Category Archives: Self Savvy

The Other Side of the Couch – Patience Rewarded

Kara 2022

20131206_213818

When a feline companion of eighteen years left us last May, I knew that at some point I would want to adopt another cat.  Our resident cat, Jasmine, now ten years old, came to us at age two when her first family moved to New Zealand.  She and Oscar became friends – he was ten at the time – and although they were never buddies, they did tolerate each other to the extent that they sometimes even sat on the bed together.

Jasmine adapted well to being on her on, especially because the pandemic has resulted in my being home almost all the time.  However, as things began to open, it became apparent that she would be home alone for some stretches of time, and I was worried about that for her.  She had always been with other animals.

We decided to adopt a younger cat in hopes that they would become playmates.  Alas – best-laid plans – when we went to the cat rescue to choose a cat, we were chosen – by a nine-year-old female named Kara.  She was a greeter – she was seated in a small box on a table right next to the door as we came in, and she was friendly right away.  We looked around, and we spent time with several of the younger cats (there were twenty-five cats roaming around) – but the one we thought we had come for turned out to be “playful” in a bit of a rough way.  My husband wanted none of that – and Kara was our choice.

In adopting an older, female cat and attempting to integrate her into our home with an even-older female cat, we were embarking of a journey that would require patience!

So began the Saga of Jasmine and Kara, a continuing story told in weekly installments to an avid audience of friends.  Following the instructions gleaned from our cat whisperer friend and from Jackson Galaxy YouTube videos, we began by not even allowing the two cats to see each other.  Kara was whisked into the house and placed in a secure room with her own box, food bowls, toys and water. This happened to be the room in which we watch TV, so she would be sure of company in the evening.  The next steps were to exchange scents – rub old socks or t-shirts on each cat and put those objects in the other cat’s areas.  Next we moved Kara into another room for a bit and let Jasmine into the TV room to sniff around.  We did this repeatedly.

The next step was crucial – we put up baby gates at one of the entrances to the TV room and began to crack the door open when both cats were eating – thus creating an association with “seeing other cat equals getting food”.  We quickly learned that Kara is an agile escape artist who could climb right over those gates!  However, they did serve the purpose of allowing visual contact if they were monitored.  I also learned that as soon as Jasmine saw Kara that I needed to pet her (the resident cat!), reassure her that this interloper did not mean she had lost us, and play with her using her favorite toy, a fishing pole with feathers attached.

This journey began in September.  We are now at the point at which both Jasmine and Kara are out and about in the house during the day.  Jasmine is the dominant cat – a Maine Coon mix weighing in at twelve pounds; however, Kara, a long-haired black tabby with Maine Coon features as well, and weighing about eight pounds, is a little acrobat and very interested in joining with and playing with Jasmine.

This has not yet occurred, but I would say that the possibility exists that they could end up on a bed together. It has taken patience, time, and determination – some would say why work so hard?  In part it is because we were chosen – but also it is within our ability to provide a safe and loving home to an older cat – and the rewards of that choice are many.  We love them both, quirks and all, and I have hope that the patience we are all displaying will be rewarded.  

Patience is an old-fashioned virtue – in our fast-paced and throw-away society, we are not used to delaying gratification or waiting for things to unfold.  Jasmine and Kara are teaching us time-honored truths by showing us that it takes time to adapt, to trust, and to create new connections.  It will not be rushed – it takes the time it takes – a timely reminder that even fear and conflict can be mitigated by patience and a good meal!

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 35+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit!

Leave a comment

Filed under family, Self Savvy

The Other Side of the Couch – Goodbye and Hello

Sunset

The turning of the year is for many a time of reflection – what has this last year brought to us; what are we leaving behind; what are we welcoming in the year ahead.  As I write this post, we are experiencing yet another wave of COVID-19 distress as the Omicron variant has become the dominant disease vector; we do not yet know enough about this variant to predict much about it other than that it is more contagious than the two prior variants – we hope it is less lethal.

This year for me has been a year of facing loss and mortality.  My brother, brother-in-law, sister and aunt all died of cancer this year – I am the oldest of five siblings, and these losses have really brought into focus the essential question that life presents to all of us.  Our time here is limited.  What do we choose to do with that precious time?

COVID prevented me from spending the time I would have wished with my brother and sister.  We were barely able to see Glenn a few weeks before his death – he was fighting hard to get to another clinical trial that held out so much promise, but his cancer was too far advanced.  My daughter and I flew to San Francisco and spent two precious days with him – just being together, talking, remembering.  When we left, we still were hoping for more time – but it was not to be.

