being backed out of the garage, and ready for pick-up. We noted a sense of karios (eternal time, not just clock time) operating. Youngest Daughter also said that she realized that it was about the time that S. came home this time, that she was thinking of her.

In addition to prayers and love wishes for S., my heart goes out to all others in neglectful homes or institutional care who feel that their souls are being broken. A better way cannot come fast enough for them.

I am reminded that institutional residents and care receivers at home have choices and should not tolerate abuse or neglect. In Maryland, call 1-800-243-3425 for nursing home abuse/long-term care ombudsman; or 1-800-91-PREVENT or 1-800-917-7383 for community or home-based neglect, exploitation or abuse concerns. In Virginia, call 888-83-ADULT (888-832-3858); Out-of-state: 804-371-0896. If you are reading this and have concerns based in another state, contact the National Center on Elder Abuse , 202-898-2586.