Thank you to Suzanne C. Walker for the use of her fonts Old General Store and Adorable in my header. If you love 'em you can get them from Digital Scrapbook Place. (psssssttt...I put a link down below so you don't have to remember the www. part)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Learning Curve - Friends that come and go

Its been a long time since my last post.  I look at the date on that post and I think back that it was the day before I met the most amazing young man.  I'm going to sound like my parents when I say that I look around at the up and coming youth and I worry.  Maybe it is the area that I live in - I live in an under served area of the high desert of Southern California.  I work in one of the 10 poorest areas in the State.  50% of the residents of Barstow are on some type of assistance.  But I really believe that greatness can arise like a Phoenix from the ashes if there is a spark of fire in the belly of those who live an in that area that do not have all of the perks.  There was a time in the last century that the schools in Harlem, NY rivaled those of the white schools because parents believed that you should grab onto every opportunity and not fear hard work; it is something to be proud of.  Now, as the "haves" are glorified on TV and in sports, "thug life" envied in music and culture,  those who are willing to work hard and do the right thing are becoming a  rare thing indeed.  This why when I think of Evan, I will be amazed.

Aren't these pics great?  Evan took them and his Dad, Kerry was kind enough to send them to me.  Yes, I was that impressed.  Evan LOVES Astronomy - as a matter of fact, that is a career choice, thank you very much.  He took these photos from his telescope and a regular digital camera.   When I look at these, I see not only color and shape, something I'm drawn to, but I am seeing the past - perhaps millions of years in the past - and Evan caught that moment in the past that will never bee seen again.
That isn't the only reason why I will remember Evan, it is that he was dedicated to learning music and was learning classical piano.  Music and the "logical" sciences/math go hand in hand together I'm told.  Evan loves his family, and when I met him, he and his Dad were on the way home from seeing his Grandfather.  The pictures of that trip made me want to take it myself.  "The boys" smiling back at me from the desert of the American Southwest.   The more I learned about this extraordinary young man, I had a glimmer of hope for my grandkids future.  This is a young man that is going to do great things and shows the kind of dedication to his future that I haven't seen much.  The more his Dad spoke to me, the more excited I became.
Only, I never met Evan, not in person anyway.  I met him through his Dad.   You see, on their way home, there was an accident.  And it really was just that, although at the time, I don't think I was able to convince his Dad of that.  From what I learned a tire blew out on the highway, and the truck rolled.  Evan was ejected and once help arrived, he was flown from the scene to a different hospital.  Our little facility, while being the last hospital on the way out of the State, doesn't have the equipment to handle major trauma.  Dad had minor injuries and major heartache, worry, and fear.  That is where I join the story.  My job, in my heart, was to be there to listen to the stories and provide company in an strange environment and stress-full situation.  We waited together until Kerry's brother could arrive from the Santa Barbara area to take them both to Loma Linda University Medical Center to see Evan.
During our time together I made some phone calls for him, trying to arrange transportation and to find out what little information I could for him given the federal privacy laws.
At 1039 p.m. on August 14, 2011 I received a phone call from a family member telling me that Evan had passed away. The hospitals that Evan had been at are top-notch and I admire both of them, but the injuries were too great.  Part of my heart wanted the miracle for this family.  I wanted it for me because this was one extra-ordinary young man.  I haven't heard from the family since, but when I listen to the message on my phone, I send them a blessing of healing for their broken hearts.
I am lucky in my job, that I do get to see the best and the worst of people and situations.  Such was a man by the name of John Thomas.  When I first met him he was living at the only homeless shelter we have.  He was hoping to get a job there which he did.. and by the way, was THRILLED to be off of the streets.  No job was beneath him.  John's problem was that years of smoking caught up with him.  NO preaching here, just the truth and for the last 5 years I watched him go from inhalers, to getting him affordable medications for a "breathing machine" (Thank you Wal-Mart $4 program!), to needing a special machine at night to force air into his lungs and then 24/7 oxygen and a wheelchair.  I watched his face bloat from the steroid use.  But in all of that time I butted heads with him a few times, but never because he felt sorry for himself.  And we were always honest with each other, which made it easier to speak with him the sicker he became; he knew he was dying, but he wanted to fight it even it that meant that he was going to NOT play by the rules.
COPD "attack" and for a few hours he couldn't speak more than 2 words without struggling.  But that was OK, I was furious with him.  So much so, that when the Doctor asked me to speak with him, I refused.  But I did after calming myself down.  You see, not playing the rules meant that this patient was endangering an outpatient program he was in as well as coming in and out of the hospital so frequently I was wondering why we ever would discharge him.  But this is were open and honest discussion as well as a good helping of trust comes into play because the first thing I did was to tell him how angry I was and he still agreed to speak with me.  My next words were "John, you are dying."  There was a long space of silence between us before he told me that he was scared of dying...not death.  It is the struggle to breathe that had him imagining what it would be like to die without medical help.
We had a long and (for me) anger free discussion after that.  John agreed to go on hospice and give them a chance to work their magic and really help him and his wife through what was left of his life.  At the end, we hugged, and he road his scooter out of the ER.
I didn't see him after that.  I left on leave for my own surgery, something he wished me luck on.  I asked him to check in with me after the first of the year.  He didn't get the chance as John passed away, quietly and in his sleep on December 17th.  It was what he wanted.  For me, there is a tear-filled smile when I think of him.
Welcome to a new year.  During this year, I hope you will make the most of your time with friends, family, and strangers.  It is these encounters that leave marks on your heart and soul.  They change who you are and how you move through this life.  I am a better person for knowing both of these people, and I have learned so much about the depth of our ability to endure, survive, and thrive.  Truvy, the wise-cracking hair stylist in the movie "Steel Magnolias" said that "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion".  Indeed, it is those times when we grow bigger and stronger as individuals while closing the gap between friends and strangers.
So to Evan, Kerry, John,  James, Loretta, Linda Ruth, and the others that I have known, loved, and lost...thank you for being great teachers.  
To you who have made it through the end of this rather long story, may you have laughter through tears with a heart full of precious memories and valuable lessons learned along the way.

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