Saying Goodbye

Question: What do all of these things have in common?

  • A bottle of Purell by the front door
  • Protein bars in the pantry
  • A partially filled pill box on the kitchen table
  • Reading glasses on the side table
  • An unopened letter on the desk
  • Protein shakes on the second shelf of the refrigerator

Answer: They will inspire unimaginable waves of grief when you realize that your father will never use any of them again.

Dad went into the ICU on Thursday. And even though he had been in and out of hospitals since December 26, it was different this time. He was in pain, unbearable pain, from peritonitis. When the Emergency Department doctors diagnosed him, I asked if it was curable. They assured me it was.

Except that it wasn’t. And three days later, Dad drew his last breaths surrounded by his wife, his children, and his pastors.

Dad was the epitome of love and compassion. He thought of others and how we could work together to make this a better world. When I was in high school, and questioning organized religion because of (insert myriad of reasons), instead of forcing me to attend services, he asked me what I would like to do to help others. So from then on, we worked the Samaritan Soup Kitchen downtown on Sunday mornings. I didn’t think much of it then, but later I realized what a sacrifice he was making to take me downtown every Sunday morning. He actually liked church. He liked the social aspect of it; he liked the faith aspect of it.

I was supposed to travel to Charleston on Thursday morning for a friend’s 50th birthday celebration. As I was getting ready to go, I went into his bedroom to say goodbye and noticed he was in incredible pain. We ended up calling an ambulance because I couldn’t transport him in my car without hurting him. He apologized, saying that he always ruined my trips. I laughed and told him not to worry about it – there were more important things. On Friday, from the ICU, he told me to go to Charleston, to be with my friends, it was important to celebrate relationships.

One thing he was clear about was that he did not want to be sustained by life support, and he had documented that thoroughly. We had discussed it on Saturday morning before I left for Charleston. His doctors had come into the room and said that if the infection didn’t clear up soon, they would need to remove the Tenckhoff catheter that he used to perform peritoneal dialysis. I looked at them and asked how he would be able to perform dialysis. They said he could revert back to hemodialysis. I shared that that wasn’t an option for him, since his blood pressure was so low. They said that CCRT, the continuous dialysis (which was apparently very painful and could only be done in the ICU) was the other option. From his bed, Dad shook his head and looked up at me with pleading eyes. I told him I knew that wasn’t what he wanted, and we wouldn’t let that happen. The doctors left. I reminded Dad that he was of sound mind and he could make the decision at any point to leave the hospital and we would engage with Hospice at home. He joked that he had never been of sound mind. He also said that if they told him he would have to be in this existence for a month, that wasn’t the life he wanted. I asked him if he would agree to the treatment for a few more days, maybe a week, to see if things got better, and then we could re-evaluate. He said that sounded like a good plan. He told me to be safe, enjoy my friends, and we’d see each other the next day.

So on Saturday mid-morning I went. Early Sunday morning I learned his condition had worsened, so I drove immediately to the hospital, praying the entire four hours I was driving that I wouldn’t get a speeding ticket and that he would survive until I got to the hospital. When I entered the ICU room, my Mom, my brother, and my sister were already there. I was overcome by guilt and sadness. He was fully on life support, exactly what he didn’t want. His eyes were half open and he was gasping for breath. I was gutted.

I leaned over, kissed his forehead, and told him I was there. He opened his beautiful blue eyes and said, “No way!” I repeated that I was there, Mom was there, Greg was there, and Ashley was there. The whole family was there and he was surrounded by love. Again, he said, “No way!” closed his eyes, and leaned back. We talked to him and told him how much we loved him, how much we appreciated all that he had done for each of us and for our community, how much we’ll miss him, how we cannot imagine living without him in our lives. I choose to believe he heard us. Occasionally he would squeeze my hand, or an eyebrow would raise, or a slight smile would pass his face. My brother left to get some sleep before his night shift.

And then the nurses asked to speak to us. I went out of the room. Before they said anything I blurted out, “He’s dying and he’s on life support and he didn’t want that and he’s in so much pain and we have to abide by his wishes and I don’t want him to die and he’s going to and is there anything you can do to cause him to be in less pain?” And then I collapsed.

