Crossing Paths

The  crunch of autumn leaves, the blue sky above me and the fresh breeze on my face, are so familiar. For the last month I have walked this path, from Yale Road Centre, where my brother is now living, to Central City Mall (old Surrey Place Mall.) It’s not far, about a block. A part of my walk there is for my fix at Tim Horton’s, a French Vanilla coffee.

I think about life and the circle of similarity between birth and death.  Yale Road is supposed to be a place for people who are on their way to a more permanent, residential care facility. The second floor is for people recovering from brain injuries and addictions. The fourth floor where my brother is, houses seniors who are in different stages, mentally and physically. They are waiting to go, somewhere.

Someone called it a holding tank! For some, this is the end of the long road called Life. Beginning as babies, in diapers, they now wear diapers again. They’re not called diapers, they are pull-ups or depends or something fancy. One woman messed hers and did the baby trick, wiping it through her hair and other places. When they bring her to the dining room for lunch, they move the plant out of her reach. She still reaches for other things. She’s in the baby stage.

Sleep is the other part, at the end of the circle. Part of it is boredom and part is a general tiredness. Not much matters here, every day is the same. People, patients, are now called clients on the elevator sign. Clients are not allowed to go on the elevator without a nurse or family member with them. Clients? Clients of Funnybrook Farm, Yale Road Centre, fourth floor, spend their time waiting. They hang around the elevators in their wheelchairs and to get through you sometimes have to move them.

The fourth floor clients wait for old elevators, to carry them, a few at a time, to and from the dining room, three times a day. In the dining room they wait again, for the food to come. The sixth floor people are served, then the trays are made up that go upstairs, and last of all, the fourth floor people are served. Always last, that’s part of the organization. The nurse says, “Somebody has to be last!” Every meal, every day!!”

I said, “This is wrong.” Diabetics should not wait until 9:30 AM for breakfast, almost 1 PM lunch and often 6 PM supper. Why are the trays for upstairs being done, while people that are here wait? One man, Arnold, was the last of the last, one night. He happened to be at our table, so I finally went to the servers and asked about his meal. The really bright answer from the nurse was, “We’re waiting for his dessert.”  Give him the main course while you wait. No common sense!!

Coincidence? The lady in charge of food services was in the dining room the other day. I didn’t know who she was and I was voicing my opinion about the feeding of the fourth floor people. She actually listened to me, wanted me to put it on paper and hand it in to the kitchen. She gave me her card so I e-mailed her. Since then she has contacted me and told me they are working on it. I really hope they are and I hope to see an improvement soon, not the new year, now!!

People crossing our path, sit at our table. One lady sits with us now, for most of the meals. Linda was born and raised in Castlegar, her dad had a business there for many years. We couldn’t believe it! How uncanny is that? Tom, born in Prince George, watched trains come & go as we did when we were kids. David, whose dad had a nursery, grafted roses when he was seventeen. when he told us he seemed to remember with some emotion.

Orv’s first room mate was Bob. With only 2% of his lung capacty left, he was waiting for palliative care. Last week, he passed away in the wee hours of the morning. His waiting is over. People have problems. One lady had a melt down when they put her in a wheelchair with an alarm. she had bruised her face in the last fall she had. I saw kindness in action when the nurse was crouching in front of her speaking softly. Most of the nurses are friendly. One in particular, Sandra, always comes and talks to us.

I was not too helpful for Luba when I wouldn’t let her get on the elevator. I was trying to get off the elevator, on the fourth floor and she tried to push past me, in her wheelchair. I blocked her and said, “You ae not sllowed to go on the elevator by yourself.” She started flailing her arms, hitting at me, and saying, “My invisible husband is with me.” I said, “You can’t take your invisible husband on the elevator.” The nurse came and got her and I went and got Orv to go down for supper.

When we got downstairs, I saw the front, glass door was open to let a couple in, and Luba was going out the door in her wheelchair. I quickly ran and grabbed her before she got out the second door. The first door is coded but not the second one. Again she said her invisible husband was there. I told the nurses there and alerted the security guard. On her second try the security guard got the nurse to take her back to the floor.

The autumn leaves are not so crunchy today, because the rain has made them wet! Tomorrow I will walk again and I’ll go to Horton’s before going back to the Yale Road Centre, fourth floor. Orv’s second room mate was here for a few days and is already going to another place. We wish it was Orv going to a more permanent place but our time will come. In the meantime, we are there for a purpose. I hope we can make a difference, espcially for the people on the fourth floor. Who knows what people will cross our path in the days ahead. Could be interesting!




Giving Thanks in The Gulag

Psalm 137:1-4 “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars, we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy….How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign (strange) land.”

In his devotional, Charles Price, spoke about three kinds of thanksgiving: natural, unnatural and supernatural. Natural is being thankful for everything we have been blessed with. A roof over our head, clothes to wear, food to eat and the many provisions we enjoy in our lives each and every day that we could take for granted.

