A taste of Christmas Future…

I sat on the sundeck, with my feet on the top step of the stairs, staring out into the snow covered night, thinking about life, death, and family.

My family were inside, laughing, talking, running around and having fun. Some were cleaning up after super, some were visiting, and teenagers ran up and down the stairs of the three story, open concept, home.

I sat outside. On one side was the house, on the other side was a house of a man who had died only a month before, and before me lay the stairs, leading down to the driveway, a snow covered street and a silent town.

I was cold. Sitting on the sundeck was cold, like sitting in a hockey rink watching small town hockey, but still I didn’t want to go in.

What made me flee into the cold?

10 minutes before, I was gathering dishes from the table, watching my nephew and my cousins children play, and seeing my family from a distance away. I grew up in this family. At one time I was in the youngest generation, but somehow as time passed, I became part of the middle generation, and my parents and aunts and uncles became the older generation that couldn’t hear, see, or walk as well. How did that happen?

Watching my cousin’s daughter was like watching my cousin at that age. Where had the time gone?

As I went to the table for more stuff, I realized I was breathing heavily. My chest rose and feel with exertion, and my breathing was shallow. Was I hyperventilating? Was I tired? Was I sick? Was it stress? Whatever it was I needed to sit down.

I felt too week to climb stairs without a railing to any of the bedrooms upstairs or downstairs, but the main floor was full of people.

I found the church bench, that sits below a wall of coat hooks at the back door, and laid down on my back. I may have been slightly hidden, but I wasn’t alone, because I could still hear my uncle talking to my parents, the children laughing as they talked, and other people. I had to get out, but I was too week (and slightly dizzy) to climb stairs.

I slipped on my sister-in-law’s slippers, put on my own coat and opened the back door. My sister-in-law appeared beside me and asked if I was leaving.

“No I just want to be alone on the sundeck”, I replied.

“The sundeck is nice, when the stars are out”, she said, before walking away.

I didn’t notice the stars, although they were most likely there.

I wanted to be alone to calm my breathing, lower my stress and think about life and death and family. My family. The one I grew up in. The one I thought would stay the same forever, and never change. The one I thought, would always spend christmases in my grandparents house.

Now that same family was gathering in a different house. All of my grandparents are dead. They are not the old ones in the family anymore. My parents generation are the old ones.

And my father is dying.

Death is hard. Very very hard.

Elizabeth Kubler Ross writes about death in her series of books. I read almost all of them when my grandmother died, and knowing the stages of grief, and knowing I was normal in following these stages, helped a lot.

I know about death. I’ve read about it. I’ve experienced it. I’ve helped plan funerals. I’ve spoken at funerals.

I almost died myself. I came as close to death as one can go without dying. And part of me wonders if when I saw my grandparents walk by, that maybe for a while I was dead.

And it wasn’t easy. I’ve cried about that moment multiple times.

But all that knowledge and those experiences don’t make my father’s impending death easy. It’s still hard. Very very hard.

It doesn’t make my falling kidney function any less confusing. What do I do? How do I fix it?

This is what I was thinking about as I stood on that step.

How could I survive when Dad dies? It’s hard now. It will be harder then? Will I have the strength to do all that is needed?

How can I take care of my own health, and maintain kidney function? Maintain the health I have now? Or even improve it? Can that even be done?

My brother and cousins all have children. I don’t. I’ve known I’m not healthy enough to be a mother for years, and yet I really really want to be a mother. I see these kids as they lean close and hug their parents, as my cousin is developing not just a mother daughter relationship her daughter, but a friendship.

I don’t have that. And I may never.

And that hurts.

I see how not just Dad is getting old, my uncle is showing his age too, reminding me of my grandmother when she was the same age.

And I think of the moment my grandparents walked by me as I lay in the ICU under sedation, and said “where we go, you can not come”, and how much that still hurts.

But if I had gone with them, I wouldn’t be here. I’d be dead.

And I just needed a moment to think, reflect, and deal with my own emotions and the weakness and tiredness of my body.

Eventually the step got even colder than a bench in a small town hockey rink, and I realized I’m going to get sick if I stayed outside any longer.

I got up and went inside.

A game of charades was starting, and I joined in.

Am I glad I went to the christmas party I didn’t want to go to?

Yes. I had fun.

Connections that were almost lost were remade. I realized I missed a cousin I didn’t know I missed.

We left when it’s almost midnight. The next day my father was too sick and week to go back, as previously planned. The entire group of people at my brother’s house, packed up lunch and came to our house. They even did the dishes before they left, and ignored the mess in our house. We’ve just been too stressed to clean up the things that have piled up over the last few months since dad was told he was dying. It just seems like too much work, and none of us really care anymore.

