Extra Oxygen

In December 2016, my friends, a father/daughter team, organized a blood drive, and I signed up.  I’d never donated blood, but

J⁴ needed a blood transfusion.  The 12-week chemo/immunotherapy treatment had lowered her blood counts to a point where she desperately needed a life-saving boost. She needed three separate blood transfusions.

Although I knew she wouldn’t receive my blood, I went into the blood drive thinking about her need and about how having her blood type available saved her life. Someone else had given his/her blood for her to live.

I answered, in a private room, the medical history questions – some questions pretty basic, have you lived overseas for more than five years during 1980 -? And some questions downright personal, have you ever paid for sex?  have you ever had gay sex?  I got my finger pricked to draw a bead of blood to check my iron levels. I had my blood pressure and pulse taken.

Then I stretched out on a portable hospital bed and had a pint of blood drawn via IV. I squeezed a rubber ball to encourage the blood flow. When I finished giving, the nurse took an extra seven vials of blood for testing.

I didn’t coast through the whole thing – actually, I had some light headedness and nausea which I’ve now learned is normal.  After donating, I went to bed early, but in the AM, I felt fine.

I thought about the 12 weeks I accompanied J⁴ to chemo.  The needles that stuck her – blood tests, chemo IV, immunotherapy IV.  The machines she’s laid in and tables and hospital beds she’s laid on while having CT scans, radiation and doctor visits. The Penguin Cold Caps we put on her head every 20 minutes before, during and after the treatments.  How cold the caps felt on my gloved hands as I readied them, yet J⁴ had to endure the ice-cold caps wrapped around her head and also carry the worry, will I  save my hair? (which she did!)

A few weeks after donating blood, I received an email from the American Red Cross, asking if I’d give blood again, after 56 days, the required time between giving. Without hesitation, I downloaded the Red Cross’ blood donation app and scheduled my next donation.  I’ve now given 3x since December, and I receive notifications when I’m able to give again.

On my 2nd blood drive visit, I met a woman in the ‘recovery area’ where salty and sugary snacks and waters are served. The woman ate Chips Ahoy cookies while I munched on Cheez-Its.  She told me that she had worked in a trauma unit in an east coast hospital for over 30+ years.  She said she’d given blood, on schedule, for the last 15 years. She witnessed a patient who required 100 units of blood (a person can only give 1 unit/pint, so 100 people saved one life!) and who then fully recovered from his injuries. After seeing the miracle, she committed to giving.

I listened to a Canvas-SF service this week while I strung a NeckGrace. It was about minimalism; Less is More.

“Minimalism is not about having less stuff but it’s about being free to do more which matters. True life, that which is real and full, is found at the intersection of simplicity and generosity. You make a living by what you get, and you make a life by what you give away. Passing blame that you don’t have time is absolving yourself from responsibility – cuz you ‘B-lame” when you blame other things for owning your time. Are you making a living or making a life? Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible – hurried people can’t love. Love takes time. Will you open your hands and loosen your grip on the more that you’re pursuing, so you may have true life.” – Travis

In 2012, healthy and well, three years before lung cancer, J⁴ traveled with us to our family’s favorite beach in the world, Anguilla.  For some local flavor, we recommended she read the book, A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean, written by Melinda and Robert Blanchard, who gave up most of their worldly possessions and most of what they were familiar and moved to Anguilla and started a restaurant, Blanchards. J⁴ loved the book, so once on the island, she went to Blanchards and met the owners. She bought a hat, and they signed it –

I photographed J⁴ on the Anguilla beach wearing her treasured signed hat.

IMG_8113picWe took the photo next to these:

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“Extra Oxygen”

Five years ago, I had no idea that the beauty of these tanks in the foreground to the most beautiful water in the world foreshadowed J⁴’s necessity for extra oxygen.  The extra oxygen that will buy her time; time to read books, time to share with her beloved husband and boys, time to visit places that bring her joy and time to impact the lives of those around her by all that she gives.

Breathe life into yourself by giving blood, extra oxygen, sweat & tears and love in any way, shape or form.

‘Cuz real life doesn’t allow us to take a timeout when the going gets rough, and after we’re gone, the stuff we’ve acquired becomes someone else’s clutter, but what we give away sets us free!

