Lenore's Archive

Helen’s third poem – “The Road to Life.”

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

Lenore, the Warrior of Love, at her post on Helen's bed.
Lenore, the Warrior of Love, at her post on Helen’s bed.
She packs a love wallop.

The Poet Emerges, Again

April 6, 2008 – After much fussing and squawking, Helen got down to the work of her third poem, “The Road to Life.” I have to confess I wasn’t sure we’d get this one out, but I knew when I walked in today that we would, as Helen was sitting up and waiting for me, looking for trouble, and complained that “you are getting me all serious and philosophical. What chance do I have against the two of you? I’m just a sick old lady.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I said, “I’m starting to think you’ll outlive me. Maybe you are the Queen of England. Let’s get to work. You have more fans that I do, and they are waiting.”
With that, Lenore hopped up onto Helen’s bed, her favored spot, and Izzy went to hang out with Warren. We all hope Helen will get out into her garden Monday afternoon.
Some of this poem was composed by Warren Saturday night, but Helen added much to it this afternoon. I am surprised – I am often surprised these days – that the poems mean so much to this couple, as each one gets deeper and more honest and more revealing. The poems I bring with me mean as much or more. If the fate of the dying is to sometimes be shunned by a world that doesn’t want to consider death, Helen’s life is being recognized, and I can see what that means to her, and to Warren.
This is Helen’s third poem, and I no longer have a clue as to how many there will be:

The Road to Life

Warren: We were talking today,  thinking about the road to life,
and about Helen and I,
and I was thinking that sometimes you see wildflowers, and their beauty has bloomed,
and they are still beautiful, even when the flower has died,
but the stems are broken.

That’s my life with Helen,
still beautiful,
But the stems are broken.

Helen: You see, the flowers are still beautiful
but the stems are broken. That’s sad, I know,
but it’s the way life is.

It’s been a long road for me and for Helen,
and some things are easier to deal with than others,
and some things you can’t really ever deal with
and can’t ever laugh about
like the death of a son.

I think of myself as a person who hopes he’s
strong enough to deal with these things.

Helen: I think we were lucky. It worked.
Sometimes, it just takes some luck, and that’s what we had.

Warren: When I married Helen, she was 19
and I was 20.

And I looked at myself in the mirror, and looked at the face looking back,
and I said one day you will be old and  feeble.
and I asked myself, I am as I am now, but what will I be down the road?
what will she be?

Do I want to go down the road with this person?
Will I want to be there when we are both old and feeble?

Looks are not what I’m talking about
I’m talking about a person.

And I said yes, and so did Helen,
we said we will go down that road together,
and we did, and we have.

Helen: You know, today, looking out this window, I see the sky
is changing. It’s a different color of blue.  I thought I saw
a Redwing, but it might be a Blackbird. Yes, a Blackbird.

Warren: And so now we are old and feeble,
and here we are, and Helen is as beautiful to me now,
lying in that bed as she was back in Michigan 60 years ago.

Helen: Well, that is very sweet.

Warren: It may sound odd, but when people
have been together as long as Helen and I have,
then you are half of something.

Half the strength of the whole,
and you give that strength to the other half.

Helen. That is true. We have always given strength to each other.

Warren: We always knew we could come
to the end of the road,
but we will be together on another road,
I have that sure and certain hope
I have no doubt about it and our
dogs and cats will be there, too.

Helen: One of us will go on ahead, that’s for sure
and the other will be along. Do you really think
one of us would want to go on without the other?

Warren: The other will be along,
and we’ll stroll down the road, together, I guess,
forever.

There will be wildflowers,
fields of flowers,
and the stems will be straight again.

___

Warren: Please notice I didn’t mention anything
about harps or wings.
Helen: Yes, please, no harps.

Izzy and Helen
Izzy and Helen looking out together, at the back yard and the gardens. The two of them
sat like this for quite awhile, and I was struck once more by Izzy’s almost empathic ability to enter the moment and spirit of a person’s life.

Helen/ Izzy, Lenore. Think of us

Sunday, April 6th, 2008


Izzy poured much love into Helen today, and she felt it. He pulled her out of a deep
sleep and into a different state. I was a remarkable thing to see. I don’t know what he is doing, but it is not something I can explain.

