Monday, September 17, 2012

A Story For a Monday...

Chronic Pain: Hand in Hand
is now available on
I hope you will enjoy it, and will leave a review there as well as I have been receiving emails saying folks have already ordered it!
Thank you for your support, John and I look forward to hearing how you like it!
So many suffer from Chronic pain and illness that is dibilitating each day, and our goal was to offer strategies to enhance coping along with stories of others who had found ways to deal with pain that added to those trying physician visits and medications to self soothe along the journey.
Today, I offer you a story, and a story that happened long ago with a young man who knew pain, knew systems and knew doubt...
He also was a guy who didn't much care for those who called themselves professional caregivers!
He loved his wife, baseball, the beach, and crabcakes though...
And one had to command his trust to find out those simple truths.
But to get to it, it took time patience and some real hard work.
This is the story of the day.
I was John’s third social worker from Hospice! He just didn’t like social workers it seemed, and he particularly didn’t like talking about hospice, dying and death. Let me rephrase this, John had NO use for social workers!

Once he figured out that he could pretty much fire them at will, he had no problems. As soon as they started to talk, he would look at them, from his bed, glance at his wife, and say, “I would like to ask you to leave and not come back.” He had stopped saying why, stopped engaging in debates, he would just ask that they leave, roll his eyes, then roll over and pretend to go to sleep!  His wife would stand and walk the social worker to the door. Say good-bye. Then, find him agitated, sitting upright, telling her how he disliked social workers with language that might just make a sailor give him a medal. He would rant and rave while saying that he was tired of hospice, and people telling him he was going to die. His wife was tired, but she was supportive of his decisions and tried to always be supportive. She knew that there were not many decisions that he felt he could really make anymore, so she let him make as many as he could.

Along came social worker number three, and that would be me! I arrived with the nurse, knowing that would at least grant me one visit, as she hadn’t been fired yet. John and she seemed to have a pretty good relationship to date. I thought if I came in under her wing, I might have an easier go with John and his loyal wife. I liked John immediately, I like his no no nonsense way of speaking, his twinkle in his eye as he played with nurse and even the way he sized me up at times! I liked hearing him talk about baseball (although I don't know that much about it) as I noticed signed balls in the little apartment that were sitting here and there around on the TV and table.

He actually included me in a talk about baseball, a subject that I have very little knowledge of, but was interested in his animation and his love for the sport. He talked about firing social workers, a seemingly enjoyable pastime of his, one that I secretly got a kick out of hearing about. I told him that I was an Eastern Band Cherokee of Virginia and an old social worker to boot. I listened as he talked more about him and his life. I watched the interactions between him and his nurse, him and his wife.  I listened for the many things that were and were not said. I watched as his energy waned from that visit and he seemed to slump in his chair but it was not lost on me that he seemed to enjoy the visit and looked closely for a reaction from me as he spoke of firing social workers left and right.
It was a wonderful visit and it ended with my asking if I could return.  Believe it or not, he, and he wife, said “yes”.
            Returning the next week John had much to talk about. He talked about his life, his family, and more about his beloved baseball.  He shared with me his loved of crab cakes, that he and his wife used to go to the beach and eat seafood when he was well and when they had money. Before this “damn cancer” came into their lives.  Quickly, the subject changed and we talked about their wedding, spirituality and then Native American beliefs.  He asked me to return next week. He seemed to wear out from all the conversations and said, “As much as I hate it, I think I need a nap!”
            The next visit I found John still in bed, he seemed to be declining quickly. He knew that he was weaker, but he still found strength for a thoroughly gruff greeting.  “Hello Indian Woman”, he said with a smile! “I am so glad to see you”. I sat beside the bed, noticing his wife, looking tired as she lay beside him stroking his hair.  They both told me they had a rough few days, but hoped that it was temporary.  John shared that they had been talking about dying and what it would be like. They both hoped that it would be peaceful, but “not like you hear about”.  He didn’t want harps playing and all that stuff he said.  I couldn’t help it; I just had to laugh when he told me that, he was such a character, that man. He could certainly turn a phrase. He made me laugh, often.  
John wanted to feel better so that he could eat crab cakes again, just one more time. He figured if he had to die, he hoped it would be like hitting a home run; that it would be a grand event when he left this world, go out with a bang,  and that his wife would know that he was ok. Imagine, here we were, John, his wife, and the social worker… talking about dying and death; on his terms and in his time. We made a plan together; if John rallied we were going to the beach for crab cakes, my treat. We made a plan! If he didn’t rally, he would have crab cakes in heaven, but one way or the other, he would have his crab cakes.

            John did rally, he was able to do the work he and his wife needed to prepare for his impending death. We worked our plan, got a wheelchair; got John dressed, managed to get him into a SUV.  Off we went to a restaurant they had dined in for years, and got a table oceanfront.  There we had the best crab cakes John and his wife had ever eaten!  A day filled with memories and blessings.  
It took more than have the day,
but he did it, they kissed at the restaurant,
he laughed as he shared memories, he saw the ocean, we rolled him as far as we could and gently sat him on the sand on last time.
And we got him home again, and into his bed
Oh what crab cakes they were,
all crab and delicious.
The twinkle there in those eyes
hours and hours to eat them
savoring each bite, each view, each breath.
 Pain that was moved by motion and experience of desire and views, sights, smells
and trust.
OUtside the box
and into the heavens
What a day
"I sure would like a crabcake"
I still remember him saying that
as he told me of firing those useless social workers and 
RIP John
 I’m glad you didn’t fire me, and I’m glad we were able to have crab cakes together.
 I know he went out like a great home run
right out of the park
into the galaxies!
Walk In Beauty


Anonymous said...

what a touching story you shared doc. sounds just like you. Be in the moment. Stay in the moment. Can't wait to order the new book! Am looking forward to reading it and hearing what others say. Be well. You are the best!

fluff said...

Dr. Sherry, what a touching heart felt story of John and the last Social Worker. I could just see him there that day at the beach, eating crab cakes and enjoying a last outing with his wife and his caring Social Worker, yourself, who made his last wishes happen. How touching and how lovely. I hope his wife is doing well. I know the pain of losing that spouse you love so much. My husband died 17 years ago and I still remember those last words and moments like it was yesterday. Your new book sounds very good and touching and I look forward to reading it in the near future. Take care Dr. Sherry and friends, have a wonderful evening. /Sandy♥