Learning to deal with death..

I took a new job last November, at an amazing facility for younger adults with irreversible physical disabilities.  Imagine visiting a traditional nursing home and seeing that one client who is younger, maybe has Multiple Sclerosis or cerebral palsy, who doesn’t really fit in with the more geriatric programs offered.  My facility is 130 of those younger individuals, this is their home, and programs range from music therapy, occupational and physical therapy, and recreational outings to places like adaptive horseback riding to the movies to travel scholarships to places like Walt Disney World and the beach.  My clients are blessed to be spared some of the other group homes I’ve seen, which I still don’t understand how they passed their state inspections.

This is their home.  They live here for years and years.  But they also die here.  While we are outfitted with an amazing chaplain, hospice services, etc., some of my new job responsibilities include the organizing of funeral services, sitting with ill clients and their loved ones, all the nitty gritty.  I’m most proud of our mission that clients are treated with dignity and respect on all levels.

But, dealing with death, the unknown, is hard.  Knowing what to say, what not to say, what faith, if any, is regarded.  Most of the time, I handle things well – I handle death well.  I’m a realist. In many cases, it is a blessing that my clients are not suffering anymore.  But as I grow closer to some of my folks, I know this will be more of a personal and professional challenge for me.  When you take a job here, and you’re ‘in’, you’re in for the long haul.  Their home becomes your ‘home away from home.’  And in many ways, I realize that as a social worker, I am part of many of my clients’ families, too.  It’s a tedious balance, but rewarding beyond measure.

Death isn’t something a lot of people think about on a daily basis.  And as an agnostic, it can be very scary to think about.  Are the stories about people ‘seeing the light’ really true?  Is there an afterlife?  Is there an ‘underlife’, and if so, am I going there?  Growing up Catholic, I used to fear that if I missed Mass one week, and died in a car accident before getting to confession, would I meet Hell criteria? (I think it’s safe to say I had an active imagination and have come a long way.)

10 years ago, I had a very difficult time with a brain tumor, and found at the tender age of 28, I was being asked if I had a living will, an advanced directive, etc.?  Wait, do I WHAT?

And grief!  I could explain the stages, what to expect, etc., but everyone grieves differently and at different paces.  There is no timeline on grief.  And those stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance do not always occur in that order.  And all of that is OK.

I could preach the importance of such things as advanced directives, and will put in one plug here:  if you haven’t thought about it, try.  Through life experience, I’ve seen and learned from others that the last thing I would ever want are my husband and parents to have conflicting opinions regarding what to do with me should I become incapacitated.  Your decision can be made by you in a better frame of mind if you deal with ‘the mystery’ sooner than later.

Signing off as I find my own paperwork to fill out.

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That perfect bite: The Pittsburgh salad…

via Daily Prompt: Fry

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If you follow my blog, you see that I just got married.  You may also have read that I ate lettuce (the un-fun kind of salad, greens and veggies and fat-free dressing) for a month to fit into the darling $70 dress I found last fall.  Behold:  When it’s salad time now, it’s super-fun salad day!  Especially yesterday:

See that fry on that fork?  Right at the very end of the tines…  With that lettuce, grilled chicken, fatty-fat Ranch (must be Ranch) and tomato?  Allow me to introduce to many what I grew up with living in Western PA:  The Pittsburgh Salad.  And what makes it a Pittsburgh Salad?  FRENCH FRIES.  Hot, salty, cheese-melting, yummy french fries.  Now, I have the unfortunate stomach that I can’t have much fried food (which is actually a blessing in disguise, say, I don’t know, when you must speed-diet for a month to rush-fit into your wedding gown).  But – that wedding is over, the dress preserved – yesterday’s cafeteria criss-cut fries were perfectly lightly and deliciously fried.  And onto Pittsburgh’s best kept secret.  French fries on the salad!  It was a good day.

Many people criticize the health component of a salad, why would you ruin this w fries?  Um, I don’t know, why do YOU ruin your salad w fried other things like fried meats, bacon, sesame noodles, fatty salad dressings, etc?  The moral of the Pittsburgh Salad is that we ‘burghers don’t give a shit.  When salad came to Pittsburgh, we just made it as tasty as possible.  Who said it had to be healthy? Sure, you can opt out of the fry game and make your salad as healthy as possible, but, bottom line:  You want ‘the works?’  Well, they’ve got them all there.

And ‘they’ had them yesterday in the staffeteria at work.  And even though only 2 other Southerners understood the ingredients on my plate, that’s fine.  More for me!

Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself.  Or high-tail it to Starwood Restaurant in New Castle PA, where they smother the salad fixings w grilled mushrooms, grilled meat, melty cheese, fries, and dressing of your choice.  Served in a giant wooden bowl.  And bon apetit!

 

Wedding Bells and Pain..

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I haven’t blogged in a long, long time, forgetting as I joyfully type what a good outlet it is for me.  Particularly blogging anonymously – just “putting it all out there to you, online universe whom I do not know.”

So, since my last post, Donald Trump is president.  That’s fun.  I lost a job and got engaged on the same day.  I was on unemployment for awhile.  That was new.  I passed my LCSW!  (Police should escort those who pass this exam home, as I was so happy I have no recollection of driving home after passing by a mere 7 points).   I gained a better job.  Then I somehow, with my fiance, planned and executed a wedding with a backyard reception, and did a great job, to our honest surprise! I ate lettuce for a month to fit into my dress, then gorged on as much buttercream frosting I could get my hands on (and we had the.best.cupcakes.ever.)  🙂

Amazing feats for a woman who, 5 years ago, at 9:30 a.m. was simultaneously telling myself I’d never drink again and planning my next drink.  It’s all pretty amazing.

Then came the pain.  My first week of marriage was riddled with my being face down with trigeminal neuralgia pain, it took over the complete left side of my head.  WHY God WHYYY????  I’m not on many meds, and the weather did change a lot that week, but I’m tired of being a fucking barometer!  Really.  So that whole “for better, for worse” got a kick start on that “for worse” part.

Back to that “for better, for worse.”  My husband is a wonderful caretaker.  He’s such a sweet person, really.  Not a bad bone in his body.  But I’ve been in this social work business long enough  to know that the divorce rates for caretakers/sick folks is high.  And I hate that.  I also hate that I can’t always give my “for better” self.  I hate trying a med and being elated it works….for 2 weeks.  I never thought I’d let someone operate on my brain again, but I’m game now!  If anyone can figure this out, alleviate my pain, etc. I’d be really happy!  My ‘dream honeymoon in the Azores’ in September may turn into a mini-honeymoon in Michigan, as there is a doctor there who thinks he can help.  But I’ve also been in the neurosurgeon world long enough to have doubts.  Hope has been hard. Worrying about divorce rates has been hard.  I know, I know, one day at a time.

My husband says “sweetie, if we go to Michigan and get your pain straight, it would be the best honeymoon ever.”  He’s a keeper.  I just hope, if I have a world of pain for the rest of my life, that he keeps me…

So, play on, Mr. Trump.  Build a wall.  It’s not like we all need to focus on advances in medicine and better insurance or anything…..