THE JOYS OF GIVING AWAY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES

what do you do if you’re a 95 year-old man

living with your daughter?

why, you cook her supper two nights a week!!

***

so, when you’re in the hospital for therapy

and you’re wanting to do something fun

making peanut butter cookies sounds like

your kind of therapy

***

Mr. 95-Year-Old had a busy afternoon

mixing and shaping and baking

the perfectly perfect pretty peanutty pleasures

but his real pleasure came when we decided to wheelchair ride

up and down

over and through

all over the hospital

plate of cookies in his lap

offering to one and all employees

“would you like a cookie? they’re just out of the oven”

***

when all the cookies were gone, he said

this has been the best day

it has been so much fun

do you think we missed anybody?

I want to make sure we didn’t leave anybody out

***

the wistful glimmer in those faded eyes

as he worried over not leaving anyone out

stays in my memory still

***

it is more blessed to give than to receive

*****

It’s been some years now since I cared for this patient, but I remember how agog I was when he told me he cooked a full supper for his daughter two nights a week. When I questioned him as to the menu, he reeled off “meatloaf, mashed potatoes, butterbeans, cornbread” and such as that. And usually a dessert!!

As I sat there on that first visit in his room and chit-chatted with this most pleasant man, I reflected on the blessings I received out of getting to know my patients. You stare at them and listen to them and you realize that perhaps you are looking at your own self some fifty years in the future. There is nothing like healthcare to make one realize the brevity, beauty, and sadness in life. All that’s wonderful and horrible in life is right there in front of you.

The postscript to this little story is this. Within just a week, the patient’s body systems started failing, and he died. The peanut butter cookie day was one of his last good days, and I’m thankful that he got so much pleasure out of something that we younger and healthier people might take for granted…baking cookies and sharing them with others.

And let’s don’t take our youth and health for granted, either.

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THE LAST DINNER TABLE

her husband had a feeding tube the last ten years of his life

cancer of the larynx took away from him the ability to speak or eat

and tube feeding kept him going

***

the patient said she looked back on the years before cancer came

and remembered how

she was always busy being a wife and a mother

a farmer husband and five children kept her busy in the kitchen

and they always enjoyed their fellowship around the table

***

the day came when she set a full dinner table as she always had done

an abundance of riches

fried chicken and mashed potatoes

butterbeans and squash

sliced tomatoes and spring onions

bread-and-butter pickles

cornbread and sweet tea

chocolate cake and pecan pie

***

her husband walked into the kitchen and saw the spread

he knew he could not enjoy

and mouthed these words:

I could eat every bite of this

***

the patient said

her heart broke

and

that was the last time she laid out food as a spread

*****

How to say this without sounding tactless? This patient appeared to be just an ordinary elderly woman…small-boned, grizzled short hair, no makeup, plain of dress, quiet of demeanor. You’d see her sort pushing the buggy in the grocery store and then getting into a serviceable, old four-door car.

So what was special about this woman? Well, you’d just have to get to know her, but it didn’t take long being around her to become enamored with her spirit.

She was not particularly “depressed” at being in the hospital…she just accepted it as a part of life that the human body will fail us at times.

She had a dry wit about her that peeked out, once you got to know her. She didn’t let being in her early nineties take away her love of seeing a little humor in everyday life situations.

She had a love for her family, and they for her. Her children and in-laws were faithful “spend-the-nighters” in the hospital room and stayed during the long days also.

She had lived a plain, hard-working life as a farmer’s wife and mother of five children. What others might see as drudgery, she saw as blessings. Read Proverbs 31:10-31.

She had a delicacy of spirit and concern for others that we would all do well to emulate. Imagine all the joy she had for all those years preparing those delicious meals with vegetables from her own garden, laying it all out in all its abundance for her family to enjoy, and then realizing the sadness it caused her husband…that he could not eat it. And just like that, she quit doing what had been such a part of family life for so many years…the pleasure of seeing a beautiful home-cooked meal all laid out in all its glory.

It’s been over five years since the patient left the hospital, and I’ve wondered about her often.

