We Belong To Each Other

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Friends
As I look into the mirror this morning instead of feeling fear for my brothers and sisters, for my daughters, and nieces, neighbors and friends.

I feel empowered.

Because listen closely …

We– collectively make-up this great America.

We are America.

Only we make the difference in the worlds in which we live daily. And with this in mind I think about all of those who day in and day out surround me in delivering healthcare to does without it, food to those starving, a warm place to sleep in this eternal winter, and those who do small meaningful things daily but go unnoticed.

I think about my missionary friends like Fatima Awad who on a regular basis brings people from all over the world – together- for one common goal– giving hope and a voice to those without it.

I think about the white man who politely opened the door for me and my daughter at the grocery store this week.

I think about the black man who rear-ended me last week, while sliding around in a ice covered avenue, who immediately pulled over, ran to my car, and asked “are you okay? I’m so sorry, I tried to stop but it was too slick”

I think about my good friend Sheala Gault Johnson whose son was just sworn into deputy sheriff and has promised to serve and protect us all.

And I think about the Japanese volunteer, who volunteered to help interpret for our Spanish speaking patient, while he saw the cardiologist in our free medical clinic this Wednesday.

You see my friends we are America. And we have been doing it very well for a long time!

#webelongtoeachother

Tributes

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Lives that demand tribute but go unnoticed… unnoticeable to those accustomed to looking away.

It’s too painful to look human suffering directly in the eye.
To sit with it and the inevitable questions that bang with loudness in your ears, heart, and soul.

I understand.

I’ve looked away plenty in my lifetime.

It’s easier that way. And quite honestly it’s too overwhelming and painful to sit, watch, hold tribute and have “I don’t know” as the only answer to the raging questions coming at you from those whose trust you have earned over what seems like a lifetime of illness but in reality it was only a short amount of months.

I’ve been given a gift.

To some maybe even a terrible thing to call a “gift”
It’s the only way I know how to hold tribute to those lives… angrily I would demand for the entire universe to STOP… STOP! Stop one damn minute and recognize what has just happened.

Someone has died!

3 children have just experience the worst day of their lives, and yet, there is no choir of angels announcing the departure of their father to the world.

The world outside of that hospice bed continues.

People rush to get home and make dinner, panic over the incomplete tasks on the ‘to do’ list…

the new orphan children look up at you –the “healer of all ailments” and without a word their confused eye dart from corner to corner of your own grief stricken face and beg for anything that might take away the cruel reality: our dad has died.

A 38 year-old father of 3 beautiful young kids, 10, 6, and 2 has vanished into oblivion. Just the way he lived the last 3 years of his life. Unnoticed.

But all the while shouting as silently as he could, the story and bravery of his life.

Clearly audible if you happen to be listening. Really listening.
12 days before Christmas.

The night before his death, he shared a few last smiles with me and his wife, then in the silence of that hospice bed he bravely asks “Is this it? Am I dying now?”

Shocked that he asked and fighting the accumulation of fears in my own stomach and heart – I say “I don’t know”

“Are you afraid?”

“No”
He responds as his eyes fill with tears.

I look away.

It’s too painful. Too overwhelming, the questions too hard to answer.

I pretend I have answers but I don’t I only fill the empty silence with my own questions.

I pray.

I listen intently for the answers.

We don’t get special insights into the future with our medical training- only how to “fix” whatever might be wrong.

And when you can’t “fix” or explain a disease we get scared.

I demand tributes.

Hold time still.

Just for a moment.

It’s the only way to survive the agony.

Bare witness I whisper.

I sit next to his hospice bed. Hold with love his unresponsive hand in mine; feel for signs of a beating heart. I feel the strength of his hearts desire to keep pumping- faster, more forcefully, pounding … then like the beat of a lovely melody -it eases.

I think back to all the stories he shared with me. They echo in my ears and soul:
His frustrations of laying flat, unable to move, and sick and tired of telling his 6 year-old son “I’m getting better, soon I can go play outside with you” all the while knowing he will not. Soon will not come.

‘Soon’ will be patiently waiting.

I hold tribute.

Whispers and Shouts

Some 16 years ago I stood in a hospital room interpreting into Spanish the words everyone of us grows-up fearing- “you have cancer”.

It was my first job in health care, I was young and full of wonder for the profession I was just beginning to pursue. I was in my early years of nursing school and working as a unit clerk for a local hospital, the doctor who had invited me to help her share the devastating news with that patient had worked with me a few times before, she took interest in knowing what I was aspiring to achieve and so we became friends.

Perhaps what I remember the most vividly about that night with her and the cancer patient was her ability to transform the most frightening moment of someone’s life into something that words will always come short in describing- pure grace.

She has this capacity to love, understand, and show genuine care and concern. Skills that I had (in my short years of medical experience) noticed many professionals lacked or as I have come to understand now: skills buried deep in the attempt to survive the bureaucracies that often plague our health care systems. Appalling, it seemed to me, after all I was working in a cancer ward.

