Tis the season for jing a ling and tra la la. Lots of shopping and running around. Too much Christmas music, tinsel and glitter or gathering for Hanukkah gelt and food of all kinds. Or whatever your holiday is, this is the time of year for…well, distraction.

Many of us may find much of this holiday season annoying: too much traffic, too many crowds, too much stuff and just plain too much consumerism. The holidays seem to have gotten away (in most cases) from what they were really supposed to mean and what all the symbols are meant to represent. I bet in many cases folks don’t know anymore. It’s just become: buy, buy, buy and rush, rush, rush and what’s on sale. They may know the basics, but unless you are deeply entrenched within your religious community, it’s all just Hallmark nonsense.

It’s exhausting and sad and often stressful.

But this was the first year I had an insight to it all.  Because the world has become such a harsh place and each year it only seems to get worse, maybe we all need this nonsense. Between the natural disasters and man-made horrors of the world, I truly believe we all suffer, on some deep level, from a global/connected/deep-seeded depression. Most of the time when we tune into what ever we tune into (our preferred media source), it’s some new calamity bombarding us. All year-long we must endure hearing about our fellow humans suffer, or our planet dying or animals being exterminated. It’s a wonder any of us get out of bed at all.

And then, along comes the holidays. Time for our own little fantasy world of tinsel and glitter, pretty lights and toys. And even magic and a crazy man, elves and reindeer bringing happiness to the whole world. And even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you may still have your own holiday celebration within your own religious belief; one that brings your family together, one where you can remember better times and get time off from work.

All these holidays have one thing in common: they help us remember our past, not only our personal one when we were young and things were simpler and maybe happier; but our human past. That’s why they were celebrated in the first place; to acknowledge an important event in history.

And the days when many of us are celebrating our respective holidays on those special days specifically set aside for these historic days from our past, we are not thinking about all the terrible things going on presently that usually occupy our minds. This may be the most important gift of all.

For those precious moments at least, we can let our hearts and souls fill instead with the sounds of our families, children and homes (after the rush and stress have died down). The smells of cooking, the visits from those we haven’t seen, the familiar decorations all give a sense of well-being and safety. These feelings may be rare for us these days. So we lap it up in the swell of the holiday tide. This is the part we take for granted, the feelings, but this is the part of life we are missing every day in this painful world. This is what the holiday season gives us.  Positive feelings.

So, for the first time in many years, I say: go ahead and enjoy. Play the incessant Christmas music. I get all the lights and sparkly stuff.  Sure, I would still rather people not buy so much ‘stuff’ because it’s not good for the world, but I do understand better why they do…it’s for the feelings they produce. But mostly, I just understand the whole ‘thing’ of the holidays more this year: instead of global depression, it’s global jublilation.

Maybe that’s why they call it a magical time of year.


Poem: Re-Human

How to be open

when life is caving in

or to give

when so much

is taken

The fires are lit

and souls are drowning

the earth is folding in

on itself

trying to get away


left at the


of Gods

who have abandoned

We are now

left alone

to swirl in our own


or to beg

for them to create us



Poem: Shot & Other Sadness Thoughts

They are gone

yet we tread on

dead-eyed zombies

feasting upon what they left behind

Their flickering ghosts

flash upon screens

and disappearing voices

echo to screams

yet we watch


their dying dreams


I was handed my sadness like a suitcase when they pushed me out the door so long ago. It has been with me since then; something I hold near me as a reminder of the pain. But it is also a gift. A beacon to see pain in all other things. I carry that with me too. So this is why I will never truly feel at peace–not fully. Only tiny bits, at moments here and there. Because what I am meant to carry is a story of sorrow. And this sorrow gathers sadness and pain within it and to hide in the crevices, unreachable, forever.


On Dying


I was in the presence today of a dying person. No, not like you and me–I mean actively dying. We are all dying of course, but this is part of my hospice volunteering, my first day meeting with my new patient.

It’s not at all like being a paramedic because we aren’t given much: only a name. No diagnosis, no real history, no nothing. Of course, I’m not your average volunteer, so I can deduce some things. But, I’m not there to fix really. Only to sit. And maybe to provide some small comfort, maybe some smiles and to help a caregiver get some respite.

