Life is Gritty

Posted: January 4, 2017 in Uncategorized


“No problem, my daughter is coming down to let me in. You can come in too,” the tired, middle-aged man answered after I explained that the recipient of my nursing visit was was unable to buzz me in & was feeling too unwell to come down to let me into the apartment building. I was puzzled when his daughter, a teenager, opened the foyer door, why wasn’t she in school? it was just before Christmas and adverse weather had not yet hit, so it could not possibly be a snow day.”Thanks sweety”, he said to his young daughter. And it was as we stood on the elevator, the realization of this girl’s situation hit me in the gut: this fragile girl-child would become a mother in the new year.


After reports were taken & witnesses interviewed, I escorted the police officer to the front door. A patient, sitting in the hallway, looked up as we passed and called out to him, “Officer, don’t lock her up too long, she’s a really good nurse.” I turned to the officer and contradicted, “Please, I am ver-r-ry tired, can you lock me away for a very long time?”


Sitting on the couch, the patient answered the ESAS questions, one by one. Then they picked up a book they’d been reading & shared the passage on ‘What Cancer Cannot Do’:

Cancer is so limited—
It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot steal eternal life
It cannot conquer the spirit.


How I View Death

Posted: November 24, 2016 in Uncategorized


Recently a client’s family member asked for my personal perspective on an end-of-life situation. The question was prefaced with the statement that as I’m a Christian my religion does not mesh well with the medical world. I took a deep breath and explained that as I am being asked, I’d be delighted to share that to the contrary, my spiritual beliefs are likely complemented by scientific process.

“Death” I began “is not as easy or beautiful as one may wish it to be. We are being violently birthed into another world. We are forced into the birth canal, headfirst. During this journey we are unable to rest and we experience a great deal of pain. It is not pretty; it is slippery and dark and there is a lot of noise. And all the while, we feel a great sense of loss and confusion about moving from our safe warm home into an unknown place. This travail makes us tired, we long for comfort. But no, we must keep moving, we are unable to stop now; a force greater than us has mandated it so. ”

I continued, “And for those watching, it is an emotional time and oh, so difficult. They cannot navigate the passage for us, we must go alone. They are unable to ease the discomfort that we experience as the passage narrows and the darkness increases. We begin to lose strength, we are being squeezed ever so hard. They offer us food and water, but we are unable to eat or to drink. And as we moan, they cry.  And as they cry,  we know that we can endure no longer. Then the passageway shifts and changes and we are surprised at the relief. We close our eyes to rest for a brief second.

The dazzling light touches our face. We feel a metamorphosis. We are warm and dry. We have no pain. Our new body feels light and free. Have we really arrived? We open our eyes. What is this new world? It is much more exciting than we’d ever imagined.

And that. That was death? so brief and so quickly forgotten?”

st joes and go train

“higher than a kite and still flying”:  term used for drug addicts when one doesn’t want to overtly indicate that one knows they’ve just injected/ingested/smoked drugs, based on the smell wafting from that hastily closed box and the otherworldly behaviour. And so I ask “you know the phrase ‘high as a kite, right’? and then follow up with “It seems to me that today you are high-er than a kite and still flying”. Somehow this approach seems kinder than dashing in like the fire brigade and raining on one’s affective parade.

“sharp as a whip”: term used during mental and cognitive assessments of intelligent and creative people who are dependent on these faculties working until the end of their days. When I’ve completed the assessment, I happily pass along the nursing diagnosis: ‘I see you are sharp as a whip and still cracking [it]’. The meaning: ‘all your mental processes are intact and being fully utilized’.

“If you don’t want the candyman to follow you, don’t flaunt candy”: the ‘candyman’ is a term used for male, female, young, old, I suppose for anyone who has the interest and time to take things, to the detriment of other people’s joy. In street smarts, one is wise to not display technology and other assets which may make one vulnerable to human predators. It is best to move quickly from point A to B. After all, is it really worth it to lose one’s safety and happiness over superficial things such as candy? No? then hide the ‘candy’.

“Are you ready, Freddy?”:  I utilized this term frequently to verify that the patient was prepared for wound dressing change, IV infusion, IM injection and so forth. Then one day, an older gentleman gently educated me on the literal expression being “Are you ready for Freddy?” and that ‘Freddy’ was ‘the undertaker’. Nowadays, I find myself saying:‘Are you READ-Yyyyy?’ and the patient finishes off the trill: ‘FOR FREDDY?’

“If you need me, ring the bell”: this term is used when teaching one to use the pager number of the healthcare company. At the receiving end, of the ringing bell, is the nurse who is oncall 24/7 for any problems to be resolved safely in the home. Of course, one can always argue that the ominous history of ‘ring the bell’ will discourage the user from doing so.




Of Bikes and Clocks

Posted: April 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

purple bike

Biking is a highly competitive sport. I have been surprised at how ego-defining this route of transportation has been. This leads up to my story of bikes and clocks. First, let me present the background of this story. My ego had been severely damaged when I was biking up a steep hill on a very hot summer day after seeing a downtown patient, and not one, but six city policemen passed me up the long hill on Dundas Street. They were all smiling and happy and greeted me pleasantly as they pedalled past me, uphill, to their patrol at Festival Caribana. I, all sweaty and panting from a long ride, was both embarrassed and a little bit mad. Never again was a bike-ster going to pass me on those hills.