It was that night and many more like it that led me to my first passion: oncology nursing.

I spent a couple of years being influenced by this oncologist and one year working in her private practice. Those years of my early medical career shaped and impacted my life in ways far beyond what I could comprehend at the time that it was occurring.

When I tell people that nothing in my life has been planned, often I receive looks of confusion- sometimes shock. Not sure which reaction I like best- but it is true;
I have planned nothing.

I have what I have come to understand as an ‘internal heart compass’, always do what feels like the next best thing; follow that internal heart compass.

(Disclaimer: my compass has yet to fail me, but I do lack the ability to know where I’m going when hiking)

And so it was that by following the direction of my internal compass that I found myself working alongside one of the most influential persons in my life.

Dr. Willadsen (probably without knowing it) has influenced my interactions with my patient’s in clinic nearly everyday, and while I am not delivering “bad news” and helping someone through possibly the most dreaded moment of their life; I am relieving and attempting to free patient after patient from the shackles of poverty, fear, and chronic medical conditions.

Sometimes, I complain that my patients spend too much time being “afraid” of the C (cancer) word, when they should be fearing the D (diabetes) word, maybe it’s my opportunity to share the most important Dr. Willadsen lesson: grace!

This is the perfect example of why I love to write- I get hit in the head with significant personal insights- gentle slaps to the face as I’m writing and reflecting.

Last week while going through some donated office equipment, equipment that came from a local medical clinic that had recently closed its doors, the Mission Director told me that all of the cabinets in the new clinic came from that practice.

When I asked him what practice it was, he said it was the oncology practice of Dr. Brady; in that very moment, I understood the significant meaning of that. Dr. Brady bought that medical practice from Dr. Willadsen some 10 years earlier, which meant that all the recycled cabinets in the new free clinic at one point made-up the oncology practice of Dr. Diana Willadsen and Dr. Carl Freter.

Here I am almost 16 years later – about to open the doors to the states largest free medical clinic which is composed of old cabinets that witnessed my early years in medicine.

Everyday spent in the new clinic space calming the fears of patients fearing the debt accumulated by medical care will continue to be gently and gracefully relieved thanks to the hundreds of volunteers who have made it possible; old recycled medical clinic cabinets included.

Sometimes life whispers its lessons into our ears and sometimes it literally has to shake and reset our internal heart compass.

Midnight Raven

The midnight raven
sings into the night
into the darkness of that June night
in the distant horizon-

light
comes flashing by
sing midnight raven
don’t be scared of the night
the light hides
in the midnight sky

ever so gently
its ray will break into the cracks
of that weary song
in the silent spaces
of your song
don’t fear midnight raven
there is always light –
strong enough to warm
the coldest of midnights
keep that eye
centered on the light
midnight raven don’t fear
the darkness of the night

In weeds we walk upon

what is it you find
if you walk among the fog?
weeds you might stumble upon
weeds have beauty hidden in plain sight
don’t close your eyes tight
fearing you might
find
beauty
in the in the weeds
hidden in the fog
winds send the seeds
off into the land
don’t be afraid to grow
tall and strong
share your beauty
with the blind
eventually they will find
in their hearts
what they have always
known of the land
it is covered
in weeds and fog
be still
present in that spot
it is then we
learn to love
the stillness of
the song

Of silent songs and deaf ears

img_1920Of silent songs and deaf ears

broken dreams

endless wish

always searching

never seeking

always knowing

never understanding

many questions

unknown answers

keep singing, forcing the mute song from your lip. See the glow? that is the sunshine beaming, life will rise from the glow, song never ceasing, birds of flight need an open sky, perspectives shifting. Don’t stop dreaming. Daring. And believing. Why does BELIEVING have LIE hidden in plain sight?

Ignore the darkness, threats coming close, keep your eye on the light, keep on singing, force the note from your throat, unpleasant and weary, we all begin not believing, always hoping to transform a song of hope, to the soul of the land we stand before… keep trying weary bird, keep singing and believing, ignore the lie in believing, know you can reach the sky, if you fly with your eye kept up high, understanding, YOU mighty bird will be the one who needs to keep singing.

a

silent

song

to

deaf

ears.

Cataclysm

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Years of calmness.

A silent island

always sitting

patiently embracing whatever the oceans could wash ashore

Shining rocks- a treasure to hold

Or trashes to dispose.

Rafts would come and go, inviting me to board

Always afraid to leave behind the comfort of my home.

The soul silently whispering “come on let’s go”

In the distance a flickering light…

lighting her path to her new home.

Enough! Silent island –it’s time to grow

Let go of your fears and board your boat

if the raft was too small, scary, and too much unknown

your cataclysm of tears has finally washed you home

Shattered Whole 

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Our shattered wholes 
Shattered pieces searching to be whole –again. 