In this case I am reminded how much we can tell by someone’s eyes. They may not be able to speak much anymore, but their eyes speak volumes. And maybe they aren’t able-bodied any longer, but it is easy to remember that this same person was someone else, someone before they were dying.

They were like you and me: laughing loudly, arguing, dancing, quilting, walking around, loving, working and most of all–living.

It makes me wonder why people spend time while they are alive wasting it on unhappy things. On things that upset them. On things that they can never reclaim. On people who will never care enough. Why I did.

I need to spend more time living while I’m dying. Because we never know when it will be our turn that the dying will become active. Or maybe the living will simply stop.





Had my training for becoming a Hospice Volunteer today. It was incredibly organized and informative. They don’t mess around–a bit different from the Soup Kitchen, I must say. Of course, it’s a whole different ball of wax. They depend on Medicare/Medicade  funding, so must tow the line, even when it comes to volunteers. We are dealing with patients, so have to follow the same guidelines that any healthcare providers do.

Luckily, having spent so many years in the business, I’m familiar with most of it–and how to deal with death and dying, and families, but it was great to get a brush up and hear their take on things.

The group was pretty big, with kids from high school right up to senior citizens. There was even another female paramedic! Only two males though, as the group was mostly women. It seemed like a really good bunch of folks willing to do a whole range of jobs. I wish I was more talented, so I could provide special things, like singing or music, but hopefully I will give something in my own way.

Once all my paperwork, tests etc. pass, then I’ll be clear to go around with a mentor and finally begin my own work with the patients. Some have no family of their own, but some just need extra. Many (most they said) have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease so might not recognize us from week to week. But that’s fine. As long as we can provide comfort of some sort.

I have some ideas of what I can do. And I’m honored to share this sacred part of someone’s life. To help give someone a good death is important. That transition can be so difficult, we must try the best we can to make it as easy as possible. For everyone: the patient and the family.

And so I step into this realm once again and take this journey with them, hopefully with something to offer.


Simply Strong

Today I got some news while I was at work. They say no news is good news, and so, this wasn’t good news. A very dear old friend of mine had been battling breast cancer and had been doing well. She is a very low-key person. It had been her way not to initially tell many people, including me, even though I’ve known her for almost 25 years. When I found out, I was a wreck. She had to console me–it was rather pathetic. But by then she was well into her processing and getting ready to start treatments. Plus she’s just simply strong.

Today when she emailed, she said she had discovered some bleeding. As a medic, I always wince when I hear ‘bleeding’ come over the radio. We only imagine where the bleeding can be coming from…. She figured it was probably nothing, but when she went to the doctors, they found she now has rectal cancer. Upon discovering this, they quickly ran more tests, and discovered her breast cancer is back.

Although she opted for a double mastectomy originally, it’s still back! The good news, if there is any to be had in all this, it hadn’t spread to any ‘major’ organs….yet. And now she’s back in treatment.

I can hardly type this blog article now. Throughout the day, I just cried. While she was pretty upbeat in her email, I know how she must really be feeling. This all went down in the fall. Like I said, she’s pretty private. It made me feel like I wish she had told me sooner! Here I’ve been running around feeling happy about life, and one of my best friends has been so sick . Sick and scared witless. How dare I be OK?  Gads.

When we met so many years ago, our kids were babies. We were nursing and went to the same very liberal church. Our spiritual preference then was earth based and I still follow that path. She, on the other hand, has moved in an extremely different direction over the years. My friend found God in a big way over since we have lived apart–and I’m glad for her she has done so. I can tell she finds comfort in her religion now.

Me being me, while I know I must ‘be positive’ as everyone says, I am a realist. I’m also a paramedic and live this stuff all the time. One of the first things I did was to google rectal cancer. It was depressing. She’s no fool either.

It’s funny sometimes where life brings us though… It always kind of boggled my mind how religious she had become and how much she now spoke about God and Jesus. But maybe it was all for a reason. Maybe for her, they really did have a plan. While I can only hope her stay here on earth isn’t painful and is as long as possible, I pray her Heaven is waiting for her too.