Like when we take a trip to the beach – we keep it simple – some sunscreen, glasses or a good book – all the rest is extra – extra clutter – blocking us from the simplicity and a true life.

Don’t b-lame – give your extra away.

 

 

 

It’s All Practice

“When you workout, you don’t pinnacle – you don’t finally make it – instead, you keep moving; keep practicing, working, building, learning, aspiring.  It’s cyclical, not linear.” – MDS

I began practicing hot yoga about 10 years ago, and at that time, I had no idea it’d become such an asset.  I added yoga to my training, since it was gentle to my joints and body, and mostly, because, through its practice, the yoga trained and calmed my mind.

I’ve called on my yoga often during these 10 years – broken relationships, empty nesting, injuries, worry, paranoia, doubt.

I’d assumed we’d all heard, “breathe in through your nose…hold…breathe out through your mouth – breathe in the good, and with every breath out, let go of what has no purpose, what doesn’t serve you anymore.”

But although we benefit every second of our lives from breath, we seldom spend time practicing it.

We take for granted our breathing, often not recognizing and celebrating our breath’s consistency, dependability or power. It just happens, but if we’re believing that we’re actively participating in life, rather than life just happening to us, then we embrace the circle rather than the line of life.

We need the oxygen that the Earth gives to us as much as the Earth needs the CO2 we breathe out – a cycle, that we all on this Earth create, together.

So you can only imagine, how at this time, I feel when I see and hear my dear friend struggle for each breath, as the lung cancer  tries to take up space in her airways. My friend yearns for the days when making a bed or preparing a meal weren’t huge feats, and I wish, with all my yoga practice breathing, that I had the capacity to breathe for the two of us – her to me and me to her – but that’s a cycle beyond my power and control.

So when I’m trying to breathe calmly when I see her struggle, I listen to our breaths and trust in the present -the right here, right now – the gift of breathing in and out, side by side, together.

Inhale, we’ve come full circle, exhale.

It’s a culmination of a lot of practice. You taught me. I taught you.

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Last Stand

Have you ever wondered who or what would be your last vision on earth?

On a brisk late October Saturday morning, Jack left his wife’s side in their warm bed and headed up the hill above their home to deer hunt.  He left a note on the kitchen floor so his wife would stumble upon it when she awoke.

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He had an agreement with his friend, Butch – they both tell each other their whereabouts when leaving for the woods.  He told Butch he’d be at the 365. Jack wore his orange hat and vest.

Around 8 am, a stranger, but fellow hunter noticed the orange of Jack’s hat and vest through the woods.  Hunters etiquette is unspoken but universal – give your fellow hunters space and silence – don’t disrupt another’s shot and keep hunters safe from bullets.  About 10 am, the fellow hunter again passed by Jack’s stand. Jack’s orange hat and vest outlined Jack’s sitting position – Jack was slumped over.  The fellow hunter called the sheriff.

Meanwhile, at home, Jack’s wife had gotten his note and worried why he hadn’t returned.  She called Butch. Knowing Jack’s location in the woods, Butch went to find him.  Approaching the stand, Butch was stopped by the sheriff, “stay back! we have a deceased person.” Butch convinced the sheriff, “I think I can identify the deceased for you.”

And he did.

Jack, slumped over his rifle that was resting on his knees, had one hand in his sweatshirt’s pocket.

It had been instant. It was a massive heart attack. Jack died, doing what he loved where he loved.

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Returning 3 weeks later for Jack’s memorial, we made our way through the forest to Jack’s Last Stand.

I sat down on the stump where Jack had sat – I wondered if the trek up that hill had been tough – was he out of breath? was he cold? Did he think about his warm bed that he’d deserted that morning? Did he hear deer hooves crushing the pine cones and tree debris that was scattered on the forest’s floor? Was he hungry?

And then all my questions were silenced when I looked out from Jack’s Last Stand.

This view

and then lights out.

No time for questioning.

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His heart stopped beating, but not before it led him Home, to a perfectly fitting place where he could enter the Kingdom in his orange hat and vest with silence and space, leaving behind a beautiful stand where we may now feel His Grace.