It is not the first of the month.

And this is not Vangi, it is Matt.

Vangi passed in her sleep the morning of June 27th.

We had been in hospice since April, and true to Vangi’s bravery and Vangi’s style, she wanted people to know indirectly through her last two postings. Although she loved a party, or any excuse for champagne, she wanted to celebrate her new address privately.

Her passing was full of peace and I think she wouldn’t mind my sharing some of our final lessons together. No soul is willing to give up a body, even a body that had been challenged by stroke or disease. Our soul knows that through the body, any body, great work can still be done by sharing what is in our hearts and by speaking what we have learned to be true. This is learning the language of Love. And being fortunate enough to partner with other souls and to have loving conversations is very powerful. Vangi and I discovered this truth and that is a big part of why letting go is so hard.

It is easier to find our way back to peace when we remember to smile, or find a joy, or touch compassion. Any of these simple acts are what allows us to get back onto the path of Love and to continue our glorious march back home to the ultimate embrace of Love. Vangi shared that truth, in her own way, month after month with these notes. Her will to love, like her smile, never wavered.

I believe Vangi is now learning how to continue to share love and to be in love in a new and different way. She is free of struggling with physical frustration. She is free to be embraced by Love. She is free to continue to express love and hope and joy – just in a different way. And we all have learned from Vangi that she will not be denied her expression – she will continue to get her message across.

Vangi was fond of saying “My Path has led me here…” Now her path has far fewer limitations and far more possibilities. Vangi will continue to be a blessing and an inspiration for all of us. And my wish for you is that you follow her encouragement and find ways that you too can share the special gifts that each of us have with those around you.

Thank you my dearest Vangi for the love and lessons you shared. And for each of you, thank you for witnessing her journey. May each of you discover that comfort and love constantly surrounds you now and always.

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“Death is just a change of address.”  Christine Laria

If you haven’t seen it, It’s a Wonderful Life is a 1946 American Holiday fantasy comedy-drama film produced and directed by Frank Capra, based on the short story and booklet, which was written in 1939 by Philip Van Doren Stern and published privately in 1945.  The film stars James Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has given up his dreams in order to help others, and whose imminent death on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angelClarence Odbody  (Henry Travers). Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched and how different life in his community of Bedford Falls would be like if he had never been born.  Two of my favorite lines from the movie is when the teacher says, ‘Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.’  and ‘Laughter just might be the best medicine

I know most people would describe Matt (and all other caregivers) as phenomenal!  Whenever I’m done at the dentist or hairdresser, they say if Matt had a bell, we could ring it now instead of calling for him.  Whenever he hears that he just says no way, that I would be ringing it all the time and that would be true.

I love these following stories/jokes!  I’m not sure I can show the link between bells and these jokes but like in life, maybe we can’t always demonstrate the link and we just have to laugh.

Here’s the first story.  A woman who usually accompanies her husband to the doctor’s office for his annual checkup was asked by the Dr. for to her to stay and talk to him after the exam.  After his checkup, the doctor called the wife into his office alone.  “Your husband is suffering from very severe disease, combined  with  horrible stress.

If you don’t do the following, your husband will surely die.  “Each morning, fix him a healthy breakfast, be pleasant, and make sure he is in a good mood.  For lunch make him a nutritious meal. For dinner prepare an especially nice meal for him. Don’t burden him with chores, as he probably had a hard day. Don’t discuss your problems with him, it will only make his stress worse. And most importantly, make love with your husband several times a week and satisfy his every whim. If you can do this for the next 10 months to a year, I think your husband will regain his health completely.”

On the way home, the husband asked his wife. “What did the doctor say?”  She replied, “You’re going to die.”

A bell would not have helped.  We are all going to die.  (By now you are rolling in the floor laughing!)

Here’s another one to make you chuckle and honor our differences.  This one is called:  Would You Remarry?

“Dear,” asked a wife. “What would you do if I died?”   “Why dear, I would be extremely upset,” said the husband. “Why do you ask such a question?”  “Would you remarry?” persevered the wife.  “No, of course not, dear” said the husband.

“Don’t you like being married?” asked the wife”  “Of course I do, dear” he said.  “Then why wouldn’t you remarry?”  “All right,” said the husband, “I’d remarry.”  “You would?” said the wife, looking vaguely hurt.  “Yes,” said the husband.

“Would you sleep with her in our bed?” asked the wife.  After a long pause. “Well, yes, I suppose I would,” replied the husband.  “I see,” said the wife indignantly. “And would you let her wear my old clothes?”  “I suppose, if she wanted to,” said the husband.

“Really,” said the wife icily. “And would you take down the pictures of me and replace them with pictures of her?  “”Yes. I think that would be the correct thing to do.”

“Is that so?” said the wife, leaping to her feet. “And I suppose you’d let her play with my golf clubs, too!   “Of course not, dear,” said the husband. “She’s left-handed.”

I got my clubs before the stroke when I was predominately right-handed.  A bell definitely would not have helped me.

The third story is probably my favorite!   A woman is accused of attacking her husband with several of his guitars.  (He had an extensive guitar collection.)  The Judge asked “First Offender?”  She replied, “No first a Gibson; second a Fender!”

There is a show on the Hallmark Network called The Good Witch.  Recently the mayor of the town had to give a speech about a bridge in town.  The mayor was a woman and her husband had been the mayor ten years ago and he had given a very memorable speech dedicating the bridge.  She was trying to outdo him!  He told her his inspiration, he always thought that that bridges were a good way to get away from something, but now he realized that bridges were a good way to come home to something!

