Glen & Ann's Archive

Final Chapter, pt 1: Glen/Izzy – Glen’s passage

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

January 23, 2008 – Glen died early Wednesday afternoon, comfortably, peacefully and lovingly. He lived a good life, and died a good death. His family was with him, and so was Izzy, who did an amazing job of comforting him and the family, then needed some comforting himself. I got to read Glen the Carl Sandburg poem “Tall Timber” just before he died,
these verses, fit for a logger:

“Night calls many witnesses
to supply evidence, to report honestly,
the meaning of dying, loving, being born.

“Then let Night come into court.
The tall timber testifies, the moon, the mist, testify
Let us hear the oaths of these unimpeachable witnesses.”

Glen told me many good stories about his logging days and his beloved dog Pal, and a carving of Pal is going into Glen’s casket. Glen led a simple life – no vacations, no dining out, but he told me earlier this week that he got everything he wanted in life – a good wife, a child he loved, work he loved, and a new Ford truck every three years. “As long as we had food on the table, I was happy.” It’s a pretty good epitaph.
He told me he considered himself a wealthy man. So did I.
Izzy was very much affected by Glen’s death. He reacted visibly and sharply, moving away from Glen’s bed, and holing up in a corner, then onto Glen’s other bed, looking so drained and still that Ann, Glen’s sister-in-law, became concerned and went to see him. Ann exudes love and spirituality, and took extraordinary care of Glen, as did her husband John.
I was concerned about Izzy,  too. He looked exhausted, bewildered, as if he had failed in his work somehow. He and Ann spent an hour comforting one another, as before, a remarkable thing to see. They each drew affection and strength from one another. This dog is a mystery to me, and I suspect it will remain that way. On the way home,  a long drive from the Adirondacks, and since, he has barely moved.
Glen’s family is committed to sharing their experience, both in words and pictures, in part to demonstrate the hospice idea that death, while sad, need not be grim or depressing. It can be quite beautiful, moving, even uplifting. That was certainly the case with Glen.
I was also stunned, and deeply affected by the instincts and skill of Izzy, and the impact he had on helping Glen come to terms with his own emotions, and intensely supporting members of the family who needed his attention and affection. It is his work. He made a difference.
John and Ann asked that Izzy come to the memorial service for Glen, and he will be there.
I am posting some photos tonight, and then again, tommorrow. Tonight, I’m putting up a picture of Ann looking at the family album, Izzy by her side. He did a lot of good.
I guess I’m a bit drained myself.

Izzy/Glen: “Jon, was God in the room?”

Monday, January 21st, 2008

January 21, 2008 – Cold, sunny, a bit warmer.  My frostbitten fingers are telling me not go out again with the camera. I am convinced. And Annie says I am under house arrest. To the computer, surrounded by dogs.

I got a lot of quite wonderful e-mail about Izzy and Glen, shown below, and Cynthia, from a small town in Nebraska, asked me point-blank: “Jon, looking at those pictures, it seems as if God is working through Izzy, that explains it. Jon, was God in the room?”
An amazing question to be asked first thing in the morning, after only one cup of coffee. Cynthia, I will try and be honest with you. I will tell you precisely what happened. Hospice teaches me a lot of things,  mostly that I don’t know much of anything, a theme of my life recently. It’s good to know that about yourself.
I am powerfully drawn to that room with Glen, and yesterday, when Ann said a prayer for Glen, (see photo below) and I looked up and saw that Izzy had lowered his head, I was startled, I opened my mouth but didn’t know what to say. Ann radiates spirituality, and love, and when I picked up the camera lens and looked through the window, I saw that the room was so bright that I had to change my camera setting, and yet the photo was quite dark.
I attribute this to my clumsiness with the camera, yet the day before, sitting with Glen, as he struggled to tell me stories of his truck driving days, and his quite tough childhood – his parents sent him away to live with his grandparents because he had a deformation in one leg and they couldn’t afford to keep him on their farm – and Izzy turned to me, and his eyes were yellowish and bright – as if reflecting sun, but there wasn’t any, and the room seemed also suffused with light. The photos were too bright to use.
So I don’t know about these things, and I would never presume to know where God is or what he is doing, or presume to think he would come and visit with me and Izzy and Glen. God-talk often makes me nervous, and I steer from it, yet I have not had a more spiritual experience in my life than I got in that house, and in other hospice visits, and I do not know how to explain it.
I was tired, drained, and it was late afternoon and there are all sorts of good explanations for Izzy’s eyes, the light and the feeling the room. I just don’t have any.
Surely, Izzy is guided by something I do not grasp. Surely something was in that room. On the way home, I looked ahead and saw that a snow shower had swept over the hills and blocked the afternoon sun, creating precisely the same light I saw in Glen’s room. I pulled the car over and got this photo. It’s the same light. Maybe Cynthia can tell me if that was God, or if he brought me this light. I don’t know, and like Izzy’s work, I think I’ll leave it a mystery for now. I am just quite lucky to have Izzy, to know Glen and his family.

