Thursday Re-View — Wounded Hearts

estherdaniel

estherdaniel

The young father walked down the hall, each of his daughters holding one of his hands. He looked to be in his thirties and his daughters, perhaps 3 and 5 years old. They were dressed like little princesses – dresses with skirts that puffed out, patent leather shoes and white socks with embroidered flowers and ruffles. Their mood matched their father’s – quiet, determined, serious. It was almost as if his energy flowed into theirs and they became one. You could barely hear their footfalls in the long hallway, the lowered lighting bathing them in softness from behind.

Late at night, a special visitation, they were on the Trauma-Neuro floor of the hospital where I worked. They were on their way to see their wife and mother.

In her thirties, she was in her prime – physically fit from the bicycling that was her passion. Each year, she bicycled several times a year for different charities that were close to her heart. Today’s was for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, where they provide care and find cures for sick children at no cost.

Late at night, a special visitation, her husband and two daughters were on their way for a visit.

Earlier that day, as everyone was packing up and leaving the successful Bike-a-Thon fund-raising event, the young mother was struck by a small panel truck that barreled through an intersection without brakes. Med Evac flew her to our trauma center. But it was too late… In spite of all that modern medicine had to offer, massive head injuries left this young wife and mother brain dead. Her family was here to say good-bye before she was removed from life support.

When gathering her things together before her family arrived, I looked at her driver’s license, seeing her smiling eyes and the words “Organ Donor” stamped on its front. She would still be giving of herself after death, and several of her organs were already designated to people across the country.

Late at night, a special visitation, her husband and two daughters were on their way to say good-bye.

As I watched the small family enter her room, I couldn’t help but think of all that she would miss of her daughters’ lives – kindergarten and grammar school, getting their driver’s license and experiencing their first kiss, senior prom, graduation, college and another graduation, their weddings, the births of their own children – gone forever in an instant. A tragedy unfolding in the privacy of her hospital room…

Trauma-Neuro was always quiet at night; those with severe head trauma were often kept in a medically-induced coma while their brain swelling was monitored. I walked toward the only other person near-by – a young resident who had been looking at the wall of monitors behind the nurse’s station. He stood still, staring off into nothingness. Tears welled in his eyes.

I placed my hand over his clenched fist that rested on the counter.

“I shouldn’t be like this,” he ground out without even looking at me, wiping a stray tear from his cheek with his free hand.

“How can you not be?” I offered quietly. “You’re exactly the kind of doctor this family needs right now.” I hesitated. “You’re exactly the kind of doctor medicine needs.”

As he dropped his chin to his chest, I felt his fist relax, as we stood together, both hearts weeping.

I heard a muffled “thank you” and looked up to see the young family standing just past the nurse’s station. The man’s eyes filled with tears, he slowly turned and walked away, his back stiff as he held his girls’ hands. As they walked down the hallway, passing through the shadows, a soft light bathed them in a familiar shape – wings??? – before they exited through the door.

Angel wings VI

Sacred ground.

Time stopped. A mother who bicycled for charity, breathing with life support until her family said good-bye and her organs were harvested; two little girls in ruffles and bows, their lips quivering with an unnamed fear; a young husband and father walking toward an unthinkable future in agonized disbelief; and, a physician who now understood that not all stories have a happy ending and that sometimes the simple one word question – “Why?” – is so terribly vast and complex that any acceptable answer defies human comprehension.

At that moment, I heard the soft strains of Brahms’ Lullaby echoing from the hospital’s public address system to announce the birth of a new child in the maternity wing.

As one life ends, another begins in the eternal cycle. An ending to be mourned and a beginning to be celebrated. Second chances made possible by the gift of life from a selfless woman.

I celebrate all of you for coming into my life – the mother and father, their daughters, the doctor…and yes, even the new baby. I keep you in my heart awash with blessings.

Interconnected. Circles of Compassion. Circles of Grace.

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Monday Meeting — Frozen Kitten Lives

Kittens: They’re tiny, they’re adorable, and they account for 99% of Snapchats sent by their obsessed owners.

Most importantly, they are universally loved. I mean, even the most stubborn dog-lover among us would have to be a serial killer to not enjoy this scene.

