It’s Thanksgiving here in Canada and we went to my sister’s for dinner last night. It was a lot of fun. But sad too. First, we found out that my (step) sister’s brother-in-law and his girlfriend are having a baby in the spring. Though it won’t be a new family member for me it will be a new family member for my sister and that in itself is exciting. But it was also sad because of course the talk turned to sad things like North Korea and mass shootings and how far we as humans have gone past the tipping point, the point of no return. But. We were all surrounded by people we love. My (step) sister’s mom calls me her other daughter. My brother-in-law’s mom is so good to me and always gives me the biggest hug when she sees me. I am so glad to have them.

Last night I stayed up too late and today I am tired. When I got home from work I noticed how long the lawn is and decided to mow it. Mowing a lawn in October? That’s never happened before. But the nice weather continues and it feels like the longest summer ever. I’m not kidding. It’s cool out but it’s beautiful. Is it politically correct to call it an Indian summer?

Here is something new and funny. You all know that Norbert is an inside cat because he lacks the life skills to be an outside cat. Fluttering leaves terrify him. When he does escape and ventures outside he hides. But, being a cat he does like being outside so my husband put a gate up on our sundeck so he can go out there and watch birds. But now Norbert has chosen to live under the barbecue. It has a large cover that is too big so it hangs on the deck and now Norbert goes underneath it and sits on the little shelf. We are not sure why he now wants to live under the barbecue but he sits at the sliding door and cries and carries on until we let him out. And he goes right underneath and stays there until we flush him out and make him go inside. A few minutes ago I pulled the barbecue out because we want to use it and now Norbert is in a rage.

Today one of my favourite client’s went into palliative care. I feel sad for her husband. They have both been in denial and keep talking about when she gets stronger. I’ve seen it enough to know she will never get stronger again. Getting stronger again can happen to a person who is dying. They have ups and downs but, of course, go into a downward spiral as the body prepares to die. I am hoping her pain and nausea will get under control while in palliative care and she will be able to come home again for a time but she is so unwell. I call this time, “getting ready to die for real”. Because it’s a process. When someone is getting to die for real they are very ill, very tired and in pain. The body starts to shut down. The person becomes weak. They lose their appetite and no longer want to eat even their favourite foods. Pain is managed by the strongest drugs. Comfort measures are priority. At this time family often becomes very concerned about dehydration but it is actually a healthy part of dying. Forcing fluids at this time can prolong a painful  process. Why am I writing about this? I don’t know.

So that’s it from my world for today. Happy Thanksgiving!

31 thoughts on “Thanksgiving

  1. I’m glad you wrote about that- despite all of our instincts, it is most compassionate to listen to our loved ones who are in the process of dying and let them make the choices about eating and drinking.
    Oh, Norbert! You are one ungrateful bastard! And you are loved.

    • It’s true, Mary. Feeding the ones we love is so primal and we think that feeding a person who is dying is an act of love. Even intravenous fluids are no longer given. It causes unnecessary complications. And, that cat is loved! I just told him so when I went to find him so he could lounge in front of the fireplace. But he ran away when I put him down. Typical.

  2. I remember that period when my father couldn’t/wouldn’t eat… right at the end. It takes a special person to do what you do, Birdie.

    Norbert I a very funny guy. What a silly boy.

  3. They dying process is a very difficult one for families. Most people feel the need to do something, to help somehow. When my father was dying I felt so helpless. That was quite a struggle. I’ve learned more since I took a 6 week course when I was volunteering for hospice. That really helped me to understand the process better.

    Happy Thanksgiving! Norbert makes me smile. He is just adorable.

  4. Happy Thanksgiving!!
    I know cats enough to tell you that Norbert as all cats, like(s) the solitude of his hiding place under the grill. Cats are strange little introverts.

  5. I know what you mean about the joy being dampened because of war talk. On my trip with my son to one of my husband’s ship reunions, we toured a war museum. I had been there a long time ago. There was a WWI room, a WWII room, a Korean War room, a Vietnam war room and next a Desert Storm room that had not been there when I visited before. These rooms have walls that list all the names of men and women killed in the wars. I could not help but wonder what rooms will be added next.