Lindsay’s situation turned so quickly.  She was diagnosed in November of 2020, had surgery, and the extensive tumor was identified and removed.  She joined a clinical trial that worked so well until suddenly it didn’t.  In early June of 2021 she was hospitalized, and scans finally revealed that the cancer was back in all her internal organs.

Because Hawaii was so strict regarding COVID, when we learned that her time was short, we still had to have COVID tests within 72 hours of travel.  The only place in Nashville that gave the tests approved by the Hawaiian government was finally identified, and we flew on July 3.  Arriving at 2 in the afternoon, Lindsay, by this time in hospice at home, recognized us, welcomed us, but was not able to converse.  We were just together. During the night she became unable to respond, and in the early morning hours I talked to her, sang to her, told her it was ok to go.  She left us at 8:45 on July 4.

Three weeks later we said hello to a beautiful new granddaughter – Cora Lindsay.   Named after my sister, her great-aunt, this child carries hope into the world as a legacy of love.

The thread that binds all these experiences together is that legacy.  I am a fortunate person in that I grew up in a family that was and is bound together by love.  Although we have certainly had our struggles – no families in my experience do not have struggles – we got along (for the most part) and valued kindness.  Whatever I can say about my time on this earth, I can at least say that I gave and received love.  That is no small thing.

May you find ways in your own life to love.  The gift will return to you a thousand-fold.

Happy New Year.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 35+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit!

Leave a comment

Filed under Self Savvy

Hope at a Time of Despair

We’re a few days away from Christmas and it’s difficult to see signs of hope. 

We’re heading into another covid winter as infections and deaths again rise.  More than 800,000 Americans have already died from the covid virus.  Vaccines are widely available and medical evidence indicates that the unvaccinated are the ones dying now.  But too many people claim they have a Constitutional right to their “freedom” to refuse the vaccination. 

This argument distorts the Constitution.  Constitutional freedoms extend only to the point where one person’s rights infringe on the freedoms of others.  By claiming a right to reject the vaccine, anti-vaxxers increase the risk of infecting others, thus infringing on the Constitutional rights of others to live virus-free.  Anti-vaxxers also increase the likelihood that we will never reach herd immunity and that the virus will mutate into a form that is vaccine resistant.  

Unfortunately, the political and social disputes about covid and the vaccine are just the latest symptom of the twin diseases of political intolerance and violence.  Our country has a violent history. Therefore, it is disturbing to learn from recent surveys that around a quarter of Republican Party supporters believe it is acceptable to use violence to win political disagreements.   Meanwhile, the leftist fringe infecting the Democratic Party screams a message of tolerance through an intolerant program of “wokeness”.  Significantly, these pampered pooches haven’t agreed to give up one iota of their privileged, coastal-elite existence to bring their utopia to fruition.

Since no one is listening to each other and the few voices of reason have been drowned out by a sea of intolerance, there is a mad scramble to impose intolerance through the capture of the political process.  Too many states are passing “secure voting” laws that are designed solely to suppress the votes of people who are deemed politically and socially undesirable and inferior.  Virtually all the states are racing to create gerrymandered districts that will distort the outcome of elections over the next ten years.  Our Constitution stands in grave danger of becoming more useful as toilet paper.

So where do we find hope in this time of despair? History teaches us that intolerance eventually burns itself out due to its own excesses.  The Inquisition eventually ran out of victims to torture and murder in the name of God.  The American Civil War ended when the “secesh” states ran out of people to fight and die on the battlefield.  The covid pandemic will end when the virus runs out of people to kill.

My hope is that our country will reject intolerance sooner rather than later. My despair is that we value our lives and the lives of others so cheaply that we are willing to watch so many people die before our intolerance finally burns out.  

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps small businesses create human resources policies and risk mitigation programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

1 Comment

Filed under family, History, Self Savvy

The Other Side of the Couch – Are We There Yet?

Here & Now

Are We There YET?

I remember as a child taking car trips with my family – I was often buried in a book, but I know I must have asked that dreaded question many times – and I am equally sure that my younger siblings often did the same. Time passes differently in childhood. Days are endless; summers last forever, and it seems that Christmas will never come.

Time moves differently as we age. The rushing river of Time of which we are never outside becomes ever faster. The meandering pace of childhood picks up speed, and time passes in minutes as we grow older.

