Oh Sweet Lorraine

Sometimes it just all comes together. You have one of those days like mine has been today. It started out with a meeting with a new group of friends whom I admire greatly. In our discussion this morning, many were reflecting on the memory of a young friend who died last week. They spoke so highly of him and the stories of his life. The message we all gathered was to not let a day go by without telling  your friends and family that you love them.

Then I received an email this afternoon with this incredible video attached: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDi4hBWsvkY. Without spoiling the story, I’ll tell you it’s about the love a 96-year-old man named Fred has for his wife. In fact, he wrote a song about her called Oh Sweet Lorraine. Based on my experiences this morning and watching this video this afternoon, I encourage you to do the following: 1) Watch the video; 2) Buy the song; 3) Tell someone today that you love them. Don’t wait! In fact do it now … right now.

And remember to do it every day. And when you tell that person you love them, think of Fred … and sweet Lorraine.

End of Life Lesson Learned Today

Just two days ago at around noon I received an email from my friend, Kristi Curry, who has a wonderful business called Survivorship Now http://survivorshipnow.com/. A friend of hers in Katy, Texas named Ben wrote to her saying that his church buddy, Dan (age 49), was just given bad news about his cancer and was advised to call in hospice care immediately. Ben called Kristi to ask for her professional advice to help Dan’s wife organize her life for what was to come. He also said he wanted to videotape Dan’s stories so his two kids would know him better when they grew older. Ben asked Kristi for advise on what questions to ask and how to ask them. That’s when Kristi referred me.

I connected with Ben yesterday via email, then by phone. Ben explained that Dan didn’t have any funds to afford a professional LifeStory and that he was going to do it pro-bono. I don’t know why it happened, but something inside me said I have to do it. I told Ben that I could be there (two and a half hours away) the following morning by 10:30 to conduct the interview, as long as Ben filmed it.

When we arrived at Dan’s home this morning, we were greeted by Dan’s beautiful and gracious wife, Marcina. We set up the camera in Dan’s bedroom and tried to get as much as we could of an interview, but unfortunately, due to the medications he was on, could not record much. What we did record, however, showed what a loving, caring father and husband he was. Rather than coming home without much of anything for Dan’s family, I asked Marcina if she wouldn’t mind being interviewed…to capture Dan’s LifeStories through the stories of his loving wife. She agreed and we filmed about two hours of her smiles, tears and love for her husband. She showed unbelievable bravery and unselfish caring for her husband who was too ill to express his story himself.

By 1:00 PM, we left her home with hugs and well wishes to her for strength during the tough journey ahead that she faced. I arrive back home at around 4:00 PM, exhausted, but glad I had accomplished what I had that day. An hour later Ben called. He said he called to thank me, to be sure I got home okay, and…after a long pause…to tell me someone from his church called an hour ago to say that Dan had just died.

At first I was in a bit of shock. Yesterday, Dan was a total stranger to me. And now, after only knowing he and his wife for a few hours, I feel like an integral part of their lives. The lesson I’ve believe I learned from today’s experience is to share your stories with the ones you love often, to celebrate life at every opportunity you get, and to give unselfishly whenever you can. Had I thought, “It’s been a long week, I’m too tired to drive all the way to Katy early on a Saturday morning, conduct this unpaid interview, then drive all the way back,” I would not have met Dan and his wife. And I am a better man now…because of them.

Thank you Kristi, Ben, Marcina, and especially Dan. May you rest in eternal peace.

Dealing With Death

Dealing with death is a subject that I never wanted to address, even during and after the deaths of my father and grandfather in 1997. I’m glad I have found a way to not just deal with it, but to realize its place and role in life. I have done this through two areas of personal experience.

The first area that has helped me deal with death is through my work as a Hospice Austin volunteer. I must admit that two years ago when I signed up for the extensive training to be a Hospice Austin volunteer, I did it because I thought I might get some business from it. Instead of getting any business from it, I have received much more. I have learned an appreciation for the process of death and how it can be a beautiful thing. In those cases when a loved one has time to prepare for the inevitable, the things that are said and done are priceless. Think about it, if you are blessed to have some time to say goodbye and thank the people in your life, how would you do it? I’ve seen some of the most wonderful things from both the patient and the loved ones they address.

I was reminded of this over the weekend. I had a last minute, “11th Hour” request from Hospice Austin to go to the hospital to relieve a caregiver who was sitting by her grandmother’s side as she was going through her journey. While the patient was unconscious the entire time I was there, I felt the thanks and sacrifice this wonderful granddaughter was giving her grandmother. She asked Hospice Austin to have a volunteer there so her grandmother would not be alone just in case she died in her absence. While the patient did not die while I was there, I felt good in giving this  courageous granddaughter some relief in the middle of the night, so she could address her personal needs at home. As I sat with the patient, she seemed at peace during the final path of her journey.

The second area that has taught me a new perspective in dealing with death is my work with LifeStories Alive. Over the years and on a few occasions, I have received a call from a child of an interviewee to let me know that Mom or Dad has died. What happened the first time I received such a call has happened every time since. I am immediately flushed with sadness, then a smile comes across my face, knowing that their stories and essence of life has been captured and preserved forever. The next thing I do, and I do this every time, is put in the DVD of their LifeStory, watch for a while, smile a bit and cry a bit.

I have discovered  that death is all about life, if we give it a chance to reveal itself. And while not everyone wants to share the stories of their journey, when they do, it’s truly a beautiful thing.