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 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”.


A BURNING ALZHEIMER’S QUESTION: CORNELIA, DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD TIME FOR MY BATH?

my friend, if you’re reading this, it’s

Cornelia

writing about our fun times together

when you were a patent in the hospital

do you remember how we talked and laughed?

do you remember telling me about your boys and their personalities

and how sweet their wives and your grandchildren are?

do you remember talking about men and women

and saying

“honey chile, that’s just how men are”?

do you remember telling me about the cake that your mother said was

“a sufficient cake”?

I remember all those times, even if you don’t…

because that bad Alzheimer’s had to go and upset your brain’s wiring

Cornelia will always be the friend you thought she was…

a little thing like being called by a different name didn’t really matter

as long as we were having a good time together

*****

The patient, Mrs. X, was the quintessential old-fashioned Southern lady. She was soft-voiced, humble, comfortable and gracious around presidents and their subordinates and captains of industry—and yes, she truly was around them—as well as those without a penny to their name. Though I could tell by our conversations she was an excellent cook, Mrs X would just laugh that sweet laugh and say “oh, it’s just plain old cooking like I grew up with”, but such is the self-deprecation of one who knows that there is no need to “put on airs”. She had the elusive talent of being both self-assured and modest, a personality combination we would do well to emulate.

To the patient, I was “Cornelia”. At the beginning of her hospital stay, Mrs. X called me by my Christian name; I might have had to remind the patient of my name every morning, but that was no problem. One day, however, I walked in and was dubbed “Cornelia” by the patient, and from that moment on, Mrs. X and “Cornelia” shared many confidences. One of the most poignant moments I experienced with Mrs. X was when Mrs. X was unsure about whether it was a good idea to have the CNA give her her bath before therapy. I saw the hesitation and confusion on the patient’s face, the CNA was standing there with soaps and towels and basins, and then Mrs. X’s voice dropped a little and she whispered “Cornelia, what do you think? Do you think this is a good time for my bath?” So “Cornelia” said “well, yes, I think it would be a fine time.”

What went through my mind during this interchange? How unsure, yet trusting, Mrs. X was? How hard it is to witness a human’s decline, whether it be mental or physical? How easily those without strong minds and strong bodies could be taken advantage of in all sorts of ways by those with evil intentions? Of course—all these thoughts and more.

I know that we can’t solve all the world’s problems, but allowing this patient to exist in these in-the-moment safe bubbles of idly talking and laughing and reminiscing with the one she thought was her childhood friend “Cornelia” seemed to be the answer to the problem of “how to give an Alzheimer’s patient a little respect and joy on just an ordinary day”.


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.


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!!