Hospice Journal 1: The Next Phase (see below also)

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

January 20, 2008 – Bitter cold, windy. Izzy and I went to the Adirondacks to see Glen Saturday and Sunday. There was a marked change over those two days. Glen has entered another phase, sleeping more, less aware of Izzy, less eager and able to talk. It was brutally cold outside of Glen’s small house, the wind driving the mountain temperatures well below zero.
In side the house it was quiet, the silence broken by the clicking of the oxygen machine.
All week, Glen has been trying to tell me the story of how he got his first pick-up, and how that led to his logging work, but he was not able to finish that story either Saturday or Sunday, and I hope I will get to hear it. He was very conscious of Izzy the first hour Saturday, shown above, but is less aware of him now, and Izzy, picking up on that perhaps, began shifting his attention to other members of the family, (see below).
He stared at Glen for a long time Sunday, then hopped off of the bed and checked out the other people in the room. When we left, he went over to the bedside and checked on Glen, then left with me.
Saturday, I asked Glen if he wanted to hold the carving of his beloved dog Pal, and he did. He held Pal for several hours, as he drifted in and out of sleep. Glen had a difficult life in many ways, but it was marked by an enduring love of his family and his determination to be a good and generous friend. Judging by the people streaming by to see him, he did well.
Sunday, he looked at Izzy, then at me, then mostly slept. Izzy and I talked with the other members of the family about Glen’s life. This is another phase. Glen is comfortable, not in pain and resting well. He is in the loving care of his very devoted family. He told me he was very lucky to have such people around him at this time.

Glen’s dog Pal, as carved by a neighbor. Pal rode with Glen in his logging truck for 16 years and when he sees Izzy, he often gets quite emotional remembering Pal and his loyalty and companionship. “He was a good, good, dog,” he says. Izzy got Glen to open up about Pal, and thus, other things as well.

Hospice Journal 2/ Praying with Ann and Glen, comforting Ann

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

continued from above .

Sunday, Ann, a deeply religious person,  prayed for Glen, and Izzy put his head down and was still, in the moment. Ann told Izzy and I stories about Glen, and the family’s history.
It was a powerful thing to see. Glen only briefly woke to see Izzy, and Izzy turned his attention to Ann and the other family members, who are staying by Glen’s side day and night. Ann and Izzy connected strongly,
and when she went into the kitchen to take a breath, Izzy followed her and the two nearly fused with one another.
Izzy reacts to need, and certainly he seems to connect to his own version of spirituality.
Ann needed him, it was a difficult day for her, and Izzy picked up instantly on that need and stayed with her for quite some time. I had the sense that his instincts took him to where he was needed, and Sunday afternoon, it was to the members of Glen’s family. I told Paula that it seemed to me that Izzy was his own social worker, making his own decisions about where best to go, what to do. I certainly did not order him to Ann’s side, and was, surprised by it, as he had always stayed near Glen. And he was working, and hard.
Afterwards, in the long car ride home, Izzy didn’t move, and when he got home, he ate, went out, and then nearly collapsed under his favorite chair. He hasn’t moved since, and that was some hours ago. He was clearly tired. Ann’s prayers with him and his tending to her were among the most poignant moments yet for me to be privileged to see. I am grateful to Glen’s family for their commitment to having these photos taken and shown, so that journeys like Glen’s can be shared, and his life and passing noted and  honored. Glen told me repeatedly how loving a family he has, and now, Izzy and I can share that.