They tried to tell me I was making a decision out of love. I was honoring his wishes and he was suffering and if we moved to “comfort care” they would have a lot more latitude with what they could administer.

I called his pastor. They ordered drip painkillers from the pharmacy.

We waited for his pastor to arrive. We waited for my brother to return. I checked his phone to see if anyone had sent messages that I could share with him. There were a couple, as well as about 300 spam and marketing messages over the course of one day. I chided him for subscribing to so much junk, then proceeded to read the offers to him, one by one. We laughed, and I hope he was laughing, too.

The pastor arrived. My brother arrived. The painkillers in a drip bag arrived. We said a prayer, holding hands. I explained to him step by step what would happen. I reminded him the first thing he told anyone when he checked into a hospital was that he has a full DNR (do not resuscitate) order. And that he didn’t want to live a life sustained by life support.

The nurses started the painkillers. “Dad, they’ve hooked you up to a stronger painkiller. You won’t feel the debilitating pain that you’ve experienced over the last few days anymore.” They stopped the blood pressure medicine drip. “Dad, they’re stopping your blood pressure medicine drip. Your blood pressure might drop.” They stopped the CCRT process which was cleansing his blood. “Dad, they’re disconnecting you from CCRT. I know how painful this was over the past few days, and you won’t have that pain anymore. This is what you asked for, and we love you so much.” It was 3:33 pm.

I had an idea that when someone is taken off life support, they die. But they don’t. The body keeps fighting, keeps breathing. The heart keeps pumping. We continued to hold his hands and tell him how much we loved him for the next 1 hour and 13 minutes. I was watching an artery? a vein? in his neck, mirroring his heart beat. I watched it slow. And slow. And stop. And I heard a guttural cry. I wondered where it was coming from when I realized it was coming from me. There is nothing that could have prepared me for him drawing his last breath. The tears would not stop flowing as I sobbed, heaving to breathe.

The nurses told us we could stay as long as we wanted. I don’t know if we stayed a couple of minutes or much longer. I do know that when I leaned over for to give Dad one last kiss goodbye, his body had gone cold.

Cabin Memories

When I was about eight years old, my parents decided that we would build a cabin in the mountains a couple of hours from our home. Our pastor had a cabin there, and we enjoyed weekends spent visiting – tubing down the New River, watermelon seed spitting contests, dark nights full of sparkling stars. I’m not sure what order things happened next, but they bought a piece of land on the mountain, bought a dilapidated log cabin with foot high weeds all around it in another town from a fellow church member, and bought a ’54 Chevy at a yard sale for $300. At least that’s what I remembered. Dad’s corrections are in italics in parenthesis below.

It was true, they did buy a plot on the mountain.

And they did buy a dilapidated (it was merely abandoned, not dilapidated) house from a fellow church member who had inherited it. (The church member’s grandfather was born in the cabin. We looked for the cemetery where he was buried and his tombstone said he was born in 1878, so we know the cabin was at least that old). Dad said the house could have been lived in, had someone put some work into it. The work we put into it was tearing it apart. Every weekend we would drive to a place in the middle of nowhere (near Pilot Mountain, NC, about a half hour from our house) and tear apart the house, salvaging as much material as possible – the 1” thick (1” thick, 13” wide, heart pine) pine hardwood floors, the hand-hewn logs (hidden beneath clapboard siding), and so much scrap lumber. Maybe the end image is the one that sticks in my mind – a field of weeds (that part was true) with simply the shell of what used to be a house, a few bricks here and there, some corrugated metal roofing laying to the side. One day as they were working, and I was playing, they noticed a blacksnake slithering out from between the clapboard and the logs. And then the snake was noticeably thicker. It was *two* blacksnakes, wrapped around each other, slithering out of the house. And out. And out. And out. They were each at least 8 feet long (6 – 7 feet, actually). We dubbed them Sally and Sammy, and kept an eye out for them each time we were there.