My wonders were answered several months ago. Her obituary expressed the characteristics mentioned above and also stated something I didn’t know…that she had spent the last two years of her life in a nursing home where, the obituary declared, “she made many friends”. What an example of a pleasant attitude and good life until the very end at almost 100 years of age!!

This “ordinary elderly woman” was, in fact, extraordinary. She blessed us, and we loved her.

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Matthew 25:21


THE OLD DAYS, OR “THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS”

some of the greatest blessings in life

are the unexpected blessings… 

they are a gift in the midst of everyday life

and, as we look at our life, especially when we are

gifted

with the advancing of years and aging

…aging just gives us more opportunities for experiences…

we can see blessed experiences have piled up and are there

if we but recognize them and cherish them as they unfold

***

a quote we often hear is

“there are no accidents”

and here is a story about a no-accident that is a true blessing

***

the patient…an older black man

the therapy worker…a younger white woman

the patient seemed to know who the therapist was…

but the therapist had never heard of the patient

***

the patient started to question the therapist and said…

I know who you are…

your doctor granddaddy set my arm way back in the 1930s

when I was a little boy

and fell off climbing over that fence

and broke my arm

***

he was a fine man, a good man

and my sisters and I remember your great-aunts

and their cats and dogs and chickens

and their horse and buggy

and their pistol

and their palm-reading

and how we all lived out there on your farm…

all of us, my granddaddy and my uncle too

and we walked that dirt road

and fished in that pond

and played in those woods

and gathered eggs underneath your aunts’ house

***

the patient said…

I can sit in this room in the hospital

and look out the window at the woods

and remember the old days

of running through those woods

playing and running and being so happy and alive

***

as the therapist did not have the privilege of knowing

her grandfather and great-aunts

…they died before she was born…

she was

so thankful

for the opportunity to hear these stories

and meet the man who was her connection to her past

and the man was thankful to meet the woman

who had the family “blood” in her

and had her grandfather’s voice

and her grandfather’s walk

***

with tears in his eyes, the patient told me…

it’s just so good to talk to somebody about the old days

he remembers his childhood as a blessed happy time

what wonderful memories he has

and how wonderful that he came into my life

completely unexpectedly

***“there are no accidents”***

thank you, Mr. Johnny


from Doc-eeee

*****

I live outside the city limits of a small town of less than 6,000. One would think that somewhere along the way the patient, Mr. Johnny, and I would have met up, more than likely in the grocery store…which is usually the best place in town for having a friendly chat. Truth is, I had never laid eyes on him, so his searching looks at me and questions to me of “do you know who I am? I bet you don’t know me” discomfited me slightly, yet he seemed harmless enough.

Once the floodgates opened and Mr. Johnny started pouring out memories, however, I saw the past come alive. I had heard endless stories of my wild, loving grandfather and eccentric great-aunts from my mother, but there was something about hearing a stranger’s remembrances of living on the farm and the love he had for my grandfather that gave me a whole different perspective on how a non-family member viewed my family and this safe time in his life.

Mr. Johnny might take umbrage at being termed “a non-family member”, and you know what? He would be right. I felt as close to him and as comfortable talking with him as I would my blood kin.

And you know what else? Saying Mr. Johnny “had tears in his eyes” is not quite right either.

Mr. Johnny actually was speechless with dry sobs and emotions almost every time we talked. Such is the aching,  stirring beauty of shared memories of “the old days”.


DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT DEPRESSION

this patient was strong in her faith

comfortable in her skin

and loved to read…

a perfect combination

***

she grew up rural

with a mama, a daddy

and

five girl children and four boy children

this upbringing made her the person she is today

***

picking cotton and shaking peanuts

gathering eggs and milking the cow

toting water and sweeping the dirt yard

had a way of strengthening a person

in both body and soul

***

nowadays we talk about having

“good self-esteem”

or how to get it if we don’t

but back when this patient was young

you didn’t have to fret over your self-esteem…

you were too busy getting through the day

helping your mama and daddy

and

self-esteem grabbed a hold of you naturally

***

when it would be coming up on Christmas

this patient and her siblings would walk home from school

couldn’t hardly wait to get a look at what

their mama

had cooked and put in the pie safe…

chocolate cakes, caramel cakes, coconut cakes

it was so pretty

***

now what did this little girl wear to school?