But is it necessary? 

To be whole? 

Probably not. 

For as shattered pieces now it is that we have truly found our purpose and whole.
 To live wholeheartedly requires shattering. 
It requires just deep and painful personal shattering — only then can we begin to discover and understand the capacity of our beings. 
It has been only in the cracks of my deepest misery that I have found pieces of my whole, it has been only in the darkest center of my center that I have found purpose and understanding of emotions I have spent a lifetime hiding.
 It is there at the center- as I have chipped away at the layers of “protection” that I have truly understood me. 
No longer turning the other way. No longer adding another facade -have I been able to see and discover the potential of my being. 
How perfect and capable I am. 
How perfect I am.
I spent a lifetime adding layer upon layer– making me “hardy” “resilient” and “everlasting” only to discover it was incredibly unnecessary.
Here I stand. Rooted to the ground. No longer a hardy evergreen- my roots deep in this “foreign” soil but my center so intact and me. 
So purely intact and me. 
The edges have cracked, entire pieces missing. 

Only then did I see the real me. 

Smiles

What do you see? Black? White? Brown? Mexican? American?

Or simply two beautiful children deserving of a world free of violence, racism, and oppression. Free of fear and free of shame because of their skin color, ancestry, and who their parents were born to be.

Growing up in Yakima I was fortunate to never feel any fear, discrimination, or shame for who I was and the native language I could speak so rapidly and with nearly no inhalation in between sentences … I never felt afraid. Embarrassed. Oppressed.

In fact it’s possible that my very first personal experience with racism happened just a few weeks ago and again this past weekend while on vacation in Long Beach.

Several people proudly flying confederate flags glared, spit, and chased our vehicle. So blatantly they expressed their rage and racism towards those who looked differently than them. To individuals who they feel don’t belong in “their country”.

It makes me sad. Sad for my own children. They, more than anyone deserve a world where they can express and simply be who they are–without fear. Or hate. Or oppression. Without shame.

I don’t know what has happened from the time I myself was a child in a country I didn’t “belong” in …
But what I do know is that we all play a role in making this country a better place for my smiling Mexican/American children.

We are our children’s first and most important teachers. We set the example first and foremost. We breed the hate as easily as we breed the love; with our actions and reactions towards those who are different than we are, our children will learn from their first master examples. They are watching you.

Let us breed love. And happily reap its astonishing effects.

Hate won’t drive out hate. And as difficult as it is to not become defensive and enraged at the individuals who feel the need to spread hate. I too am challenged to love them and show my children how to be graceful in the face of intolerable conditions.

You can ignore my thoughts, my opinion, but don’t ignore the innocent smiles of my children.

Stop the hate. Stop the senseless killing. Start loving. Our children deserve it.

#hatenomoreimg_5326

To my daughter…

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Dreams…

To my dearest Yariza,

Happy 15th Birthday!

Birthdays always make me sentimental– they allow me a time for reflection, reflection to the past and contemplation of the future; dreaming, wishing, hoping.

A time for celebration.

Your birthday is no different! And this birthday is even more special because you have reached an age that has been traditionally celebrated by our culture as a pivotal turning point for a young lady- a point where you are in some magical way suppose to turn into a “young woman”

Here’s a little history lesson:

Because you know your mama is always looking for ways to teach you something…

“Quinceaneras”

Is a term which originated from the Aztec culture back in 500 B.C. (long, long, long ago)

At age 15 boys became warriors and girls were viewed as–mothers of future warriors, this was used as the age in which a girl became a woman– over the decades the Quinceanera has continued to represent the symbolic change of a girl to a woman– Praise God!! You are no longer expected to birth WARRIORS!!

Instead you begin the transition into young adult life, where you will experience hundreds of new and challenging experiences, none of which will include the birthing of a warrior (I hope). Not now anyways.

Instead you have a much harder job– you must learn– to do your chores; wash the dishes, clean the bathrooms, vacuum, etc.,

Ok I’m mostly kidding here…mostly!

~~~

You have a much harder job- you must learn to bring that warrior that is in your heart out into this world. You’re challenged to find and shape this warrior in YOU– to serve a purpose in this life, this becomes very difficult when you have all the superficial noise of the world confusing you and clouding your vision.

There will be days in your challenging life as a warrior, where it will be difficult to figure out what exactly you’re supposed to do as a warrior —

Do not fear—-

For you will always have 2 brave parents, 3 brave sisters, 1 brave brother, a glorious and loving God, and many of those here tonight to help you in your journey.

I can not promise to give you an abundance of material things but what I can promise is that I will always and without fail be here for you every step of the way, I promise to love you UNCONDITIONALLY– at your very best as a shining and victorious warrior, and at your very lowest; a sweaty, tired, and defeated warrior, because this life carries it all — victories and defeats.

Carry on, warrior!

Love,

Mom