And then there was Pinnacle, the truck, named for the town where we bought her at a yard sale (bought from someone’s yard; it was parked in their yard with a “For Sale” sign on it, asking price $250, not $300) and the price was right. Pinnacle was a ’54 Chevy bright red pick up truck, with a can of said red paint in the truck bed. When we got her home, Dad said that he’d pay me to paint the truck. I remember it being an exorbitant sum of money, possibly $20 (actually, only $10). Remember, I was eight years old. So I got a 4” wide paintbrush, put some newspaper down in the garage, and painted Pinnacle. I thought she looked stunning. Being artistic, I even painted the raised “C H E V R O L E T” on the back tailgate a pristine white. Well, pristine except for that little bit that bled into the fresh red paint.

We had so many adventures in Pinnacle. Imagine what kind of truck you might buy for $300 ($250). Pinnacle had a huge bench seat, wide enough for dad to drive and my sister and I to sit in the front together, without even being close to touching. The windshield wipers only worked one way. So if it rained, we’d turn the wipers on, and they would swish to the left. Dad would then, as he was driving, reach out the triangle that should have housed a window (but was missing), lean forward, and slap the wipers the other way. They’d then swish to the left, and the process would repeat. Being young ladies influenced by peer pressure, we were mortified that our friends might see us riding in this pickup. So my sister and I would crouch on the floor of the cab, plenty of room there, until we had made it out of the neighborhood. Pinnacle had no seatbelts. Which would have come in handy the day that we rounded a curve and the passenger door flew open, my sister and I slowly sliding, on our way towards careening towards the asphalt. Dad pulled us close and slowed down. The door latch was busted. Nothing a sturdy rope couldn’t fix. He rolled down the window, tied the door shut, and from then on we had to enter through the driver’s side door. Until a neighbor borrowed Pinnacle and fixed the door handle by installing a hook and eye lock on the outside of the door. Even though this was the 1970s, I’m sure that wasn’t legit.

So each weekend, we’d go to dissemble the house, my sister and I usually playing in the fields while the adults pulled logs apart and numbered them. This went on for a couple of years and then it was time to reassemble them on the mountain. Dad hired a huge flatbed truck to load the logs, and up we went. The foundation had been laid with the help of a local contractor who had built many other beautiful log cabins, and we got to work. I’m not sure how much help my sister and I were. I remember them sitting us on the porch that was being built, and instructing us to hammer nails into the wood, which I remember as locust, which resulted in a lot of bent nails. But it kept us occupied. Sort of. (The other thing we did was give you and your sister brushes and asked you to “wash” the logs as they were waiting to be assembled.)

Dad installed a swing on a tree to the side of the cabin. We would sit in the swing towards the top of the mountain, and then as we swung out, we were so high above the ground, Empire State Building high (maybe 10 feet high). The mountain at that point was fairly steep, and we loved swinging out into what felt like thin air, singing the Carpenters popular hit, “Top of the World.” Until the day the rope gave way. Luckily the ground was carpeted with lots of leaves and pine needles, which provided a soft enough landing so that we escaped without any broken bones.

We were entertained when the chinking began. There was chicken coop wire (wire mesh, not chicken coop)  between the logs, and I remember mom smoothing the cement mixture in between the logs, against the wires, only to have the cement slowly roll out a minute later. It was a never ending race of placing the cement, moving on, seeing it rolling out, and trying to place it back in and get it to hold. The walls were taunting us and we thought it was hysterical. (We eventually put 10 penny nails, 1” apart in the logs, and for some reason that helped hold the chinking in, which is still there to this day.)

And this weekend, after 40+ years of enjoying the mountains and our cabin, we closed it up. My parents decided to sell the cabin as it’s getting harder and harder for them to maintain it. We thought that it might take six months or more for it to sell, and they received offers within the first couple of weeks of it being on the market. So we went up to pack up personal belongings and prepare it for the next owners. I didn’t think I’d be as emotional as it turned out I was. It was sad to pack up the quilts that we had slept under, layered and layered upon each other, as in the early days we only had a fire in the den for warmth. It was sad to clean out the cupboard, knowing we wouldn’t make any more meals there, sitting around the kitchen table made from lumber from the original house (it was actually the 5 foot door that separated the living room from the stairwell in the original house, that served the purpose of keeping the heat in downstairs). It was sad to sit on the porch, looking out through the bare trees down to the river which had given us so many delightful memories.