Unnatural thanksgiving would be giving thanks in troubling situations, not for them but in the spite of them. In illness, in the midst of a difficult relationship, a failing marriage or a lost job. Thankfulness in the midst of loneliness and uncertainty.

Supernatural thanksgiving was Jesus, knowing His death was imminent, giving thanks before distributing the bread and wine.  In 1Thess 3:18 Paul says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you, in Christ Jesus.” In everything, when giving thanks to the Lord for His presence, provision and purpose, we discover within our hearts that sanctuary of peace found only in Christ Jesus. We, experience a God Who is present and active within us.

This is true worship. If I can do this, my heart becomes a sanctuary for Him to dwell in. Exodus 25:1-8 God tells Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring Me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me, from each man whose heart prompts him to give…..Then have them make a sanctuary for Me and i will dwell among them.” Those whose hearts prompt them to give should bring an offering. Heart is important to worship.

So, I feel like giving thanks when I am well cared for but when I am missing something or longing for something that’s not there, thanksgiving is much harder. I have to remind myself that “in all things God is working and God is working in all things for my ultimate good.” That’s a lot harder!

What about the “gulag”, the prison of my circumstances? How can I begin to be thankful there? There are many people who are in real prisons. Asia Bibi was arrested and imprisoned in Pakistan, June 2009, for speaking about her faith to other ladies. She was 37 years old, a wife and the mother of two little girls. She’s still there and is under a death sentence.

In 2012 she told a VOM worker about a little brown bird that appeared two days after her death penalty was announced. It would come and sit on the boundary wall for 10 minutes in the morning and then again for 10 minutes in the evening. She saw this as a significant sign from God and she always felt encouraged and comforted after the bird’s visit. It gave her a feeling of peace. I try to put myself in her place. How can she give thanks there when her life is upside own?

Right now, my brother feels in impossible circumsances. He’s in one nursing home, waiting to go to a more permanent place for residential care. The place he’s in now is “bare bones” care; an old facility that is not well run. I go to visit him every day. I’m there for lunch to help him, I leave for a couple of hours to do business, then return in the afternoon with a sandwich from Hortons which we share. I am there to help him with his supper and then drive 40 to 45 minutes, back to my sister’s place. It’s not my home! It’s not where I want to be.

I would like to get my own place and move my belongings from my suite 400 miles away but there is no one to help my brother. He is in the early stages of dementia as well as having had a stroke which left him with a bad memory among other problems. He’s very discouraged. My sister does not always feel well enough to go and no one else feels the least bit obligated to visit him. Even his daughter has not seen him for over two weeks. He asks if I think she will come and bring the 4 children to visit again. I always say “yes.”

This is my prison, my gulag, if you will. I am not belittling the real gulag, it was much, much worse than anything I am going through. I know that there are probably people who would gladly trade circumstances with me because theirs are worse. But this is my own impossible situation, with no easy way out. This is circumstances that I would never have asked for. This is not life, it is existence. I’ve lived in dead end situations before with seemingly no way out so I should not be surprised. But I’ve never been this way before. Like the song says, “The road is long and there are many dangers.”

So back to my original focus, thankfulness in the gulag, this system that is not Russian or Korean or even political.  But it is a prison of sorts because it is a lack of freedom to choose my way. Maybe the secret is surrender to the will of God. When I pray and give my situation to Him, then I do not need to worry about it. The thankfulness is that feeling of complete trust in my Father Who will bring everything together in His perfect time. It’s not natural but unnatural and it takes work.

Little Things Mean a Lot!

Tonight I took my brother back to his room after his supper and I left. It was 6:15 and just starting to get dark. It was raining and I had left my umbrella in the car. I decided to set up my GPS and I was glad I had taken the time to do that. As the rain came down in torrents and the streets got darker, I couldn’t see the street signs until I got close to them.

The GPS map showed me the streets coming up so I knew where to turn when I needed to. I had to stop at a couple of places and the rain never let up. I thought of some of the words in the little song about Noah. “After 40 days, Noah took a peek, and said, ‘We ain’t moving, Lord, where are we at?'” The answer was Mt Ararat, and i thought of “Fraser Hwy or 96 Ave,” but it didn’t rhyme.

I made it home, got my things out of the trunk, walked to the door, and suddenly I wasn’t alone. There was a calico kitty, whose name is “Cally.” She belongs next door but she waits for me and comes to greet me so often. I didn’t think she would be there tonight because it was so miserable. Often she waits on her porch until I drive in and then comes running to greet me. Of course I always have “Temptations” in my purse but I also talk to her and pet her. She knows I like her. She’s special.

That’s what I mean when I say, “little things mean a lot.” It was a small thing but somehow it warmed my heart. It made me think of my Mom and her love for cats. I’m like her in that way, I like cats. I’m a cat lady!

Mom and her catscalico kittenMom as a child with a catcali kitty up high