365体育投注David Sauer, former hospice patient and writer, was always on the search for the good in every news cycle and for pieces of joy in every situation. Courtesy photo

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Yolo Hospice & CWC: Finding sunlight in a thunderstorm

Recent weeks have carried an unusual amount of troubling news …  a coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented drop in the stock market, the real possibility of a looming recession and a never-ending stream of hostile political rhetoric.

Making matters worse, social commentators are quick to proclaim their opinions despite the division their comments produce. Facebook and Twitter feeds are relentless in delivering waves of controversial tweets and posts from so-called friends telling us how to respond to every crisis and event. If our response doesn’t meet someone else’s expectations we are viewed as bad Americans, bad people, or both.

365体育投注Eating too much junk food can make you unhealthy, but consuming too much media can also take a toll on your health.  This impacts neighbors, friends and family.  Many of them are a bit on edge; unable to focus, short tempered, and melancholy.

365体育投注For those who are already shouldering the burden of a life-limiting illness, even the evening news can make coping more difficult. Yet, the best teachers we have for surviving and even thriving during the darkest of days have come from people who understand, in a profound way, that everyone’s time here is short lived.

Eugene O’Kelly, former hospice patient and former chairman of the accountancy giant KPMG. During his last 100 days of life he wrote a memoir called, “Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life.” He died at the age of 53 from brain cancer. Courtesy photo

365体育投注When Eugene O’Kelly, former chairman and chief executive of the accountancy giant KPMG, was told he had about 100 days left to live, he said, “At least I’ve been granted enough time to get a few things done.” O’Kelly, a hard-charging high-achiever did what he always did when faced with complex challenges: he made a list.  One of the items on that list included an idea to finish a memoir called, “Chasing Daylight: How My Forthcoming Death Transformed My Life.”

He said, “My sensibilities about work and accomplishment were so ingrained in me from my professional life, and had served me so well in that life, that I couldn’t imagine not applying them to the final task. I needed to come up with new goals, fast.  It was the final and most important to-do list of my life.”

365体育投注O’Kelly’s list included connecting with people most important to him and to perform what he called “an unwinding of their relationships.”  During his encounters, the ticking clock seemed to slow and he was jolted into the present moment.  It was as if he was gaining time, not running out of it.  His consciousness seemed to merge with the world and any sense of separateness fell away. “You can call what I went through a spiritual journey,” he later conceded.

365体育投注Over my nearly two-decade career in hospice and palliative care I have been the beneficiary of countless stories, pieces of wisdom, insights and perspectives not commonly discussed in one’s routine day-to-day existence.  I have collected and saved many of these spiritual jewels and often try to make them shimmer in my own life.  They have come to me from 10-year-olds dying of rare cancers and centenarians who have lived full and fabulous lives.  And so, in light of the unprecedented and varying anxieties shared by our patients, families, and the world-at-large, it seems timely to mention just a few of these insights from folks living in the transitional plain between life and death.

* Stop worrying about other people’s opinions365体育投注.  Many of the voices we listen to have no right to dictate our lives, yet we sometimes allow it.  Instead, seek silence and listen for the voice of the Divine.

* Consume less of the world and more of what you see as holy.

* Put your trust in something bigger and more profound than politics, policies and personalities.

* Don’t work so hard.365体育投注 People, relationships, connection, and being a force for good is what matters most.

* Express your feelings.365体育投注 Try to be the best version of yourself and expect others to be the same.

* Stay in touch with friends. Let others into your journey.

* Let yourself be happier.365体育投注 Chase your joy, follow your bliss, or do whatever carries the potential to bring some sparkle into the present moment. Allow yourself to change, evolve and to laugh. Let silliness into your life again.

It is human nature to love all the good in life but to run for cover when the bad inevitably comes. Yet, there is so much to be gained from the struggle. David Sauer, a patient who I cared for as a volunteer years ago, once told me, “I decided to accept whatever comes my way. And I’ll try to revel in it. I know now that adversity brings viewpoints I would never otherwise understand.”

365体育投注He said, “Wisdom is learned from mistakes and hardship. If I only enjoy the milk and honey of life, I will only experience a small portion of what life has to offer.  Why not break every bone and consume all the marrow?”

Sauer believed that to laugh is to live. During my last visit with him he told me, “When my time comes, I want to laugh and smile and make anyone watching laugh and smile. Go out with some dignity. There is no doubt misery will come. To enjoy that misery and to ask for more. That, my friend, will make you a king.”

— Craig Dresang is the CEO of Yolo Hospice and CWC


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