April 6, 2008 – Helen was sitting up and ready when we arrived this afternoon, accusing me of badgering and harassing her into writing poetry, “and being philosophical and all that stuff.” She was overwhelmed, she said, that so many people were sending her poems and letters, and she was ready to get to work and send back another poem in return. At this rate, I said, we’d have a book. “Aha,” she said, “that’s what you’re up to!” Hmmmm. I said she was picking on me, and that if she was just a sick old lady, I was just a tired writer with a sore back and diabetes.
She was tired, and so was Warren, but in far better shape than I expected. Warren was much relieved, and back to his jovial self. I continued my two-month campaign to get him to buy a medical lift chair, and he continues to mull the idea.
We worked on the poem, with Warren, and finished it, a triumph of the story, and the idea that our stories are us, and are our signals to the world that our lives matter. Thanks to many of you, Helen understands that her life matters, and that people are paying attention to it.
I will finish the poem up tonight and post it. I am grateful for this, our third living poem. It’s lovely, really. It seems something of a miracle to me.
Tomorrow, Warren and Helen both said they are eager to try and get Helen out into the garden. “I would so love to do that,” she said.
This involves getting her out of bed and into a wheelchair – she can’t walk – and outside to the patio, and with the medical equipment she needs to breathe.  Keith Mann of Hospice and a nurse and health aide will be on hand, as will Izzy, Lenore and me. That should be enough firepower if Helen is up to it. Helen says she wants photographs of her going to the garden, and I will be prepared for that, if it’s possible.
“Oh,” she said as I was leaving this afternoon, “I would love to see the garden another time. Maybe people could think of us.”
I’m sure they will, I said.
Think of us.
Tomorrow afternoon.

Love and life in the realm of the dying

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

The language between Izzy and Barb is mystical, beyond voice and my limited understanding. The two share a bond, a kind of love, and a joy that I simply do not know how to express, but am privileged to witness. They each, in their own way, know things the rest of us cannot know, and they share these things with one another.

April 5, 2008 – Hospice work is different every time. It is sometimes disturbing and frustrating. The outcome – death – is almost inevitable. The words of a Hospice social worker
still echo from training: “In our country, we mistreat the dying. We shun them, hide them, leave them and their families alone to struggle with one of life’s most powerful and intimate moments.”
This, in my almost-year of Hospice work, is true. The dying are mistreated. They are shunned, avoided. Few people want to know anything about death or dying. Most people I meet do not know what Hospice is. Some people ask me if it’s a cancer treatment center, a home for people to die in, a place to get medicines when gravely ill.
Hospice is a series of organizations staffed by administrators, nurses, home aides, social workers, and volunteers who help people who are at the end of their lives die comfortably, and with dignity. They are amazing people. Hospice doesn’t really allow for laziness, callousness or indifference. It seems to pull the best out of the people involved in it. It is about an acceptance of the dying process, and about giving the dying choice about how they wish to leave the world.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when Izzy and I signed up, but it wasn’t what we found.
In the realm of the dying, Izzy, Lenore and I have found death, for sure, and pain and loss. But if I were to describe the most powerful things we have encountered, it would be love, life and connection. There is more love and life in the realm of the dying than I have experienced in most of the rest of my life, or most of my time among the vigorous and healthy people running around in circles through most of our world.
In Hospice, we met Helen and Warren, and witnessed their great love and commitment to one another. We met Glen the logger come to terms with his death through Izzy up in the Adirondacks. We met a stricken mother watching her young son die. We met a woman who devoted years of her life to caring for her mother, and making sure she died in comfort and in her own bed.
We have read stories and poems, novels and mysteries. Lately, we have been writing living poems – two for Helen, and one underway for Barb.
Sitting up in the Adirondacks this morning with Barb, Izzy and Lenore, Barb and I were chatting quietly in the kitchen about her life, happy things and sad, when she suddenly told me this wonderful story about the time she was seven and a bird landed on her hand.
“I didn’t even have food,” she said, shaking her head in mystery of how such a miracle could occur.
She told the story as if it happened yesterday, and was as full of wonder and joy as if it were happening now. Watching she and Izzy connect to one another, I thought of how Hospice was, in strange ways, a celebration of living, an affirmation not of death but of life, and the pieces, people and stories that make up the individual tapestries of life. Also of the powerful bonds and stories of friendship and family that abound in the land of the dying, and help people through this extraordinary passage at their time of greatest need.
In this realm, there is the greatest sincerity. Time matters, memories are powerful and important, the meaning of one’s life is constantly affirmed and never, ever, taken for granted.
I love stories. They are my life, in many ways, and I see the Hospice work I am doing with  Izzy and Lenore as the greatest gift: hearing the sparkling little stories that, no matter how small, add up to nothing less than life. There is nothing depressing about that.
Barb is ill, and like the rest of us, will fall. I have no illusions about that, but what a pleasure to know her and to hear her gentle and loving tales of her life with Bill, her adventurous mother, her eight children.
I am enriched and nourished by the gift of the stories that make up her life, and in awe of the power of my dogs to brighten her time. I look forward to our visits. There is no reason to shun the dying, or to mistreat them. They have as much to offer us, perhaps much more, as we could ever give to them.
Barb’s poem will be posted later in the week.
___

