Tag: serendipity


A few weeks ago, I was seated around the bedside of a mother and grandmother, talking with her children. The patient was dancing between this world and the next, so peacefully and her daughters were just relived that she was finally reaching the end of a years long struggle. It had glorious highs with hopeful prognosis and soul crushing lows which caused this family to close ranks and focus on what meant the most to them. When mom decided that she was ready to enjoy what life she had left without doctor’s appointments and scans – without nausea so profound she was unable to open the blinds and without such exhaustion that even lifting her hand to caress the face of her granddaughter was a struggle, her family supported her choice.  That was about four months ago and hospice was called in. Our paths crossed there and brought us here. To this moment.

As she lay there, her breathing slowing down, if you could imagine the batting of a butterfly’s wings, so elegant and graceful, her daughters started to tell me stories of the precancerous life. At one point during a very animated moment, both daughters started laughing recounting a moment when Mom attempted to absentmindedly bake a cake and used powdered sugar instead of flour.  They both turned to me, with shock, and said “Oh my God, Helen… Mom is dying and we are laughing!  Is that allowed?”  “Of course it is!  I am sure she can hear you and is loving it all!” The girls went on to share more stories and Mom peacefully passed. The soft smile on her face proof that she loved every moment of their loving laughter.

So, what is allowed when someone is dying?  It’s not like Emily Post wrote about it or for you younger folk that you can search it on Wikipedia. As a hospice nurse, I have seen the gamut of emotions. The rainbow of feelings that one’s passing elicits is vast. Let me tell you what I think is ok… again… full disclaimer… my blog… my opinion.  Don’t forget… I am a loud, sassy, emotional and heart on my sleeve Greek woman, so some folks might not agree. I digress

It is ok to cry.

I am going to say that again, it is ok to cry.  That means everything from the single tear to the please hand me a tissue because the snot is overtaking me crying. No one has the right to dictate how you cry. I will put one exception here, I have seen, mostly in very small villages where people throw themselves on the deceased or dying person and caused them harm. Please don’t do that. Cry all you want. Don’t forget tissues and waterproof eye make up.

It is ok to laugh. Working in this death business, I often think about what it might be like when I go. Do I want people sitting around sobbing over me?  No way!  Especially if I am still there and hearing is the last sense to go!  I want to hear the stupid stories about how my brother tried to make me ride a goat when I was 5 and got lice. Laugh!  Heck, laugh till you cry. It’s ok.


It is ok to feel conflicted. Death or dying brings so many emotions. How could you not be conflicted?  Think of that period as a almost a time you are sifting for gold. You have all the sandy sediment junk on top, but, in time, as you move through the emotional stages, you will find the gold. Yes, you will miss that person, but, there is goodness that comes from death. It’s not always easy to see.

It is ok to be angry. Sometimes, people are angry at the person that is dying for not trying hard enough with treatments. That’s their choice. You might not agree with it, but, you do have to respect it. While it’s ok to be angry for a while, it’s not ok to stay angry… that’s an emotion that needs working through as soon as possible.

It’s ok to recount, recall, tell stories, make jokes (ok, maybe not crude ones)… all of those things help people begin to heal.

It’s ok to scream in a pillow when you are alone

It’s ok to eat a pint of ice cream while crying (not that this is from personal experience… tears and chocolate almond are yummy)

It is ok to see a therapist. No one is a fortress. It’s ok and really healthy to ask for health when dealing with all of these emotions.

Death just doesn’t change the life of the one dying. It changes the lives of everyone.





I often find that there are many “convenient” phrases that people like to use when they don’t know what to say…

It’s God’s plan

Everything comes full circle.

Everything happens for a reason…

Now, I do have to admit that, the everything happens for a reason one, I use a lot.  I HATE when people use it when someone dies.  It’s such bullshit.  But, for events that happen in one’s life, I do believe to be true… and today, life taught me how right it is..