And so the competition began in earnest. I began to pass slow riders on the street, building up a steady pace. In the late afternoon, it was fun to pass the yuppies on their way home from office jobs. In the late evening, it was thrilling to zip through empty streets, keeping in stride with the other bike-sters on their way home from evening classes at downtown universities.

Then one evening, I encountered the Ticking Clock and the game took on a sinister edge. I was re-hashing my class, on my bike ride home, when it dawned on me that I was hearing the same repetitive sound of a tinkling bike bell, from a fellow cyclist, who rang it at any threat of danger: a bump in the road, a moving car, a silent pedestrian, a darting cat. Her bike was top end, equipped with all the latest riding equipment, bells and whistles. I zipped past her on my beat-up mountain bike and dodged between construction signs and orange work pylons on Boor Street. Not to be outdone, this same cyclist followed me at high speed, bike bell ringing, and passed me 500 metres later. On the same token, within another 500 metres, I again passed her. Suddenly, the air grew a bit misty, I was swallowed by complete darkness on the deserted street and the only noise I could hear was the distinctive bike bell still clanging in the distance, behind me.

In the midst of the fog, I had an unsettling déjà vu. Remember how Peter Pan is followed by the crocodile who has swallowed a ticking clock? The crocodile is actually in hot pursuit of Captain Hook, the Pirate of the Island, who has sinister intentions to end Peter Pan`s life. With an imagination like mine, it did not take much to trigger the memories of this book and so my bike ride was dominated by the ominous sound of the Ticking Clock. For the next two kilometres, accompanied by this noise, I desperately biked towards my home and safety. When I reached my street, the noise vanished, and I rode up my street, to my house, and collapsed onto my bed. And so my dear friends, I know that somewhere on the city streets lives the Ticking Clock, the Green Crocodile, and the Sinister Pirate. Bike-ster beware!




Same Tree, Same Cloud

Posted: February 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

Same Cloud, same Tree

Now at winter-end, my foggy brain is slowly awakening to life and living. My memory returns to a recent midnight dream that speaks profoundly to my current phase of life.

Dream: It was rush hour, all the vehicles on the freeway were stopped, a collective silence settled over us. The hour was late afternoon, perfect time for a quiet and peaceful nap. I sat for a time, gazing out the windshield of my car, daydreaming. Then I jolted awake as a ray of sunshine passed over my car. I looked about me and to my surprise realized that all the drivers about me had been sitting on this freeway for two decades +. The vehicles were from the ’70’s. All the drivers were dead, beautifully and gently mummified, in current fashions of that era. I too, somehow, had entered this freeway without realizing it was no longer a freeway but rather a still passage of time, without beginning or ending.

Perhaps this dream can be compared to lying on the grasss on a sunny day, quietly in a resting state of mind. Then awaking an hour later and realizing one is still surrounded by the same tree and the same cloud. The tree has been cut down and the cloud is getting heavy with rain. And it is time to move on. But where? And how? And with what purpose?I believe the answer comes from the same tree and the same cloud, if only one can look beyond to the brilliant ray of sunshine, eternally with us and eternally without us.

sUmmЭr mЭmЭs.

Posted: July 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

🙂 Blogging Summer Memes 🙂




Lavender Field in France



summer salad





Pondering Pie

Posted: July 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

strawberry pie

“In an apt demonstration of the principle of relativity, as propounded by Galileo, the bawdy platter and the steaming morsels thereon, remained in the same position, vis-à-vis Daniel, and hence were, in principle, just as edible as if he had been seated before and the pies had been resting upon a table that was stationary with respect to the fixed stars. This was true despite the fact that the carriage containing Daniel, Isaac Newton, and the pies, was banging around London. . . . Isaac, though better equipped than Daniel, or any other man alive, to understand relativity, showed no interest in his pie, as if being in a state of movement with respect to the planet Earth rendered it somehow not a pie. But as far as Daniel was concerned, a pie in a moving frame of reference was no less a pie than one that was sitting still. Position and velocity to him might be perfectly interesting physical properties, but they had no bearing on, no relationship to, those properties that were essential to “pie-ness.” All that mattered to Daniel were relationships between his—Daniel’s—physical state and that of the pie. If Daniel and pie were close together, both in position and velocity, then pie eating became a practical and tempting possibility. If pie were far sundered from Daniel, or moving at a large relative velocity, e.g. being hurled at his face, then its pie-ness was somehow impaired, at least from the Daniel frame of reference. At the time being however, these were purely scholastic hypotheticals. The pie was on his lap, and very much a pie, no matter what Isaac might think of it. Mr. Kat had lent them silver table settings and Daniel, as he spoke, tucked a napkin into his shirt collar, a flag of surrender and unconditional capitulation to the attractions of pie. Rather than laying down arms, he now picked them up, knife and fork, Isaac’s question frozen just as he poised these above the flaky top crust. . . . and he stabbed pie.”  -Neal Stephenson-