As we were walking back to the cabin after loading the car, mom stopped, looking at the green stalks of daffodils, the yellow flowers still tightly held. With tears, she said she wished that we could have stayed long enough to see them bloom. As we drove out of the driveway, I saw one lone daffodil that had bloomed, in the spot where the swing used to be. “Look, mom, a daffodil bloomed for you.”

 

2019 International Women’s Day Panel Discussion & Live Q&A

This is going to be a spectacular event on Friday, March 8. If you have access to an internet connection, join us for what’s sure to be an exciting conversation about leadership development, self-advocacy, and mentorship. Hope to see you there!

If you really want to know what's on my mind...

This Friday, March 8th, at 10am PST I’ll be hosting an International Women’s Day (virtual) Panel Discussion & Live Q&A with 4 amazing women from the tech industry, to discuss leadership development, self-advocacy, and mentorship. We will be using the Zoom video app to host the panel so as long as you have an internet connection you can join us! It’s free!


View original post 331 more words

Losing My Religion

I was raised in the United Methodist Church. Really raised. Church every Sunday (Sunday School and worship service) – if I feigned sickness I wasn’t allowed to leave my bed. No books, no radio. Wednesday fellowship, meals and more teachings. Youth Group, trips to the beach, sleepovers at the church, and more teachings. Youth Choir – singing praises and more teachings. Ice Cream Socials – lots of amazing homemade ice cream and more teachings.

Most of my neighbors attended our church, so gatherings blurred  – were they social or were they church? Did it matter? Almost every day I was with my church community. And my memories of growing up in the United Methodist Church were ones of tolerance and social conscience raising – volunteering on building trips after natural disasters, serving in soup kitchens, helpful our fellow people. We even allowed women in the clergy! The other churches in town didn’t.

Church became less and less of my life the older I got. I finally found a church in San Francisco that I felt at home in – Glide, which happened to be Methodist, but it put people before the doctrine. Everyone, I mean *everyone*, is welcome at Glide. It doesn’t even matter if you’re Christian. Love is love is love. I loved the Sunday celebrations, full of music and praise and joy and vulnerability. Even though I’m not living there anymore, I still stream the Sunday celebrations.

I’m sure if adult me were to visit child me, I would see the prejudice and discrimination that I’m sure were there in my childhood church community, but which were invisible to child me. That prejudice and discrimination hit me full force this week.

On Tuesday, the United Methodist Church voted to reinforce its decision that gay and lesbian clergy are not welcome in the church, and the church will not recognize same-sex marriages. My first thought when I heard that this was on the conference agenda was, “Seriously? This is 2019.” My second thought was that they would probably come to some sort of watered down compromise, much like the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” doctrine of the 1990s and early 2000s. I wasn’t prepared for what was shared. The vote was 53 to 47. That’s incredible in a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing way. 53% of the representatives of the church do not want to recognize the civil rights that every person is entitled to.

I’m heartened by the churches in the 47% saying they will break away, they will form a new denomination. There’s no place for this type of institutionalized discrimination in any organization. It’s 2019. It’s time.

January

January has been the month of the hospital.

Dad entered the hospital on Dec 26, 2018. In the 36 days since then, he’s been discharged twice, and then re-admitted twice, mere days after having been discharged. I so appreciate the care the doctors and nurses and staff of the hospital have shown. The kindness as people make sure that he’s comfortable. The generosity and friendliness of the coffee shop workers, as we come down at 10 pm to grab a croissant or a cup of soup. The chatter the cleaning staff share with us, telling us stories about children and grandchildren and birthday celebrations and impromptu trips. The patience of the doctors as we ask question after question after question. And yet, each morning as we return to the hospital my eyes fill with tears as we pull into the parking garage. There’s a heaviness and a dread and a sadness that comes with seeing someone whom I adore more than anyone else in the world fighting to heal his body.