    Norbert needs to come visit me and all my barn cats. They can show him how to live outside and all the delicacies that are available for prowlers.

  6. Happy thanksgiving Birdie! I’m glad you wrote about palliative care, my good friend has just entered the hospice stage of her journey. You write with such compassion and practicality, thank you.

  7. Happy Thanksgiving Birdie! I looked at the lawn yesterday and although it looks rather ragged and unruly I haven’t bothered to mow it. We’ve also been experiencing this amazing warm second summer (so funny, with the state of the world I caught myself short while calling it an ‘indian summer’ as I described the phenomenon to Colt. Particularly as he has many Native Indians in his class who belong to a nearby tribe who still practice and revere their ancestral ways).

    Although I am not going to complain about extra beautiful days for one moment, it strikes me amazing that the weather has changed so much. When I was a kid, it was not uncommon to see snow in October and September was almost always cool enough to wear Jeans and sweaters to school. Yesterday it was so warm I wore capri pants and a tank top when we went out to hunt for photos.

    Sorry to hear your family chit-chat turned to the dark things. I suppose it’s natural for people to do when they gather… least it helps us all to feel thankful for what we have in the moment, even if it is just no raging forest fire, no hurricane demolished home and no bombs being dropped on us unexpectedly in the night. (I know that doesn’t even scratch the surface, but it’s enough for me, for today).

    Much love to you and yours.

  8. I didn’t know that about dehydration. I am sure I cajoled my mom and my aunt to take in more fluids when they were close to the end. I appreciate your sharing these aspects of your work. As for the sadness, it’s important for us to stay as focused as we can on the good. I think when we do that, we help rebalance these wildly tipping scales. Love.

  9. People have a false idea of dying due to the dramatic scenes we see in movies and tv shows. I learned the reality of it when my own mother’s life was winding down. A palliative care doctor took our whole family aside in a room and explained the process to us. I do think the idea of no food or water was difficult for some of our family members. Dying, unfortunately, is not always a quick process, but I know the hospital did what they could to make her comfortable while still allowing the process to happen. I’m glad there are people like you to help comfort people while they are still in their own homes. -Jenn (Happy Thanksgiving – hope the rest of your weekend was kind to you).

  10. Dying ain’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure…unfortunately we all have to go through it and watch others go through it and it’s a struggle for everyone. I tend to think modern people don’t understand the dying process because everything has become so medicalized. A few days ago an online friend, still young at 58, dropped dead instantly from sudden heart failure. As I mourn her I can only think it somewhat lucky she had a quick death, because as a nurse I know how bad a slow death can be. Many hugs, Birdie…it’s a hard job.

    • I’m glad you commented. We had a conversation about trekking poles a long time ago and I finally got a pair. I LOVE them. I won’t hike without them now. It took me forever but I never would have got them without your input. So, thank you!

      • I made an entire blog post about my love for hiking poles 3 years ago…I actually thought of our conversations regarding that when I saw your recent post about using poles. I’m stoked they worked out for you!

        Sadly I’m not able to hike at all anymore….however using poles got me an additional three years of hiking before my body totally hit the skids. Now I get to sit in my chair for the next 50 years and live vicariously through other hikers. But hey, one takes what one can get in this life.

      • Thanks Birdie, it was indeed my greatest passion. The logical side of me knows I must get used to losing my function because I have a progressive disease, but it’s still a kick in the gut. At least I can still shower and feed myself…and oh yeah, I can still wipe my own ass, which is always a huge victory in this life. That puts it all in perspective, no? 😉 😀

      • Well, society always tells us to be grateful but sometimes it’s okay just to be angry and sad as well. There are so many people out there that can be active but do nothing and it’s a kick in the teeth when you want to and can’t. I think it’s okay to not feel grateful for what you have. You have lost a lot.

  11. Happy Belated Thanksgiving, Birdie! Norbert probably likes it under the BBQ because it smells like meat? Just a theory!

  12. This last part makes me cry, bringing back memories of being with Mom in her dying days. It is an impossibly helpless and painful process to witness. There is the reward of feeling deeper love and caring come to the surface, and I have a compassion now for others going through it with loved ones. But oh how it still hurts 12 years later. -Kate

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