Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Tough Day

"Brothers and sisters: ...now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have become near by the Blood of Christ.

For he is our peace, he made both one
and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his Flesh,
abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims,
that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two,
thus establishing peace,
and might reconcile both with God,
in one Body, through the cross,
putting that enmity to death by it.
He came and preached peace to you who were far off
and peace to those who were near,
for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners,
but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones
and members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets,
with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.
Through him the whole structure is held together
and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord;
in him you also are being built together
into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." - Ephesians 2
Just what I needed after a tough day yesterday.

I think I may need to stop telling Katie's story to groups for a while.
Speaking to the physical therapy students was inspiring for me, but a lot of them cried at the end of my presentation.

I don't go out to groups with the intention of making them cry; I prefer to inspire and share hope. Often, I get to talk about the Guild or the Endowment that we've started in Katie's memory. But this was a group that wanted to hear about family-centered care, and although in that story there is great goodness and gratitude, the patient died. I wish I had spent more time telling them about the family-centered care that has continued for us since Katie's passing; how the staff at the hospital has not dropped nor forgotten us, but has lovingly and professionally welcomed my relationship with them to continue, and even to grow. I guess I was too thrown off by their grief to gather my thoughts, at that point. The ones I spoke with afterward said it was very helpful, but I don't feel it was my best effort. So maybe a break in speaking is indicated.

To the sweet kitten that Gregg found on the beach: may your passing have been gentle, and surrounded by love. I pray that you are in the arms of angels now, and playing and cavorting in cat heaven.

To the woman we encounted on the beach on Bainbridge last night: I don't know why you accosted us. My family has lived on the beach for over 50 years on that very island, and we have never spoken to walkers as you did to us. We know that your property is private. We were not ON your property, not using it, not digging clams, not building a fire, not even pausing. What could possibly have been bothering you? Perhaps it wasn't us, admiring the sunset and the light over the water as we walked as quickly as we could in the dusk. We were passing by a road block that was created by the fire department and power company, due to a fallen tree and power lines. We used the legal, appointed beach access to get to the beach. We were near your bulkhead because of the tideline. We know that the mean low-tide line is the actual legal limit of your property. We made no trouble for you nor anyone; YOU made trouble. We would have passed you by quickly, if you had not spoken to us. You have a territorial mentality, and I am deeply sorry that people who behave as you do are waterfront dwellers. It makes me very, very sad to hear such talk from an Islander. If you truly loved the beach itself, you would want to share its joys. You would want others who love it to enjoy it respectfully, too. It is only "yours" temporarily; it never "belongs" to us for more than a lifetime.
And since you are so concerned with the law, I hope you had a legal permit for building that fire you were stoking on your lawn. Peace be with you.


Robin said...

Gotta love the last line!

I'm sure you were a great gift to those students, Karen. I guess we all need to learn to surround ourselves with space and time after doing something like that, though.

And so sad about the kitty; how good that it's next journey is accompanied by your loving thoughts.

Elizabeth said...

That was an active, tough day -- and I'm sorry that you had to summon up all your incredible patience to deal with that woman and "her" beach. I love that in California the entire coast is public -- it makes for trouble with some celebrities, but for the most part the ocean is all of ours to enjoy --

As for your presentation -- I'm not sure you should worry about people's grief when you speak. I think that's good and healthy, particularly when so much of what they do/study/participate is in such cold, clinical terms. I understand you backing off if it sets you back, but I tend to think tears are cleansing, instrumental to empathy, etc. You inspire...

Allegra Smith said...

The unhappiness of certain people has a certain smell of despair and loneliness that spreads upon everything they touch. Feel sorry for her, I wish she would have had a Grandfather like mine who taught us at a very early age that we do not own the Earth. We are stewards of it and we should take care of it, love it, clean it, and create beauty from it for the ones who may come after us. And write a letter to the editor of your paper so perhaps she can see herself through the eyes of others
and spare someone such an unpleasant exchange.

Don't stop speaking about what you know best. They were moved by your honesty, your courage and the love in your family. They were blessed by seeing love in action and not anger in its place because what you love most was taken from you. Your wisdom as to how to handle your pain and make something constructive and helpful of it, it is Light in a world that seems at times profoundly embraced by selfishness and shadows.

Shake the memory of that unpleasant incident and just think about the good those young people may have been inspired to do because you came in contact with them. And continue to talk about what matters to those who need to hear about it.

Kay said...

Oh Karen, I'm sure you spoke volumes about family oriented care to them. Just hearing a story and having to remember that patients have families and that their stories go on after they leave the office is a testimony to that! But I certainly get what you're saying. I don't know that I could speak as eloquently has you have about your loss to group after group without it getting to me either.

So sad about the kitten. I am a softy and that sort of thing breaks my heart...

...but near as much as mean people do. I'm so sorry you had to contend with that awful lady at the beach. I have been saying "I just don't get people" a lot of late. I guess I need to say it again for this situation. *shaking head*

Love the verses you used at the start of your post. So thankful that although we were once far off we have become near by the blood of Christ. It's our only hope in this life or the one after.

Hugs and love to you, my friend!

AnnDeO said...

I sometimes wonder what people who are upset at you see in your faces as they rant... bewilderment, confusion, laughter.

I am sure the PT students saw love and felt compassion. Good Job.