*****

You can pay for parking by the hour, by the day, or by the week (the best value). (Yes, I’m obsessed with parking; I lived in San Francisco for 25 years.) On the day before his last discharge, we had already been at the hospital all day, and it was a better value to pay for a week’s pass, rather than two daily passes. I naïvely hoped that if I paid for a week’s pass, it would serve as a talisman, warding off any future admittances. As much as I wanted the magic to work, it didn’t.

I Left My Heart…

  • 57 boxes
  • 9 sing alongs to the complete Hamilton soundtrack
  • 632 feet of bubble wrap
  • 5 trips to UHaul for supplies

… and 25 years of life in San Francisco packed up.

Packed up

Packed up

It took the movers just over two hours to load everything on a truck, which I’ll see again in 7 to 21 business days in Asheville, NC.

Empty

Empty

I’m excited, and anxious, and sad, and nostalgic, and well, all the feels at once. I’m sad to leave such wonderful friends in the Bay Area. I’m excited to move to the mountains. I look forward to quiet. I’ll miss walking everywhere. I’m nervous about driving again (it’s been 17 years since I owned a car). I’m excited to re-kindle friendships.

I’ve spent the last month soaking up the best of San Francisco. Museums, drinks with friends, one-on-one and group dinners, concerts, and walks, so many walks, through the city, nostalgia sweeping over me like a tsunami. I have a strong feeling that the cliché is true: I will leave my heart in San Francisco. Until we meet again, <3.

 

 

Hello, .blog!

I’m excited that my website has a new url (look up there ^): lori.blog. There’s a nice symmetry to that: four letters dot four letters.

If you want your own .blog domain: get them while they’re hot. You can go to get.blog (Automattic’s registrar), or any of the 100s of other registrars that are selling the domain.

Feeling Blue

I’m in Iceland on a work trip with my team. I fell asleep last night with Hillary Clinton predicted to win the election. Our first female president. Possibly the most qualified candidate that has ever run for the office of the president, objectively looking at years in public service and positions held.

I woke this morning to text messages and notifications, all saying that Donald Trump was the President-elect of the United States. Still sleepy, I struggled to comprehend what I was reading. Really? I read more. Really.

I’ve worked on/donated to political campaigns since I was a young woman. I had a shotgun pulled on me as I canvassed for Harvey Gantt when he ran against Jesse Helms in the NC Senate election (and lost). I had folks hang up on me when I called them from a rented storefront in San Francisco in 1992, encouraging them to vote for Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (they won). I had bruises and paper cuts on my arms from passing out signs (so many signs) at the DNC in 2004, hoping that John Kerry would win the election (he didn’t).

I’ve never cried after the results of an election were announced. Until today. Many times. I am sad. And I am despondent.

I believe in the democratic process. I feel so privileged to live in a country where I can vote. I have not missed voting in any election (federal, state, local) since I turned 18 and was eligible to vote. I research the issues, make notes, and vote. I get butterflies in my stomach when I cast my vote. I’m being heard.

And that’s what makes me so sad. That we have stripped the right to vote from so many people in the United States. That their voices are not heard. That only 55% of people eligible to vote actually voted in this election. That almost half of America’s voices were not heard in this election. That approximately half of those 55% of voters who made it to the polls voted for a candidate that has disparaged various groups of people in our country and promised to take away undeniable rights. African Americans. Transgender individuals. Homosexuals. Women. Muslims. Immigrants. This is where the political is personal. I love individuals in each of those groups. These are the people that are my friends, my neighbors, my colleagues. I am despondent because I am fearful of what the future holds. I am despondent that there is so much hate in our country. I am despondent because that hate is what is being heard.

I have not given up hope. I’ll work on campaigns again. I’ll speak out and donate and call and canvas and lobby. Just not yet. It’s too painful. Right now, I’m grieving. Not just for Clinton’s loss, but for what our country has become.

From the “Buts” to the “Ands”

I hear people say “Black Lives Matter, but…”

  • all lives matter, too.
  • they must have been doing something suspicious if the police pulled a gun on them.
  • they were armed as well (I think).

