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I grew up in just-post-segregation Alabama. In 1976, I was a kindergartener and my best friend was a little black boy named Kendall. We had a lot in common. I would chase him around on the playground and he would eat my crayons. Life was grand or so I thought, until my parents came and had a conference with my kindergarten teacher. The next day we were separated from each other in class. I remember crying to mom in protest saying, “But aren’t we ALL God’s children?”

I still feel the same way today. So, I’m extremely disheartened by the recent increase in racial tensions. But I have something very important to share with you…

Hospice care is the antidote.

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(This photo is of one of my local hospice nurses comforting her patient.)

Hospice is the one social institution in 2015 which contains the seeds of healing for race relations. You may have never had a black, white, yellow or red-skinned person in your home in your entire life. But, if you are a hospice patient, some human with a different skin tone may very well come into your home to love, serve and care for you in ways you didn’t know were possible.

Also, as we travel the end-of-life pathway, we have opportunities to allow old prejudices to fall away in insignificance. Relationship healing and deepening can occur at accelerated rates. Love and even friendship may blossom more easily.

The giving and receiving of hospice care may be one of the most powerful current reminders that “we are ALL God’s children.”

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Please share this message.

#healing #racerelations with #hospice

PS. My parents have long since grown out of their prejudices. No one needs to remain trapped by socio-cultural biases. We can choose a better way.

 

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Antique Oriental rug

 

Study the past if you would define the future.  (Confucius)

This could not have been a better time to demonstrate the significance of the past and its presence in our lives.  Passover!  Easter!  The stories must be remembered and told, regardless of the pain.  They matter.  They make a difference in the way we live.  They have the power to deeply influence our future.  They belong to our very survival.  They have changed the course of mankind and the quiet/silence of the individual soul.  They teach us that no one is condemned to be a failure, and human dignity resides in each of us.  They show us hope in the midst of despair and the importance of never giving up.  They tell us that we can refuse to be defeated.  They point the way to compassion and a shared moral life.  That is what the past can do for the now and future Self.  The past is transformative.  It just takes an act of courage to face the fear of memory.

From the “dead” past comes new life — which means that the past never died at all.

Spring renewal and freedom heal.  Looking back is easier then.*

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*  An earlier version of this “short take” was posted as a Comment on the blog of Monica Williams-Murphy, MD, here:  http://www.oktodie.com/blog/forget-the-past-by-rea-l-ginsberg-lcsw-c-acsw-bcd .

Much gratitude to Rabbi Lord Jonathan H. Sacks, PhD, for the persistent eloquence and hopefulness of his writings.  I have dipped into that rich pool often and joyfully, even here.  His wisdom informs us all.

 

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Tags:  #grief  #eol  #memory  #stories  #healing  #hope  #compassion  #transformation

Rea Ginsberg is a retired director of social work services, hospice coordinator, and adjunct professor of clinical social work.  She can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @rginsberg2.

 

 

 

 

Covered ginger jar, China, c. 1895

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Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. — Soren Kierkegaard, 1843

Do thoughts of the past make you unhappy? Are you grieving? “Forget the past. You live now and into the future.” This is still the common-sense, persistent advice from the American public, the voice of the people. Many say the remedy for such unhappiness is simply to forget about it, live for today and – maybe – tomorrow. This remains conventional wisdom, the consensus opinion, the general agreement for an acceptable resolution. The people shall judge. Are the people of The Public right? Does “forget about it” solve the problems of past unhappiness and grief?

Forget the past. Such a curiously vehement, urgent order. Imagine living only in the present and into the future. Gone is childhood. Gone are youthful love and hate, joy and sorrow, laughter and tears. Gone is the spice that makes life rich, exciting, and meaningful. The sage voices of yesterday are silenced, suppressed. The advice to forget is intended as a loving kindness to us when we grieve. Forget about grief and the past. Move on, get over it. The past is past, dead and gone. Forget it.

This is an open expression of the advisor’s worldview, driven by impatience and the ubiquitous fear of death and self-awareness. In this view, death terror must be hidden and insight has no positive value. In fact, insight is seen as harmful, something to avoid and deny. Forget about it! Pursue happiness instead! According to this advisor, happiness excludes insight, the power of grasping the true nature of life and Self. This attitude lacks mature sympathy.

Furthermore, “forget the past” is an impossible imperative, however kindly it is meant. We cannot live as though the past had not happened. Our grief is one full measure of love given and/or received. To forget is also to deny this love. Forgetting would then become offensive. Why would that be desirable? It wouldn’t. Those who grieve are momentarily hypersensitized by loss and usually understand this. With such understanding, the mourner recognizes a profound absence of empathy on the part of supposed supporters. He feels misunderstood, reduced to silence, and abandoned. The supporter is exposed as emotionally bankrupt and asks the same from the mourner.