Busy Bee Suz said...

This is a post full of emotion...sadness, grief and some anger.
Poor kitty...may she enjoy a heaven of fun stuff.
As for the crabby woman, may she enjoy something. Egads!!!
Take care Karen, I hope you encounter less and less of the tough days.

MommytoOne said...

Karen, I love your blog! I'm sorry you had such a bad day yesterday, but know that your presentation was made up of the words God put into your mouth at that moment in time. Perhaps it isn't clear to you now why it took the direction it did, but I guess you just have to believe that ultimately there was a GOOD reason for it. :)

Anonymous said...

So much in one post - poor you! Poor kitten. I am sure your presentation was amazing - people do not cry simply because the story is sad, but because it is a way to empathize - while I am sure it is distressing for you you should feel that you have done a good thing by inspiring those people with Katie's story (as I know I feel).

The last line of this is priceless! Ha ha!

Irene x

Jason, as himself said...

So startling to be confronted by someone like this! Especially when she picked the most peace loving people in the state of WA!

Maybe you should take a break. You've been working so hard on all of this.

Mary said...

I too have been thrown off by other people's reactions when I am speaking about Oscar. Their tears often bring my own grief flooding back. It is most certainly a sign that you are reaching them on a deep level and you should only take a break if YOU need one.

As for that woman, I had a hostile encounter at a concert on Saturday night - and it's still with me. I hope writing helped release some of the tension. I just kept telling myself "it's not me, it's not me.."

Sending strength and brighter days.

ps. David looks so happy -- and I love the photo of all three of you!

karen gerstenberger said...

Thank you so much for the encouraging words. I am seriously thinking of that letter to the editor, Allegra. My parents came to the Island in a rented motorboat 57 ago. They pulled it up on a random beach, and were greeted by an old Icelandic immigrant, who not only sold them the property, - he & his wife became our surrogate grandparents. That is the spirit that I love about the Island, and I want to see it continue.

Truth Ferret said...

Karen, you were truly spent by the end of your day and yet you shared your story for us to learn from. Thank you for sharing the good, the bad and the ugly (the mean-spirited beach "owner.)

Your story is so meaningful for many and yet I imagine that it is draining to put yourself back into the pain of losing your precious daughter. Don't doubt that you should have shared more of a positive side of the story, as I am sure that you shared what needed to be heard.

Your compassion for the smallest of creatures (the little kitten) speaks volumes of your inner faith. Little kittens, tired bloggers, and students all are blessed to have you in their lives.

The mean beach owner must be a sad person to be so spiteful. Many times we come across this type of person and I am so grateful that they aren't me. Life is mean enough, that we don't need people who are burning up in rage against the rest of us. Maybe the tide will come in and suck her whole yard out to sea.

Karen said...

Glad you had a wonderful weekend. It helps to pad the tough days with sweet ones, doesn't it? Time for another sweet one. I know the feeling of sharing your story and feeling like you were a big downer, but I think it's totally appropriate for the students to cry for Katie. She is worth the ters. I think it will make them more compassionate caregivers, too.

Mary Potts said...

I think that sharing hope through the stories of our children and the experiences we've had with them is a good thing for others to hear. It's a world that few know, and if these students want to be in a caregiving role, then they need to hear all sides, and unfortunately sometimes that means hearing that the patient dies. Pain and grief are an integral part, and it would be an injustice to ignore that truth. A break is indicated only if YOU need the break.

The woman on the beach sounds like a shrew! How dare she hoard what God has given for all to enjoy! And the poor cat... oh dear. What a day you had!

Karen, thank you for your lovely words over on my blog about my recent employment situation. I'm so disappointed and it helps to hear some encouraging words.

Hugs to you.

Anonymous said...

Forgive me, for I do not speak as eloquently as you do. I am one of the students who had the opportunity of having Katie’s (and your family’s) story shared with our class. It saddens me to see the negative impact that our reaction had on you. Out of the seven quest speakers we had the privilege of learning from that day, the lessons that you left us with will always be carried in my heart throughout my career in the medical field. Upon graduation we will be fully equipped with the necessary skills to treat whatever comes our way, however, this is only in terms of treating the disease process rather than the individual. Rest assured, you have demonstrated the importance of family-centered care and how simple gestures on our part can make a difference and have a positive impact for the patient and family. It is good to hear that Children’s continues to provide you and your family support, however, after seeing the bond that still remains between you and Linda no words were required to confirm what I already believed to be true. Thank you once again for taking the time to teach me one of the more important lessons that I have learned throughout my schooling process. Maybe your feelings of needing a break from public speaking is an indication that you have too much on your plate and can use a bit of a break for a while, however, please do not stop sharing your story and deny these valuable lessons for future students.

Lakeland Jo said...

Some folk are very adversarial in their approach. Rather than a quiet word it has to be all bluster and aggression. As you say- peace be with her. A strategy I found has worked in these situations is to pretend not to speak English. Heh Heh

deb said...

I am glad that everyone said what I was thinking,
especially that you took the advice to write out your feeling re the beach ,
and that the people you spoke to made you efforts feel validated.

I agree with Elizabeth , there are only some people that invoke a comfort level that allows our true emotions and it is so freeing and giving, and obviously you are one of those people. It is something to consider if it drains you too much though.