And I want the conversation to turn from the buts to the ands, saying, “Yes. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter and Philando Castile died too young and Alton Sterling died too young and Delrawn Small died too young and Jai Williams died too young and Kawme Patrick died too young and Tyrone Reado died too young and Lafayette Evans died too young and Sherman Evans died too young and Germichael Kennedy died too young and Donte Johnson died too young and Ismael Miranda died too young and Jay Anderson died too young and Deravis Rogers died too young and Angelo Brown died too young and Quencezola Splunge died too young and Isaiah Core III died too young and Antonio Richardson died too young and Rashaun Lloyd died too young and Clarence Howard died too young and Antwun Shumpert died too young and Michael Moore died too young and John Williams died too young and Lyndarius Witherspoon died too young and Keith Bursey died too young and  John Brisco died too young and Willis Walker Jr died too young and Henry Green died too young and Demarco Rhymes died too young and Willie “Meek” James died too young and Rodney Smith died too young and Michael Johnson died too young and Osee Calix died too young and Ollie Brooks died too young and Devonte Gates died too young and Terry Frost died too young and Doll Pierre-Louis died too young and Vernell Bing Jr died too young and Michael Wilson Jr died too young and Joshua Beebee died too young and Kentrill Carraway died too young and Jessica Williams died too young and Jabril Robinson died too young and Arthur DaRosa died too young and Jaffort Smith died too young and Arthur Williams Jr died too young and Michael Gibson died too young and Alton Witchard died too young and Deresha Armstrong died too young and Burt Johnson died too young and Reginald Dogan died too young and Charlin Charles died too young and Ashtian Barnes died too young and Joshua Brooks died too young and Willie Tillman died too young and Demarcus Semer died too young and Jorevis Scruggs died too young and Rico Johnson died too young and Demetrius Dorsey died too young and Richard Bard Jr died too young and Kisha Arrone died too young and George Tillman died too young and Edson Thevenin died too young and Robert Howard died too young and Rodney Watts died too young and Pierre Leury died too young and Quron Williams died too young and Diahlo Grant died too young and Lamont Gulley died too young and Dazion “Jerome” Flenaugh died too young and Laronda Sweatt died too young and Kevin Hicks died too young and Darius Robinson died too young and Cameron Glover died too young and Matthew Wood Jr died too young and Kimani Johnson died too young and James Simpson died too young and James Brown III died too young and Deriante Miller died too young and Jermon Seals died too young and Dominique Silva died too young and Alexio Allen died too young and Robert Dentmond died too young and Torrey Robinson died too young and Thurman Reynolds died too young and India Beaty died too young and Scott Bennett died too young and Christopher Nelms died too young and Lamar Harris died too young and Jacai Colson died too young and Peter Gaines died too young and Marco Loud died too young and Keith Montgomery Jr died too young and Tyre Privott died too young and Arteair Porter Jr died too young and Akiel Denkins died too young and Kionte Spencer died too young and Greg Gunn died too young and Cedric Ford died too young and Christopher Davis died too young and Travis Stevenson died too young and Marquintan Sandlin died too young and Kisha Michael died too young and Che Taylor died too young and Paul Gaston died too young and Dyzhawn Perkins died too young and Calvin Smith died too young and Calin Roquemore died too young and Ali Yahia died too young and Sahlah Ridgeway died too young and Peter Fanfan died too young and Mohamed Barry died too young and Jerand Ross died too young and Shalamar Longer died too young and Eric Harris died too young and David Joseph died too young and Marese Collins died too young and Wendell Celestine Jr died too young and Antoine Scott died too young and Randy Nelson died too young and Peter John died too young and Charles Smith died too young and Bruce Kelley Jr died too young and Randolph McClain died too young and Christoper Dew died too young and Christoper Kalonji died too young and Johnathan Bratcher died too young and Janet Wilson died too young and Cedric Norris died too young and Timothy Albert died too young and Crayton West died too young and Henry Bennett died too young and Rakeem Bentley died too young and Carlton Murphy Jr died too young and Rodney Turner died too young and Eric Senegal died too young and Germonta Wallace died too young and wow, that’s 136 Black people killed by police in the first 188 days of 2016 and that’s a whole lot of killing and maybe it’s time to address the systemic racism that allows this to continue to happen.”