But all I know is that I surely hope they hurry up and find a cure, because there are too many people who I end up missing terribly.


Two days before Christmas and today was a hard day on the ambulance and in the fire department. My ambulance call was a 43-year-old woman dying of cancer. She didn’t really need 911, she really needed hospice, but her home care worker called us instead. They often do. So we went and I transported her.

There was nothing I could medically do honestly–she had a port, and didn’t want me to start an IV. I can’t use the port, so couldn’t give her any medications to make her feel better. So my only help could be emotional support.

When I asked what I could do, she broke down and cried. Cried about the three children she would leave behind. I cried with her. And hugged her. That was all I could do. There are no amount of IV’s or medications that can heal a mother’s broken heart or worry for the kids that will be left when she leaves this earth.

And my second call was for a third alarm fire. A barn attached to a home. At first we thought it belonged to a family, but later found out it was apartments where college kids lived. Luckily they are all home on vacation. It did house someones workshop and they lost valuable tools, and also antique ones that were in the family for a generation. No-one was hurt luckily, but property was lost.

So my thought to you all tonight is remember: remember to be grateful, thankful and joyful. Whatever troubles you may have, I guarantee you would take yours back if given the choice of taking someone else’s.

Happy Holidays

Celebration Of Life

Today we celebrated the life of my friend and Fire Captain. There is much pomp and ceremony that goes into services of fire fighters. We marched down the very street we march every summer for our balloonfest parade. But there were stark differences today: this time were all freezing cold, our engine was draped with funeral buntings, and our heads were  hung in sorrow… There were no crowds to wave and cheer for their small town heroes on this frigid winter day. Only a lonely parade of mournful fire fighters, saddened by the loss of one of their own.

But today was supposed to be a day of remembering all the good about him. Our Chief recalled stories about him. There were some great pictures, old and new. Drinks toasted. And tears were still shed. When the bag pipes played and the last alarm sounded. There was no stopping the sobs when we all really realized he was truly gone.

And I guess this is what it is about death: the finality. The thought that we will simply never, ever see that person again, never laugh with them, work with them, argue with them, love them. And did we tell them everything we wanted to tell them? Did they know how much we cared? Did my Captain know how important he was to me? He was one of my few allies in that department. One of the guys I could truly trust with my soul. They are hard to come by in the fire service.

He knew this was coming for a long time. He even sat right in my office and told me he didn’t want to be one of the ones to linger, to be pressing a morphine button, to have others watch him deteriorate. And yet, he did. It broke my heart. And made me angry. Angry at the system that allows humans less dignity than we give our animals when it comes to dying.

I saw him close to the end. I’m not sure if he saw me. I hope the spirit within him knew I was there. One thing I do know is that his spirit will walk our fire station now. He was there for over 25 years. He’s part of that place and death won’t change that… He wanted his ashes to be kept there (because that’s just how he was). So some of them are now in a fire memorabilia lamp at the station. I’m pretty sure he’ll use that lamp to play tricks on us, but that’s OK too. That way we’ll know he’s still around.

I love you Captain. I will miss you greatly. Thank you for all you gave me, both professionally and personally. Watch over us now and help keep us safe.  PS No, you can’t have a fire permit where you went.

Poem: Taken

You took another friend today

He’s gone

And I’m alone

No more hearing him joke

Or changing his voice on the phone

Pretending he’s someone else

You took my friend today

The one that everyone liked

He always came late

To meetings

But it was OK

It was just him

You took my friend today

With his New Jersey accent

The one that never goes away

When he would say youse guys

We didn’t care

Because he was the best

My friend is gone now

He died today

And our huge family

Usually full of testosterone

Is quiet and wet-eyed

It’s taken a part of us too

Because he was the one

In at all hours

There when you needed him

The first one when you were new

To make you laugh

Steal your peanuts

Make fun of your hair

Have your back

Give you a hug

Eat ice cubes

Be the best

But you took him anyway

Like you took my other friend

And neither were ready

Too young

So here’s to you my friend

I love you

I miss you

The fire station’s not the same

Without you…