Basically, kittens are the source of all the good in the world and deserve our constant friendship and adoration. But, like people, they also make mistakes (and I’m not just talking about getting stuck in a tree).

This family learned the hard way that kittens sometimes need a helping hand from their upright-walking mammal friends.

Branden Bingham and his family were playing in the snow outside their cabin in Bear Lake, Utah, on Thanksgiving morning when they stumbled upon a distressing sight: a tiny, helpless kitten that was practically frozen. They knew they couldn’t simply chalk it up to “the will of nature” and go about their day.

In fact, they did the exact opposite, springing into action and rushing the nearly lifeless cat — who had apparently been caught out in the previous night’s blizzard — into their house.

The kitten wasn’t moving and didn’t even appear to be breathing, but Branden’s brother was still convinced that he could save him and immediately began performing CPR with the hopes of kickstarting the little guy’s heart.

“I truly believed that there was no chance,” recalled Branden. “Everyone in the room was just telling him to give up. He’d given it his all, but it was time to stop.”

With all due respect, Branden, that wasn’t the best advice. What if Michael Phelps had just “given up,” after his fifth Olympic medal, Branden? What if George Washington “gave up” while crossing the Delaware, Branden?! WHAT IF ROCKY HAD “GIVEN UP” AFTER MICKEY DIED, BRANDEN?! ANSWER ME THAT!

Luckily, Brendan’s brother had no such quit in him and continued to stick by the kitten’s side, doing whatever he could think of to bring him back to life, until…

Yep, thanks to a can-do attitude and a little quick thinking, the Binghams were able to do the near-impossible, nursing the kitten back from the brink of a chilly demise.

The kitten’s new family eventually got around to naming him “Lazarus,” but personally, I’d have gone with something more wintry, like “Snowball.” Or maybe “Blizzard.” Or maybe “He Who Conquered Winter’s Icy Grasp with The Fire of A Thousand Suns.”

Or maybe just “Mittens.”

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The entire event was captured on Branden’s GoPro and has since been made an official selection of the GoPro awards. As for the kitten, well, he was given to Branden’s cousin (despite Branden’s son’s protests) and now lives a happy, fulfilled life — the majority of which is apparently spent chasing his big brother’s tail.

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Upworthy by Jared Jones
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Thursday Re-View — Rebirth

“I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.”
~ Michelangelo ~
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unfinished

Unfinished Sculpture
by Michelangelo

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I cry out to the Sculptor but he does not hear me from within the stone.
This tomb is cold and dark and heavy.
My words echo endlessly, repeating, repeating, growing quieter with each pass.
My feet cannot move, my hands are paralyzed, my lungs crushed against the weight.
My eyes are permanently open, yet see nothing but darkness.

I wait. Within the stone. Alone.

I was born once, and lived.
I was born once, and loved.
I was born once, and lost.

Now I wait to be found.
Again.
Now I wait to be birthed.
Again.
Now I wait to be heard.
Again.
Now I wait to be free.
Again.

He chips away steadily, with purpose,
until my feet are created upon a well-muscled pair of legs.

With each chip, something drops from me.
Grief litters the base mixing with the liquid of old tears.
Loss piles up as my legs break free.
Identity. Health. Title. Marriage. Jobs. Pets. Dreams.

The Sculptor gently blows away the dust of the ages,
and the motes sparkle in the sunlight as they lift from the heavy stone.

I wriggle my toes, happy for the sturdy foundation upon which I stand.
My feet remember sand squishing between my toes as I ran along a beach,
blades of grass tickling my soles while running through a field.
They itch at the thought of such freedom.

My arms and hands are next.
The muscles and tendons within my fingers protest as I stretch them for the first time.
No longer imprisoned in the stone, they let go of what they have grasped for far too long.
Blame, intolerance, despair, hopelessness break free and drift into nothingness
as my hands lift in supplication and thanks for another chance, another life.

Regrets disappear as The Sculptor blows away more dust,
His fingers running over the curves in a knowing caress.

He carves both ears, and as the waxy stone is removed,
a symphony of Divine beauty courses through the tunnels as my fingers shake in awe.
The notes echo through to my toes.

My eyes – yes, please – my eyes.

He chips away what seems like forever, then chips away some more.
What is wrong? Why can’t I see? There is only darkness where there should be light.