I was supposed to take my old lady bus trip to NYC with a friend of mine today.  Super excited to go, spend some great girl time with my friend, see some great sights and hunt for knock off Louis Vuitton purse (am totally guilty of this).  Well, last night, my friend texted me alerting me to the fact that NYC was suppose to get 6 inches of snow and be bitter cold today.  Ummmm, if I was in a cozy Broadway theater, maybe, but sight seeing and tracking down my replicas (sounds better than cheap imitations) would not be fun if I was going to become a snowbeast.  Trip cancelled.  Or, postponed.  Those Louis bags won’t be safe for very long.

Anyway, so, here I be… my son has guitar lessons on Saturday.  I honestly dread the drive, but, I drive alllll week, so what’s another 30 minutes in the car.  Normally, his lessons are at noon, but, for some odd reason, they were at 3:30 today.  Initially, I thought they were at 3, so I kept yapping at him and he corrected me (that -never-happens…).  We left at a decent time (see above about never happening) and after a coffee stop (shout out to Dunkin), we were on our way.  Then, of course my gas light starts flashing.  Alex: “Mom, we stopped for coffee, we cannot stop for gas..”  Me: “Ok, Alex, whatever you say” (knowing that I didn’t want to get out in the cold (he had all the cold weather gear on and I hate all that stuff so I wore a sweater as it was freezing and snowing).  We get off on the required exit and as I am pulling off, I remembered there was a gas station right there.  SCORE!  I pull in and hand him the card to pump gas and begrudgingly, he gets out to do it.  Mother of the year here, folks.  Anyway, just as he is getting out, I hear this car horn beeping non stop.  I see the man pumping gas in front of us kind of do that from side to side open mouth head turn that one does when something unbelievable just happened.  I hear Alex go “MOM”.  Hello Mom instincts on high. As I jumped out of my car, I saw an SUV pull into the gas station.  Front end completely destroyed.  A woman hops out of the driver’s seat – sobbing and yelling about her daughter.  I tossed Alex my phone and ran over to see what was going on.  Out of the car right now is stumbling a teenager… blood streaming down her face.  She is confused and not talking.  Add now nursing instincts kicking into high gear – she’s bleeding from the head, she must have hit her head.. concussion… she is disoriented.. concussion.. she might have hit her neck.. neck injury.. she’s got a massive deep gash on her forehead and the blood is streaming down her face kind of like a fresh stream in the springtime.  Guiding her over to the back bumper, I yelled for Alex to bring me supplies from the back of my trunk.  Being a hospice nurse, my trunk is full of things that I just might need when I make a visit.  I am yelling for things that he should bring me and he is just as calm and collected as he can be bringing them over.  At this point, other people have started to come over.  I started motioning to the one lady that I have the girl and she should go after the mom, who is walking around crying hysterically.  None of the airbags went off, so I was thinking the mom might be hurt, too, even though I saw no evidence of blood.  It’s funny how a whole group of strangers banded together to help this mother and daughter out.  Someone brought a blanket, another person brought bags to help clean up the garbage from the mess I was making with supplies to help the girl and another person was trying to calm the justifiably hysterical mom.  No one knew anyone else.  We all however, knew what we needed to do.  Long of the short is that mom and daughter were just running errands when mom lost control on an ice patch and hit a utility pole at about 60 miles an hour.  She is very lucky that the daughter only had that laceration on her head.  As I am sopping up her blood with gauze, someone yelled at me about gloves.  Sorry, but, that was the last thing on my mind.  A girl was bleeding and in distress, I am not going to stop and put on gloves.  Anyway, the ambulance finally came.  Both mom and daughter were taken to the hospital.  I’ve been thinking about them non stop.  As I was cleaning up the young girl, she mouthed out thank you….

I wasn’t supposed to even be in my state today.  I wasn’t supposed to take my son to his lessons.  I shouldn’t have let my gas tank run so low that the light went off (I know.. I Russian Roulette it pretty often).  How is it that a nurse with ICU experience and a trunk full of supplies is right there when an accident happens?  I could have had my old job where I didn’t have a trunk full of supplies.  Someone put me on a path different than the one I thought I was going to take today.  Everything happens for a reason…..