Izzy with Ann in the kitchen. “What a gentle soul,” she said of him.

Izzy and Glen

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

January 15, 2008 – Izzy and I visited Glenn today, and I continue to wonder at the ability of animals like Izzy to connect with humans like Glen at particular points in their lives. Izzy knows the routine now, and enters Glen’s house, waits for permission, then hops up onto the bed and lies down.He sits next to Glen and the two communicate in ways that I can’t really see, hear or participate in. Nor should I.
I see that Izzy opens Glen up, gets him talking about his dog Pal, allows him to connect with emotions that might otherwise be difficult to access. Glen smiles at the sight of Izzy, and loves to stroke and pet him. Izzy seems to love it as well. At these moments, he seems to be – is, perhaps – Glen’s talk, alert to his movements, devoted to him. Izzy is part of the household now. There is always a bowl of water for him on the floor, and family members greet him, hug him.
Izzy seems devoted to this hospice work. He is silent during the long drive to Glen’s, quiet in Glen’s house – when Glen rests or eats or takes his medication Izzy, or tells me stories of his logging days, he hops off goes into a corner of the room and is silent and still. Then he climbs gingerly back up and the two resume their powerful work together. On the way back, Izzy is silent, curled up next to me in the car. Izzy has the gift of silence, the patience to be still. This work is a mystery to me. I can’t explain it, and don’t really want to try. I am just grateful to be able to do this work with this remarkable creature. Glen had a rough day today. Izzy made it easier. Below, Izzy sat with Glen while he slept, staring out of the window. It was a beautiful, still time.

Izzy/Glen and a carving of Pal

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

January 13, 2008 – What a gift to know Glen, and to meet his extraordinary and loving family and also to hear Glen’s stories about his logging days, his life in the Adirondacks and especially, his beloved dog Pal, who rode with Glen in his truck for 16 years. Glen was a Ford man, he says, who bought a new truck every three years. Glen is enrolled in the Washington County, N.Y., hospice program and Izzy and I are visiting him regularly. Today, Glen recounted Pal’s woodchuck catching days, his encounter with a cigarette thief who tried to break into his truck, and the dog’s battles with rats and bears.
Above, Glen shows Izzy a wood carving of Pal that he keeps in his living room. Izzy and Glen are old pals now, and Izzy hops up onto the bed next to him and the two of them just touch one another. Izzy seems to love Glen’s stories as much as I do.
Glen and his family have graciously consented to permit these pictures, to show the work dogs can do, and that hospice programs can do. I am grateful to him, and to them. He is a master storyteller. They are why hospice work is not depressing, but quite the opposite, profoundly uplifting.

Izzy and Glen

Friday, January 11th, 2008

January 11, 2008 – Raining, cold, beautiful, spiritual kind of day. Hope for some gloomy rain shots. Got a lens case so I won’t be dropping more lenses. Cracked a zoom the other day dropping it out of the case.
Working on two  more poems this weekend.

So many people e-mailed me about the Izzy and Glen visit, shown above (and below in yesterday’s Farm Journal) and many asked if there were other pictures of Izzy visiting Glen, a retired logger living in the Adirondacks enrolled in the hospice program, that I posted this one also. Izzy reminds Glen of his late but beloved dog Pal, who rode around with him in logging trucks and lived to be 16. Izzy will be visiting Glen over the weekend. Izzy is a gift, to me, to Glen, to the world.