The Sculptor replaces his chisel with a sharper one,
and delicately crafts the blood vessels and membranes of sight.
Suddenly, like a dawn of ages past,
the light rises in colors more brilliant than I remember,
dazzling in its rainbow display.
Tears drip onto my frozen cheeks as I remember
the breathtaking beauty of things forgotten.

Focused, the work continues as He chisels and shapes and carves,
every detail from the flowing hair to the perfect, gleaming teeth a work of art.

Finished. At last, but for one last thing.
He walks to the Tabernacle and carefully opens its door, reaching in for His Precious Gift.
A heart, shimmering, pulsating, rests in His hands.
He walks toward me, and with eyes filled with love
and a voice barely more than a whisper,
gently pushes it into my chest.

“I give you My heart.”

A flood of compassion swirls through my body,
and I take a deep breath with my new lungs.
I breathe out warmth and love and contentment.
How can I feel weightless when carved from marble?
How can eyes see when chiseled from stone?

But I do. And I can.

All that weighed me down is no more.
I am no longer a prisoner of my own making;
I am blessedly, wonderfully free.

Free to take part in a further journey.

But this time, I will love more and take less.

This time, I will see with the Eyes of His Heart.

This time, I choose to remain free.

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Angel by Michelangelo

Angel by Michelangelo

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Monday Meeting — Holy Pizza Delivery

Tip

The life of a pizza delivery driver is not a glorious one.

The long hours, the wear and tear on your vehicle, the 20 or so pounds you inevitably gain from eating nothing but mozzarella and pepperoni all day … and don’t even get me started on those giant mutant turtles stealing from you every time your back is turned.

But the worst part about the job? Getting stiffed. It happens — A LOT — and the only thing more frustrating than seeing a big ol’ goose egg in the “tip” section of a receipt is knowing that, come this time next week, you’ll probably have to deliver to the same ungrateful jerk again.

Of course, there are also those customers who make the job (almost) worth it.

I’m talking about the big tippers.

If you’ve ever worked in the service industry, you know how the smallest of gestures can make a huge difference. Something as simple as a few extra bucks and a smile can turn a bad day into a good one, especially if you’re dealing with personal issues that extend beyond your job.

Case in point: Jeff Louis, a 22-year-old delivery driver for Gionino’s Pizzeria in Mentor, Ohio, who recently received the tip of a lifetime.

Late last month, Jeff was called to work ahead of his regularly scheduled shift to deliver “seven or eight” pizzas to the Life Point Church, a nondenominational Christian community.

He loaded the stack of pies into his car and trudged across town. Upon arriving at the church, Jeff received an unusual request: Before he could leave, he would have to bring one of the pies up to the congregation’s pastor, Ken Wright, who was on stage giving a sermon.

Jeff was understandably confused.

The plan, according to Wright, was to tip Jeff $100 because hey, ‘tis the season for giving and all that. But by the time Wright passed around the collection plate…

Jeff was shocked and clearly moved. He immediately posted a heartfelt, teary-eyed account of the story on YouTube.

The twist? Jeff is a former addict in the early stages of recovery.

“I’m just trying to get my life back, and it just really truly amazes me that people who don’t even know me just wanted to help me out that much,” he said, choking on the words.

While no one at the church was aware of Jeff’s personal struggles with addiction prior to his delivery, I imagine that Pastor Wright would credit their impromptu meeting to the man upstairs.

“We can change the world one life at a time,” Wright said in an interview with local news affiliate WKYC afterward. It looks like Life Point Church is living up to that motto.

The incredible gesture (and Jeff’s video) have since gone viral, with even Manny Pacquiao sharing the story on his Facebook page. In the meantime, people have been flooding Jeff’s Facebook page with congratulations and thanks, calling him an inspiration. But to Jeff, his turn of fortune is a little simpler to explain than that.

The lesson here is a simple one: Always be kind to strangers, but be especially kind to the strangers who happen to be bringing you God’s (or Italy’s) greatest gift to mankind.

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Upworthy by Jared Jones
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Beannacht – A New Year Blessing by John O’Donohue

infinity

Beannacht – A New Year Blessing
~ John O’Donohue ~

On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.

And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.

And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life.
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