Find Joy Instead of Despair

Mom’s third day in the hospital dawned as I assessed my morning routine. In my quest to find joy instead of despair, I learned to practice self-care in my caregiver role. Even so, there were little messages that I heard but didn’t heed. For example, I didn’t take time to make breakfast, looking up Bojangles’ sandwiches. But I forgot to download the ordering app. So instead, I completed an abridged version of my Reiki practice, showered, and put on makeup, including mascara.

Find Joy Instead of Despair

When I arrived at Bojangles, I tried to go inside. The staff locked it. I backed out of my parking space and pulled into the drive-up line behind two men on foot. They had motorcycle t-shirts on, and there were motorcycles in the parking lot.

I noticed the pile of large river rocks where the speaker and menu had been. The drive-up line moved slowly. As we neared the temporary ordering setup, I heard the noisy highway floating through my open windows and felt the cool morning breeze. I

It was amusing to watch the motorcycle guys order. They jumped on and backed off the sensor plate to let the Bojangles employee know they wanted to order. The taller of the two bent himself nearly in two at the speaker stand. Then it was my turn to drive up and order. The long line behind me was impressive, snaking around the far side of the building.

I closed my passenger side window to reduce the noise. Waiting patiently, I listened for acknowledgment from the speaker stand. Finally, I shouted at the pedestrians in front of me, “Guys! Hey, guys! Motorcycle guys!” Eventually, the shorter man turned my way and started to approach. Then a voice from the speaker stand said, “Are you talking to me?” I answered, “No, but I’d like to.” We all laughed. I placed my order. It was so amusing; I took a photo of the two guys in front of me from my windshield.

As they approached the drive-up window, one said, “This is a first for me, walking in the drive-up at Bojangle’s!”

Mom’s Third Day at the Hospital

Soon I was backing into a space in the hospital parking lot. Gathering my purse, book, coffee travel cup, and changing my glasses, I locked the car and walked the familiar path to the temporary entrance of the hospital. A new face was staffing the makeshift welcome table. After sanitizing my hands and placing my mask on my face, I approached.

“Do you know where you are headed?” she asked.

“Yes, I’m very familiar with the route.”

“I’ve heard that a lot this morning,” she replied.

As I walked through the gauntlet of chairs in the shared emergency room waiting area, I began the familiar path past walls striped with blue painter’s tape. The young man who was patching drywall all week was absent. I missed saying hello or commenting on his steady progress.

You Never See it Coming

Stepping into the waiting elevator, I pressed the button for the second floor. As the doors opened, I saw two unfamiliar masked faces at the nurse’s station.

“Good morning, you guys are new!”

One of the women, striking in her deep blue scrubs that matched the blue of her kind eyes, had moved toward me. I noticed her name tag said ‘Brenda.’ I turned left for the short walk to Mom’s room. Just before I arrived at the closed door, the nurse, who had discreetly followed me, spoke.

“Are you Dawn?”


“I just put the phone down as I heard the elevator. I’m sorry, but your mother just passed.”

Brenda was ready for my reaction. She took the coffee mug out of my hand as I covered my audible sob. Her sweet arms hugged me as I continued to cry. Finally, my need to purge grief subsided, her hug loosened, and our eyes met.

“Spend as much time as you need.”

The room was oddly silent as I walked to my familiar spot next to the bed. Mom was serene; her closed eyes had lost their tightness. Although her body had ceased to function, I felt her soul nearby.

“Hi, Mom. It’s Dawn. It’s all over. Don’t worry about anything. You can be with Daddy now.”

I stroked her still warm forehead, “I love you.”

I closed the hospital room door and headed for the nurse’s station to thank them. Then, out of the blue, I heard myself telling the story of my funny experience in the drive-up at Bojangles. I knew Mom’s soul was there, too, laughing along with us.