I am taking the month of April to do Hospice work full-time, both for my own personal reasons, and to hone the dog’s training skills. I will be posting regular Hospice Journals, as well as the reports from the farm, and the odd and diverse photo from here and there.

Lenore is a warrior for love

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Helen – “Life is like a road.”

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Love Hound Lenore lying on Helen's bed getting her tummy rubbed. Soon, she was snoring.
Love Hound Lenore lying on Helen’s bed getting her tummy rubbed. Soon, she was snoring.

April 4, 2008 – I have to admit when Helen wrote her first poem several weeks ago, “My Garden,” I thought it might be her last. She was frail, weak, and struggling. She still is, and she had a grinding week, but Helen is a scrapper, enjoying her time with Warren, and very much enjoying the response to her first two poems. So much that she wants to work on another one this week, tentatively called “Life is like a road,” that she says she has been thinking about.
“I know I might as well do it,” she huffed tonight, “because you’ll just harass me into doing it, pushing a sick old lady around.” She did admit, after a bit of prodding, “well, I have to say I am enjoying these poems and letters coming in.” I have to say I think the poems have had a significant impact her spirit. Thanks again.
This was a rugged week for Helen, lots of medical procedures, new medications, exhaustion. She continues to amaze me with her cheerfulness and humor, and I have yet to hear her complain about anything. Today, Warren told me stories about his service in Worl War II. I show Helen and Warren my photos now, when they are printed, and they offer me much praise and encouragement. We have had some special times, and I am surprised, even stunned, that Helen is cranking out another poem. I’ll go over tomorrow and we’ll work on it over the weekend and hopefully, get it posted Sunday.  She and Warren are talking about it tonight.
Warren got a new clothes dryer installed to help with the laundry. I am still badgering him to get a medical reclining chair, as he sleeps by Helen’s bedside, and his legs seem very stiff.
We are planning another effort to get out into her garden Monday, with the help of some Hospice staffers. Helen says she is nervous about it, but very eager to get outside.
The dogs relentlessly boost the atmosphere in the house, swarming over Warren, visiting individually with Helen. The dogs have been stellar, focused and loving and unobtrusive.
For a couple of weeks, Izzy zeroed in on Warren, and now seems to be refocusing a bit on Helen. Lenore is in everyone’s lap.

Izzy hanging out with Helen earlier today
Izzy hanging out with Helen earlier today

Scandal: Lenore steals cheeseburger from Hospice patient

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Lenore, the burger thief
Thief

April 28, 2008 – All right, all right. I promised to be open on this blog, and I will fess up here that last week Lenore, the Hound of Love,  is suspected of having stolen a cheeseburger from a Hospice patient lying in a hospital bed.
We were on a Hospice visit, and a family member came back from McDonald’s with two cheeseburgers, one for the nurse, and one for the patient, who loved cheeseburgers.  I didn’t notice that the nurse opened the bag and put the two cheeseburgers down on the floor next to her purse.
A minute later, I heard the words any Lab owner knows all too well, “Hey, what happened to the cheesburger I put on the floor!”
Lenore was sitting next to me, wagging her tail, licking her chops only slightly, and looking like an angel. It was all so fast she had to have virtually inhaled the burger, which is not in the least bit surprising. The mystery is that there was no wrapper anywhere, and I suppose that really shouldn’t have surprised me either.
She then cuddled with the patient, who simply adored her and laughed about the cheeseburger. “You can always get another burger,” she said, “but you rarely see a dog like Lenore!” (Sgt. Mann, I am not telling you which patient, so don’t even ask.)
“Lenore,” I said when we got out to the car, “you ought to be ashamed of herself. You cannot be a Hospice dog and be stealing food from Hospice patients.” Lenore tilted her head and looked at me curiously, and then wagged her tail and came over to lick my hand. She seemed pleased.

Helen, Lenore

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

Lenore likes to lie, sometimes sleep at the foot of Helen’s bed, while Helen reaches
over to stroke her back.