well, according to her

her mama bought a 25 pound bag of flour every two weeks

lots of biscuit-making and flapjack-making going on

and when the flour sacks were especially pretty

with flowers blooming on them

her mama would cut them up and make dresses and underwear out of them

I’d be so happy when I got a new dress

***

her daddy took care of the shoes for the little girl

when she had walked so much a hole wore through the bottom of the shoe

Daddy had a little machine and would cut a little piece of leather

and use the machine to patch it onto the shoe…

we couldn’t afford new shoes

***

if you had all this and more in your background in your growing-up years

don’t you think you’d be strong in your faith and comfortable in your skin?

as the patient said…

I thank God I know where I came from

***

and what about the word

DEPRESSION

in the title of this story?

***

the patient said…

you can be depressed if you want to

but not me…I grew up hard

I have faith in the Lord and trust HIM

*****

My opinion on this?

I think that growing up poor with loving parents on a farm taught her how to have faith and joy and peace and working hard can generally improve even the worst depression.

I think that there are valid reasons for taking prescription anti-depressants.

I think that a combination of anti-depressants and physical activity can work wonders on a depressive state.

I think that a loving family and friends are integral to bolstering the depressive personality.

I think that faith, if you’re a believer, is paramount.

I know that my mama said whenever she felt down, she’d go out in the yard and pull weeds or get a mop and mop the kitchen.

Lord, help those who are depressed, and help them find peace through some combination of the above.


HEART AND SOUL PIMENTO CHEESE…OFFICIALLY DUBBED THE BEST SNACK FOOD IN GEORGIA

Lawzy lawzy!! How many patients of Mrs. Hate sprang back to life after eating one of her pimento cheese sandwiches!! Sometimes hospital food just wasn’t what the patient wanted or needed…wanted in that people GENERALLY get tired of eating the same thing over and over, and needed in that pimento cheese is just flat-out comfort food, and folks need comforting when they’re feeling down.

I was so fortunate to work in a hospital setting where, as I would tell folks, “if it’s okay with the doctor and nurses and okay with the patient’s family and okay with the patient” then pimento cheese (or other home-cooked foods) is coming.

Then I would further assure the patient and all concerned that I tied a big linen dish towel, like a do-rag, over my wild tresses so that the food being prepared would be “hair-free”. That’s almost as important as having clean hands.

Is this TMI (too much information)?? “I’m sorry”, but my hair sheds at the drop of a hat, and there’s nothing more unappetizing than someone else’s hair in your food.

Mrs. Hate and her washed-clean hands and do-ragged hair now present the recipe for pimento cheese. And it can be eaten plain with soda crackers, stuffed into celery, or made into sandwiches; let your imagination be the limit.

  • sharp cheddar cheese
  • medium cheddar cheese
  • diced pimentos, drained
  • mayonnaise (Duke’s)
  • cayenne pepper


Grate the cheese (a food processor works great for this)…use one and that’s half the battle of making pimento cheese. 

Mix together the cheese, pimentos, mayonnaise, and dashes of cayenne pepper to taste.

If making sandwiches, it’s hard to beat white bread for pimento cheese. Sunbeam is the classic in Mrs. Hate’s mind and what she ate all growing up.

And ONCE AGAIN all the proportions are to the cook’s taste!! If you mix it up with love and pretend like you are making it for hospital patients who are just miserable and restless and depressed and bored and hurting and worried and all the other feelings that are normal when one is in the hospital, the pimento cheese will be JUST RIGHT. You will have given of your heart and soul when making it, and therefore it will turn out perfect.

 

 

HATE POINT:  storebought pimento cheese in the little round flat plastic containers where the mixture is smushed into a paste

 

LOVE POINT:  food processors when useful

 


HOW AN 84 YEAR-OLD AUSSIE CHICK HAD A HECK OF A GOOD TIME BEING A HOSPITAL PATIENT

if she were still alive, would she like being called

Aussie chick?

I’m guessing she would…

young-at-heart doesn’t even begin to describe her

***

she was another one of those repeat patients

maybe even a three-peat

frail in body, wild in spirit

that accent so rich and so exotic

to those of us with the country drawl

***

some moments with patients are almost

crystallized in time

her crystal moment was the time we both realized

that we knew some of the same people from her hometown

up the road

***

her wild spirit sensed it might be an interesting conversation

she drew those bony knees up to her bony chest and said

“oh goody, let’s talk!!”