“Forget the past” is an authoritative instruction filled with fear, falsehood, and deliberately missed opportunity. (In this context, the directive often means “shut up.”) Such artificially induced forgetting is not genuine forgetting at all – not an inability to recollect. It is more like a conscious, deliberate withholding caused by self-defense and by mistrust or surrender to the supporter. It is ephemeral and provides no healthy returns for the mourner.

Now we see the past from another side. Our unique individual identity as biopsychosocial beings is a product of our whole lives: past, present, and hopes and plans for the future. The past is an undeniable part of this equation. It cannot be denied in the aftermath of a loved one’s death and our overwhelming grief. Health professionals even consider loss of the past to be a sickness: amnesia – a pathology, a defect in memory, a physiological and/or mental disorder.

The past makes us who we become. Who we are now can be explained, at least in large part, by who we were then – by our past. It is our foundation, the basis on which our identity stands. It creates the framework for the present and the future. The history of our lives is precious. We build on it. We treasure it for who was there and what it teaches us, how it informed our growing up. It begins our singular, signature life story.

Remembering can change the way we see others and the world, change it for the better. Remembering changes our Selves. Grief changes us. Active grief also holds close the memory of the loved one lost. That is the nature – and often the beauty – of grief. The past is present in memory. Ultimately, remembering becomes positive energy in the present and for the future. That is strength and growth.

Forget about it? Get over it? Move on? Better counsel may take a different path. We are beings who experience; memories from our experiences of living are all we get to keep. The past is an elegant archive of the mind, a place of intimate historical interest because of its large and ever-expanding collection of stored memories. Hold tight the past, in grief as well, and taste the tears. There is no shame in our tears. How they can refresh, once they are shed! They are filled with the promise of becoming. They are a necessary growth factor, a naturally occurring character stimulant. Memories sometimes bring tears, and that is normal and healthy. Tears are not a defect or disorder. Their absence, not their presence, may be a disorder.

The past is an agent of hope. It is present but not always conscious in our decision-making. It is a force for transformation. Metamorphosis. It is preparation for the future. Life can only be understood backwards. And understanding gradually unfolds into healing. Life is lived forwards and, with healing, into a Self more forgiving, confident, compassionate, peaceful.

The past is never dead. It is not even past.

— William Faulkner, 1936

 

Honor and revere both the present and the past; it is not a matter of either/or.

Both require gentle tending, cultivation.

Remember…

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Rea Ginsberg is a retired director of social work services, hospice coordinator, and adjunct professor of clinical social work. She can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @rginsberg2.

Tags: #past, #grief, #eol, #forgetting, #denial, #memory, #PositiveEnergy, #hope

   

I have a very wise nurse-friend, we call her “Coop.” I have always thought that she double-dipped from the fountain of compassion. This paper, which she wrote for a Nursing 403 class, proves my suspicions true and gives us all a clue on how to become more like her. This lesson is applicable to ALL of us who care for and serve others, not just those called to nursing: Continue reading

 

It’s Personal… by Michael Fratkin, MD

Friday, 21 Nov 2014 20:13

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When we hear that we have a terrible illness that will shorten our life, it’s personal.  When we learn about the benefits and trade-offs of the tests and procedures that will decide what treatments and medicines may help us, it’s personal.   As we make our way through side effects, complications, insurance plans, phone calls, waiting rooms, pharmacies, labs, radiology departments, billing departments, emergency rooms, intensive care units, medical jargon, bad news, good news, family conflict, family meetings, caregivers, nursing homes, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychotherapy, medication lists, medication interactions, medication errors, advance directives, wills, and the many losses, it’s personal. Continue reading

   

“To every thing there is a season…”

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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

 

 
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“If you don’t want to deal with death and dying, then you need to quit medicine now and become an accountant…because this is what we have signed up for and we’ve got to do a better job at it.”  Continue reading

   

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I love hospitalists, they are some of my favorite people. Like me, they come into the hospital and work their butts off for 10-12 hours with very little food or water. We are essentially kinfolk, and we take care of the same patients.

Because we are comrades, I make sure to meet and greet with hospitalists each time I see them. (Some of us even hug!)

One of my favorite hospitalist was in the ER today when I arrived, and somehow (of course) we got on the subject of advanced directives. He told me that his own living will says that when he cannot wipe his own ass, then doesn’t want to be kept alive by any medical interventions. (Excuse his “French”)

We both laughed knowingly.

He said that when he shared his living will with his wife, she freaked out. In her distress, she asked, “Don’t you love me? Don’t you love the children?”

He said, “Of course I do, however my definition of life meaning means being able to actually live.”

Pensively, I remarked, “We’ve seen too much haven’t we?”

We both nodded in agreement. Then, we both smiled and he admitted my next patient-an hundred-year-old man who could no longer wipe his own ass.

Recent articles suggest that doctors typically do not want aggressive measures for themselves at the end of their own lives.

And why is that? It’s because we’ve seen too much haven’t we?

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(photo credit: www.mdsalaries.com)