Sometimes it’s all I can do it brush my teeth, wash my face, have breakfast and get dressed in the morning.

But they didn’t care. They didn’t even mention it. (Not that I heard anyway).

I will end this blog post here because I have to go light the water heater that is constantly going out (at least once a week).

I just wanted to tell you about the christmas party I mentioned in my last blog post. It wasn’t as bad as a feared. It was actually good.

When the ICU staff save a life, they don’t see the life they save.

I’m not even sure I see it. What would that party have been like without me? Would they even have had a party? Would my name be mentioned? How would my father’s life been affected? My mother’s?

I can’t play Scrooge, from the book “A Christmas Carol”. He was able to see what people did in Christmas Future, without him.

I can a little bit. But I am glad I was at that party and not dead. Thankfully I know people won’t celebrate my death, as they might have Scrooge’s.

Thank you for saving lives, you don’t understand, and people you don’t know. Thank you for not asking questions about worth, before securing airways.

Merry Christmas.


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What my family was doing exactly two years ago today.

Two years ago today, at this time, I was in the ICU, with a child sized breathing tube, a feeding tube, and one other tube down my throat. I had a tube in my neck, and multiple tubes an wires in multiple other places in my body.

My father was driving home from work in another country (he travelled for work), and my mother, and other family burst into tears when they saw me, sedated, unresponsive and swollen in my ICU room.

I had entered my 8 day nightmare of sedation, and thought that an old school bully was now and adult and was trying to kill me with a man I called Frank. You can read about it in this blog, under the “chapters” category.

Right now, my parents are discussing what they are wearing to the family Christmas party that’s happening later today. Family is driving in from a city hours away. My sister-in-law is making last minute preparations for everybody descending on their newly constructed, and still being constructed house.


I thought today would be a hard day. Last year on this day, it was hard. I warned my family that if I feel like I’m going to explode or burst into tears I’m going to get into the car and leave without warning. My sister in law offered her and my brother’s bedroom as a safe place to go and deal with my feelings.


Everybody is gathering. Some of the relatives I’ll see, I haven’t seen for two years or more.

Two years ago today, my life was on the line, and two years ago on Christmas Day, I crashed in the ICU. I was almost not here right now on this day.

My family would have met, and celebrated without me. My nephew would have known death way too young and my parents would have known what it was like to lose a child.

What would their lives be like without me? Would they be gathering? Would christmas just be a painful moment they didn’t feel like celebrating, like it is for me?


These last few weeks have been so terribly hard. I’ve been told my kidney function has lowered even more, and I have kidney stones. I have research to do, but I haven’t done it yet.

I asked my family doctor to print off my blood tests results, and I want to research what they mean myself, and how to keep my kidney function from lowering.

My father said I could have his kidney’s when he dies, which unfortunately might be within the year, because he has heart and lung failure right now.

I suggested we could do a trade, a kidney for a lung, but I can’t give him my heart without dying.

I wonder why they haven’t offered him a heart and lung transplant. They just said he’s dying. No offer of any treatment. I asked about a palliative care doctor or nurse, and was told “that’s a good idea phone his family doctor”, but the family doctor hasn’t gotten back to us.

This might be his last christmas.

Family and friends have been making a pilgrimage to visit him one last time.

I am dealing with my own private torment. I feel like I am falling apart. Yesterday I asked my family doctor to refer me to a psychiatrist and a counsellor. I feel like I should be the strong one, who takes care of Dad, and acts like the superhero daughter like I did when Mom was sick, but I am falling apart. Emotionally I get angry, I cry, and I get despondent, all in the same day. Sometimes all in the same hour.

Maybe if it wasn’t all happening at once? If I didn’t have to smile, and visit with cousins, aunts and uncles, make small talk and talk about the past, think about my father’s death, deal with my own ICU anniversary, and deal with my own failing health all at once? Maybe just one at a time?

Honestly it’s been 8 years of emotional turmoil without a break. In the last 8 years, my father had a heart attack, we escaped our own house fire, with nothing by our pajamas, my grandmother died, her house was sold (which was in the family from the time my mother was born), our dog died, mom got Normal pressure hydrocephalus, I was in a car accident, I got sick, I was told my kidneys function was falling quickly, my father got sick, and we were told my father is dying. It’s been one thing after another, without a break to emotionally get over one thing before the next thing starts.

And through all that, my nephew has grown from a child to an teen, I’ve written a few books that I don’t have the courage to send to publishers, and time passed very rapidly.