Find Joy Instead of Despair

Hospitals and death can be harrowing experiences. Or they can be joyful. Allowing my emotion’s full impact when I had the loving support of nurse Brenda opened up space for the joy of release. The release was for my Mom and me. Furthermore, it gave me the freedom to relieve the natural stress felt by the hospital staff.

Having experienced the deaths of two husbands, my father and now my mother, in the past seven years has served as a primer for grieving and letting go.

Mom and I discussed death many times. She and I were together at Dad’s passing. And both were adamant in their wish to allow death it’s due. I’m grateful Mom’s end of life wasn’t prolonged and that the hospital staff supported our decisions.

My understanding of the importance of self-care, especially in the role of caregiver, has brought me peace. I have learned how to find joy instead of despair. So, may your life experiences bring you growth toward fulfilling your purpose.

Your Most Important Relationship

Your most important relationship is how you feel about yourself.

Perhaps you are thinking, “I’ve heard that one before!” Regardless, it bears repeating. The love we have or don’t have for ourselves affects the quality and success of all other relationships.

Early Relationships

Parents certainly rank up there in importance. We are born pretty helpless compared to other mammals. We all depend on mother’s milk, which is uniquely perfect for infants. Even if that doesn’t work out, the baby formula helps us grow. It’s the care and comfort of our caregiver that makes us thrive.

If there are older siblings, they can be important too. But are they confident of the love they receive? Is there enough love to go around?

What’s Different for You?

We need a particular set of circumstances to thrive. However, the basic need for food, water, and shelter are the sameā€”the type and amount of affection need variation.

For instance, my older sister was the first grandchild near our paternal grandparents, who lived next door. When I came along twenty months later, the female caregivers in my life were overwhelmed. Dad took up the slack.

My favorite photo is of Dad giving me a bottle when I was two weeks old. He’s smoking a pipe with cherry-flavored tobacco. I’m propped up on his knees as he’s relaxing in bed. My face lights up, fixated on his smile and the smoke drifting upward.

To this day, I love the smell of cherry-flavored tobacco. Furthermore, I find the scent of cigarette smoke pleasant.

Accept All Aspects of Yourself

Even if it’s politically incorrect to enjoy the smoke, I’ve learned it’s okay for me. I also realized I didn’t particularly appreciate smoking myself. Still later, extensive allergy testing revealed an allergy to tobacco.

Start developing your most important relationship now. If you are unsure how to start, consider journaling. First thing in the morning is the best time to connect with the love that remains inside you. You are worthy.

Hope in this Lunar New Year

Do you feel the hope in this Lunar New Year of the Tiger. For you, how does that make you feel compared to the Ox in 2021 or the Rat in 2020? And why did I call it the Lunar New Year? Hasn’t it always been referred to as the Chinese New Year?

A Little Clarification

The Lunar New Year begins on the day of the first new moon. Although a calendar based on the cycle of the moon has been around for ages, we tend to associate it with China where it is celebrated big time. Whole extended families return home, celebrating together. In fact, we see dragon dances performed in large cities across the globe. And it isn’t a few days. Rather it goes on for over two weeks, culminating in the release of thousands of paper lanterns into the night sky on day fifteen, the night of the first full moon. Read more about this year’s celebration.

What is Your Lunar New Year Symbol?

As a child, I remember my family eating at a Chinese restaurant with paper placemats of the Chinese Zodiac. Each of us would find the year we were born and discover who we were. Well, not really. Still, I always noticed my father and I were both Snakes. Since we shared a curiosity and enjoyment of this creature, it seemed only natural. I’ve researched the elements a little more and found that I’m a Yin Water Snake. Dad was a Yin Earth Snake. Furthermore, all Snakes are Yin and all Tigers are Yan. Read more if you’re curious about the Chinese Zodiac animals.

It’s All About Hope

It’s easy to look at all manner of negativity in life. On the other hand, looking for positivity is just as easy. Last year we were stuck with the Ox and betrayed by the Rat in 2020. I’m counting on hope in this Lunar New Year of the Tiger to lift me to new heights of gratitude, connection, and strength in 2022. How about you?