Thursday, June 29, 2017

Holding Space

Every morning, I feel the pulse of the day as I slide into the driver's seat of my car and turn my thoughts to the patients I'm about to see. I look through my sunglasses at the streets before me, paying attention to stoplights and signs, but already preparing for what lies ahead. I take a deep breath, silently accepting the tasks at hand as I turn up the dial on my radio, letting the country music fill my car and get my soul ready.

The sun shines, the trees sway in the breeze, the sounds of the passing cars break my reverie at times, but I am focused on the here and now. I glance at the small note cards I have shoved into the upper portion of my inside windshield. One says: "The place you are in needs you today." Another reads: "Follow what you love and it will take you where you want to go." The last one proclaims: "It is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."

These are the things I believe. These are the things that fuel me and energize me.

In between those note cards are the funeral memorial cards of some of the amazing patients I've known and loved. The stack grows monthly, but I keep it in my car, shoved into the dashboard so my eye can catch it regularly as I drive around Northampton, Lehigh, and Berks counties in the "office" that is my car. I remember them. Every time I add a new card to the pile, I leaf through them all, smiling a separate smile for each name, remembering the faces, the families, the jokes, the tears, and the homes. Most of all, I remember the lessons. 

[a cemetery I pass regularly in my travels near Topton]
Every day, I'm learning. Every day, I'm humbled to be part of these stories. If confidentiality was not an issue, I'd have a blog for all the beautiful and fascinating stories I've experienced and seen along the way. My heart is full.

There are times the scenery around me pulls me in and I pull over to ponder the situations into which I have been thrown. I let the last place go and prepare to face a new one. I hold space for the difficult circumstances I've witnessed and breathe out the pain I've seen and felt. I process. I problem-solve. I worry. I wait. I let scenarios play out inside my head. I thank God. I laugh. I let my eyes tear up. I sing along to the radio. I look up at the sky. I let go. And I hold on.

What a day this is! Every day. How tiring this is! Every day. How amazing this is! Every day. 

The 90 year old woman who tells me I'm her best friend. The man who wants to see every last wedding picture I can show him. The woman who shared with me some of the most horrific past experiences I've ever heard. The family who welcomes me in their door like I'm one of their own, joking that they will adopt me. The woman who tells me, "This might sound odd, but it's been fun" when she tells me good bye. The man who kisses my hand in a gesture of sweetness. The tough nuts to crack. The stubborn. The complex. The vivacious. The funny.

Funerals are part of the tapestry of my life. I attend. I show up to hold space for the stories I know and the people I met. I wrap families in hugs at the viewings and calling hours. I remember. Sometimes, just for myself, I write my own obituaries for people I especially connect with, because I hate the generic form of most obituary notices. I talk about the things I learned from them, I mention the human aspects of their life, and I talk about who they really are - not just a list of where they went to school and where they worked. And then I move along, back in my car to travel to enter the homes of those who allow me to share precious time with them. 

I see art. I see family pictures. I see gardens. I see farms. I see workshops. Grandchildren. Dogs. Cats. Grand mansions. Run down homes. Books. Love. Anger. Pain. Joy. I see so much. I hold it all. It's beautiful and mystifying and special. It's all in a day's work. It's all in a day. It's all. It's everything.

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