***

we were both sitting on her bed facing each other

and as I looked into those pale little snapping blue eyes

and watched that mouth with its limited number of teeth

curl excitedly into a grin at the prospect of what she termed

“girl talk”

I told her

“it’s just like a slumber party when you’re a teenager!!”

***

we forgot the thirty-year age difference

we forgot the hospital room…

we remembered how it was to pass the time

without a care in the world

just talking

*****

This patient was WILD, and I say that in the most complimentary of ways. Slightly “dramatic” with her aches and pains (the daughter would sit in a chair and just smile and shake her head), but that was okay, because it was just part and parcel of her fun, intense, I’m-riding-this-galloping-horse-of-a-life-all-the-way-to-the-decrepit-end essence.

Drama also came when she talked about her family. I’d hear the this and the that, the good and the bad parts of her life, the patient would tear up and look all wistful and forlorn, but then…I’d see that snaggly grin and those inquisitive sparkly eyes and I’d wonder…is she enjoying my wonderment at her exploits?? Short answer…YES.

And a little gossip?? Lord yes!! “Girl talk” would be a euphemism for some good-old chatty small-town gossip. Nothing too spiteful or hateful on her part…and hey, I’m just sitting there letting her run on…but I’m thinking it took away the dreariness of being 84 and practically bedridden, so “judge not” on her propensity to swing the sword of alcoholism, affairs, cheating at Bridge, and all other things that make life so convoluted.

Bless you, my dead friend. You might enjoy knowing you’re in the spotlight today. xoxoxo


THAT’S BETWEEN YOU AND THE LORD…HOW TO COME ALIVE TWO WEEKS BEFORE YOU DIE

if you’re reading this page, maybe you’re a Believer, maybe you’re not

as we say in the South…

that’s between you and the Lord

***

there was a patient one time, however, who was a Believer

but was “worried about some things”, as she put it

***

this woman was only 52 years old, but she knew her health condition was such

that she was probably on borrowed time

we got to talking and I saw the sadness and distress on her face

and the uneasiness in her demeanor

so I volunteered to call in a preacher to settle her spiritual mind

and she accepted the offer so, so gratefully

grasping at the straw

clinging ’til the morrow

when this fine, calm, and caring man of God would come

***

the preacher came the next day and spent some time alone with the patient

the patient’s face was wet with happy tears

and her countenance was glowing

when I came back in

***

I walked into the patient’s room the next morning and this is what I see

a changed woman, at peace

and this is what I hear

“I could hardly sleep last night, I was so excited about

who I was going to see today

and what the day would bring

I feel like I have a new life

thank you for bringing the preacher to me”

***

the patient was discharged a few weeks later

two weeks after that, I read her obituary in the paper

***

thank you to all of those who come to visit our patients in their time of need

sometimes a visit is life-changing

***

in memory and honor of a black-haired patient and Reverend Milton Gardner

*****

How shamed I was of any ill attitudes and unpleasant behavior I might have exhibited at ANY time in my life, after hearing this ill and dying woman tell me that she couldn’t sleep the night after the preacher came because she was so excited to think about what the new day would bring and who she was going to see.

What purity! What grace! What joy! What a testimony! Bless you, my patient-that-became-my-friend, in your heavenly home lo these past seven years.

I told the preacher how much I appreciated his eagerness and desire to come visit this stranger in the hospital and how her spiritual life was renewed by his visit and prayers. I also told him this…”if I never have another patient whose life is changed for the better through a salvation experience or a renewal of their faith, having helped JUST THIS ONE will be worth all my efforts.”

Thankfully, there ended up being more than “just one” patient who had a spiritual experience. This patient was the first, however, and she made a huge impression on me. After my experiences with her, working in therapy took on a whole new meaning for me…the idea that you could help, support, and encourage patients in other areas of their lives besides just improving their physical health.

We had a good therapy team and were always thankful that we helped our patients however we could, whatever their needs were. What a great five years spent caring for patients!!