And that is where we are. I’d like to end this blog post on a high note, but I can’t. There doesn’t seem to be a high note.


I will say, to those doctors, nurses and ICU staff, who work during christmas. Thank you for giving up time with family, to save the life’s of strangers.

Please remember that for you, it’s a missed family christmas. To your patients and their family, it’s one of the worst times of their lives. If they are a bit grumpy, it’s not because they hate you.

And please don’t lean over a patient with a candy cane in your mouth because your patient will smell it, and wish they had a candy cane too. I vividly remember being upset that somebody wasn’t sharing the candy cane I could smell.


Really I don’t know why I’m posting this, but maybe it will be of some use to you.

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Thank you for reading this.

My ICU Experience in Chapters: Chapter 5

My grandparents walked by, but when I tried to follow them my Grampa turned around and said “where we are going, you can’t follow”, and left.

As I watched them walk away, I so wanted to follow. I hadn’t seen him since he died when I was a child and I hadn’t seen my grandmother in the few years since she died. She didn’t even turn around. All I saw was her distinctive red curly hair, as she walked beside Grampa.

Why couldn’t I go? Why couldn’t I follow?

I looked up and saw a nurse empty my bladder bag into a styrofoam cup and poor it into my feeding tube bag. She looked me in the eye, and continued.

I floated up into the next level and looked down on myself and the nurse. Two nurses who couldn’t see or hear me stood beside me. One said to the other “Welcome to the ICU. We allow urine feeds here. It’s a good way to slowly kill the patient without being caught. Just don’t do it when you think you’re watched by someone who won’t understand.”

I wondered down an empty hall. Where was I? Was I dead? Why couldn’t I go with my grandparents? Why did I have to stay here, were time didn’t exist, and hope died? I prayed but God didn’t answer. For the first time in my life, God wasn’t there, when I reached out to him. I looked for him, but I couldn’t find him, I couldn’t hear him, and couldn’t sense him beside me.

And it hurt. A lot. Alone and hurt, I couldn’t decide if I was in heaven, hell, or purgatory? Was there even a purgatory? I didn’t think so, but maybe this was it? Was I dead? Was I alive? I didn’t know.


Note #1: This still hurts. I believe I did die for a short time or came very close to it. My doctor said I got as close to death as one could go without dying, and my parents said I crashed on Christmas Day.

I think this is when I crashed. I still feel the pain of not being able to follow my grandparents, and I believe it was really them.

Since that time, I have mourned my grandparents again. I have cried over their deaths more than once, and felt their deaths as if they were fresh. I know they both love me, and I have been forgiven for all the little things I felt guilty about after they died.


Note #2: Where was God?

It’s a question I can’t answer. Why wasn’t he there? Why was he so silent? I don’t know. And that still hurts too. It hurts very very much.

It hasn’t weekend my faith. I don’t want this to become a religious discussion of doctrine or hatred, but I also don’t want it to become an example people point to, to say “there is no God”, or to say that God is a figment of imagination and once imagination was gone, so was God.

I mention it because it is part of the story. I want you to know the entire story. But I don’t want my story to ever be used against God.

I want you to know that sedation temporarily removed my sense of self. I didn’t know if I was male or female, I existed in a place without time or hope, I couldn’t find the God I knew from childhood, and all of a sudden, everything I believed about the equality of humans, went away, and I believed I was racist. Everything familiar, that I knew about myself was gone. And it seemed like it was gone forever. I lost the very essence of me.

And it still haunts me, and leaves me with questions I can not answer.


Note #3: To balance the discussion of God, I’ll tell you one of my experiences of God, that I can point to in my life and say “yes God is real”. I don’t want people to think I’m putting God down, and I don’t want my ICU experience to be used against God.

The following has nothing to do with my ICU experience. It happened when I was 7 years old. You can read it if you want to.

I stood in the dark, beside the train station with my mother and brother. The parking lot was empty, and my mother was trying to get into our locked car because my father left on the train, with the keys in his pocket. There were spare keys in her purse, but that was in the car.

Two men stopped to help us, and they and my mother tried everything they could to get the doors open. After one of them said they did everything they could, and were out of ideas, my 7 year old self said “let’s pray”. One of the men scoffed. I was determined that it would work. After more insistence from me, my mother said “ok let’s pray”. She took my brother and I aside, and held our hands, and I asked God to unlock the car doors.

While we were all watching, the car door locks raised on their own, without any human intervention. We opened the car doors. One of the men said something about rethinking God.

Mom, my brother and I drove away.

And because I have seen things like that, I know God is real.