Advance planning is ultimately a spiritual practice. It requires that we face ourselves. It requires that we “number” our days. Continue reading
“To every thing there is a season…”
I am highly tied to the earth. Living purposefully on a lonesome mountain (more like a hill), I almost feel like a participant in the season’s changes.
Within the cycles of nature I also witness the cycles of humanity, even the cycles of our personal lives. Trees change their shrouds just as time traces itself upon our faces and the hairs of our heads. Imagining winter, just like imagining my own demise, gives me a breathless appreciation for the present- for the deepening red of the leaf and for the smell of my child’s curly hair. Viewing the natural world and viewing our own lives with the end in mind awakens a deep reverence for the very act of living itself, and the opportunity to do so.
I have found that when we are not observant of the cycles of nature and the natural cycles of the human life, we become unseated at some deep level. Something feels awry.
Once I saw an old man, in the deep winter of his life. Despite his physical appearance- that of old, dead wood- he was receiving aggressive chemotherapy in desperate attempts to recover just a little bit of spring, a touch of summer, or at least a smidge of late fall. I grieved for him. Something was awry.
We cannot supplant the seasons and love them at the same time. We must learn to love and respect the seasons of our lives and to be one with them- only then can we know of their gifts.
Monica Williams-Murphy, MD
“No man is an island”, John Donne, meditation XVII, English clergyman and poet (1572-1631)
Ultimately, the story of your life is not your own but affects all whom you have ever known. The story of your life carries great power. That’s why we are so moved by the stories of individuals who have overcome unusual odds. Continue reading
I recently got back from an exciting vacation which included zip-lining and whitewater rafting. Repeatedly during this trip, my oldest daughter and I would encourage each other with the trendy term “#YOLO“-“you only live once,” before we did something that felt risky but adventurous. (No offense to my Hindu and Buddhist friends who might prefer another acronym such as “you only live as many times as you need to get it right”! #yolamtayntgir (Sorry…not terribly catchy guys!) Continue reading
The name of my book is “Bitter and Sweet, A Family’s Journey with Cancer.” Here is a brief summary. In April of 2010, my husband Tim began to have some strange sensations in his side. On May 7, we found ourselves facing stage IV gallbladder cancer rather than a simple gallbladder removal as planned. Five months and one week later, my husband died. Those five months were the most difficult and horrifying time of our lives. It was also an extremely beautiful time for us. We found ourselves using the phrase “bitter and sweet” so often during those five months, that it was an obvious title choice. What follows is the short version of our story…
Our lives had been full of paradoxes. How do you fight for your life and yet accept mortality at the same time? How do you maintain optimism, which is necessary for health, and prepare for your death and get your affairs in order? How do you understand God’s love and compassion, and yet experience cancer and suffering? Continue reading
Ok, so the ER is not the place where you can usually find ER doctors jumping for joy, but certainly stranger things have happened there…so, why not? Continue reading
Last week we introduced the idea of “fighting” or “embracing” death. We examined the definitions of death and dying, as well as the scientific, pharmaceutical, technological, TV-Hollywood, and musical contributions to our stereotypes. Now, let’s look at some of the remaining sources of death stereotypes, and read the author’s compelling personal story led to his present approach to life and death. Continue reading
If one were to plot a person’s life on a number line, then death would be nothing more than an infinitesimally thin point, nothing more than a nanosecond demarcation from one state of being to another state of being. So why is it that some of us fight death with our last full measure while others embrace it like a new born baby? Continue reading
I turn 43 on New Year’s Eve, not that you really care, but it does convey a certain perspective to be ending your year in two different ways.
So, as a general rule there are two things for sure with me:
1st- I always work in the ER on my birthday (it’s far more interesting than any party I have ever attended and I get paid to show up!)
2nd- I never make New Years resolutions. Continue reading
I sat in silence wrestling with myself, shifting in my seat, as my husband drove down the road. He pointed out some beautiful fall foliage. I looked at the trees but could not appreciate the scenery due to my turmoil. All I could think about was how uncomfortable I was with my father’s hospital discharge plan and how fractured end of life healthcare planning is in some states (specifically, states without a POLST form), states such as mine, Alabama. Since becoming active in advocating for better end of life healthcare planning, I have been a supporter of the POLST for lots of obvious reasons- but most basically, it ensures that the medical system obeys the wishes of the patient or the acting healthcare proxy. I have known abstractly how important such a document is for my patients. But now, a new personal knowledge is dawning for me—I now know firsthand how the LACK of a POLST or POLST-like document actually LIMITS healthcare options for those who are near the end of life! Continue reading