Bottom line:  We all need love, friends, family, community and hobbies (having a bell helps when we have a new address)!  I love you!

 

“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. Where there’s life, there’s hope.” Stephen Hawking

I was touched by the death of Stephen Hawking for many reasons. He died a couple of months ago and if you don’t know who he is, you may want to look him up. He was simply a genius. Hawking’s condition was first diagnosed when he was 21, and he was not expected to see his 25th birthday. He died in March at age 76. His diagnosis was ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease), he was in a wheel chair, was paralyzed, didn’t speak — not in the traditional sense and yet managed to show us all things while writing several books. It was not his death that was very profound (we all die) but rather what he accomplished in his life. His was not a stroke but I am taken by the inspiration that comes from the power of the mind!

Lately there has been quite a bit of information coming out about women and strokes. This is a subject near and dear to my heart. Most of this is from an article in Stroke Smart Magazine published by the National Stroke Association.

Stroke affects 55,000 more women than men each year in the U.S. It is a leading cause of disability and the third leading cause of death in women according to researchers who study this. Stroke affects more women than men in the United States and a new study pinpoints stroke risk factors unique to females.

Dr. Kathryn Rexrode, who is with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and has done an extensive study and as the study’s corresponding author says “Many people don’t realize that women suffer stroke more frequently than men, and mortality is much higher among women.” She also says “As women age, they are much more likely to have a stroke as a first manifestation of cardiovascular disease rather than heart attack.” The study attempts to better understand susceptibility.

“Why do more women have strokes than men? What factors are contributing and disproportionately increasing women’s risk?” Rexrode said in a hospital news release. Her team analyzed the scientific literature and identified several factors that increase stroke risk in women.

These include:

• Menstruation before age 10

• Menopause before age 45

• Low levels of the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS)

• Use of birth control pills.

A history of pregnancy complications can also indicate higher stroke risk. These problems include gestational diabetes and high blood pressure during or immediately after pregnancy, the researchers said. Some of these risk factors are common and the researchers stressed that few women who have one or more will suffer a stroke. However, they said it’s important for health care providers to be aware of any heightened risk. “These women should be monitored carefully and they should be aware that they are at higher risk, and motivated to adhere to the healthiest lifestyle behaviors to decrease the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) and subsequent stroke,” Rexrode said.

By contrast, there is a study that shows that the overall rate of strokes is declining in the United States, but appears to be going down mostly in men. At any rate, we should all know FAST (Face, Arms, Speech and Time) for stroke awareness! Ten years ago I did my first e-mail (May 2008) which turned into the wordpress blog. They are all in the site. The reason I share this is because even though things change, we can continue to have an impact — life goes on (there is always something you can do).

“But we’ve always done it this way!” Grace Hopper

I’m attributing this quote to Rear Admiral Grace Hopper. She was a U.S. Naval officer and an early computer programmer. She was the developer of the first compiler for a computer programming language; at the end of her service she was the oldest serving officer in the United States Navy. I’m sure as you read that quote you immediately think of someone who has said that (or maybe you have said it). Now maybe you’ve had a job or role where you were required to think differently about things, as I have had to do. In 1987 Philip Sanchez wrote an article about her in the OCLC Newsletter called The Wit and Wisdom of Grace Hopper and this was one of the quotes.

I’m going to tell a story that shows that maybe it’s time to think differently and question the “why”. A new bride is making her first big dinner for her husband and tries her hand at her mother’s brisket recipe and cuts off the ends of the roast the way her mother always did. The husband thinks it is very delicious, but says “why do you cut off the ends — that’s the best part”. She answers, “that’s the way my mother always made it.” The next week, they go to her grandmother’s house, and the grandmother prepares the famous family brisket recipe. The young woman notices that the grandmother cuts off the ends before she bakes it. Now questioning why that’s a part of the recipe, the young woman asks her grandmother why she cuts off the ends before baking it. The grandmother then says “it was the only way the brisket would fit in the pan!”

I’ve heard about a culture which acknowledges that we all have issues or problems. They encourage people to talk about those problems. The third time people come to talk about those problems, they must offer a solution. Most people can be divided into one of two groups: those who like problems and those who like solutions. This is my soapbox — just undoing what was previously done is not really a solution! Some times we need to rock the boat to propose a solution.

A great example of this idea is how we define victims and survivors. Yes, it is just a word, but it’s a mindset of how we see ourself! I use the word stroke survivor very intentionally. A big part of life is finding new ways to do things. I avoid the word victim because I see it as a mindset for people who see themselves as victims compared to people who see themselves as survivors. Yes, the stroke happened but there are plenty of things upon which to focus.

As we get ready for May as Stroke Month, I would guess many are hearing about brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. The brain is not made of plastic but rather this refers to the brain’s ability to change throughout life. Strokes are called brain attacks. The human brain has the amazing ability to reorganize itself by forming new connections between brain cells. How cool is that?

It was Steve Jobs who said “Things don’t have to change the world to be important.” That quote has left a huge impression on me. Things can be subtle! I realize that ‘subtle’ is relative or dependent on the situation. What may be subtle to you, may be huge to me or someone else. How often have you done something that you describe as no big deal, but has given somebody something huge? So you may be thinking, it’s just a word or buy a bigger pan but it is about rocking the boat, stirring things up or generally doing something differently! (If the brain can do it, so can I.) In the mid-70’s a song came out called Rock the boat but it also noted … ‘don’t tip the boat over!’

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