And yet that question remains – are we there yet? Have we reached our destination? The “there” changes over time, and yet it is still somewhere out there in the far distance. We are moving toward a horizon that always is just out of reach.

Have you considered what “there” is for you, and whether the possibility exists that you are already “there”? If we as humans are constantly focused on the next thing, that which is to come, we miss so much of what is here now.

If I have learned anything from these months of pandemic isolation, it is that now is what we have. The opportunity to slow down, pay attention, spend time with people I love has never been more present and essential, especially given that these months included the loss of beloved family members (my brother, sister, brother-in-law, and aunt – none to COVID, but gone nonetheless) – and the loss of a feline friend who gave us eighteen years of loving presence. We also received the gift of another precious granddaughter and the adoption of another feline friend.

Friends, “there” is a mirage – a desert oasis calling us away from the actual present. I hope that you can find ways to stay fully present with your life today. It really is a gift, and it is all that we have.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit!

Leave a comment

Filed under Self Savvy

All I Wanted Was to Play the Sport I Loved

In 1972, women celebrated the enactment of Title IX which prohibits gender discrimination in any school or educational program receiving federal funds.  Suddenly, schools and universities were required to invest in sports programs for girls and young women.  Title IX opened the door for female athletes.

Because of Title IX, Pat Summitt led her teams to 1,098 wins, more wins than any other college basketball coach.  Many of her student-athletes turned pro after graduating and became stars in the brand-new WNBA.  

Because of Title IX, there were school programs that trained our gymnasts who went on to win dozens of Olympic medals. 

Because of Title IX, our colleges continue training soccer players who join our national women’s soccer team. The USWNT has won 4 World Cups, 4 Olympic gold medals, and 8 CONCACAF Gold Cups.  They are the world standard in women’s soccer.

Title IX isn’t perfect.  Women’s college sports still receive fewer resources than the men’s programs.  Women are still forced to wear obscenely sexist uniforms.  At the recent Olympics, a women’s volleyball team was fined for wearing shorts instead of the official uniform which looks like a g-string and pasties outfit for strippers.

Our national Olympic committee doesn’t appear to have noticed the shorts scandal, which isn’t surprising considering how they’ve handled the whole Dr. Nasser pedophile mess. Our Olympic committee spent years ignoring or discrediting the teen-aged gymnasts who reported Dr. Nasser’s sexual abuse of them. 

Now a similar scandal has erupted in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL).  A handful of players allege sexual improprieties against a widely respected coach. The players also allege that team owners and the sport’s governing authorities either ignored their allegations or leaned on them to keep their mouths shut for the good of the league and their careers. 

Why were these girls and young women ignored and discredited for years? Institutionalized sexism, reinforced with conservative religious teachings, assumes that females are always to blame because they “must have been asking for it” or they lured a hapless male into becoming a sex offender. Never mind that the male offender is often an authority figure who is violating his fiduciary and legal responsibilities, as well as common decency. 

Title IX was intended to bring an end to unequal treatment of girls and women in sports.  Almost 50 years later, that hasn’t happened but at least they are finally being heard.  Let’s hope this means the future is brighter because girls and young women deserve better when all they ever wanted was to compete in the sport they loved.  

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps small businesses create human resources policies and risk mitigation programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

Leave a comment

Filed under Fun Savvy, History, Self Savvy

The Other Side of the Couch – Pandemic Gift

Backyard Birds

The days are already shortening, and the air is occasionally brisk if one arises early enough.  Yesterday as I worked at my desk I watched two squirrels fighting over the bird seeds that had fallen from the feeders – each determined to be the most successful.  A territorial mockingbird has hovered over the feeders at times as well – the smaller birds seem to just give way to this larger and certainly more vociferous creature – they come back when the mockingbird departs.

Watching the birds and wildlife from my window during the last eighteen months has been both solace and lesson.  It’s a small window really, looking out on a little slice of green, some shrubs and a holly bush.  Farther away across the sidewalk path is an oak tree, and farther on are steps and the landscaping and front doors of neighbors.  Few people actually pass this way – so the wildlife is mostly undisturbed.  We have even seen an occasional deer.

I often pause during the day and watch the unfolding drama of survival as the house finches, cardinals, black-capped chickadees, Carolina wrens, blue jays, robins, occasional bluebirds vie for life sustenance.  The squirrels have become adept at defeating the so-called squirrel-proof feeders and perform acrobatics on a daily basis just to get to an occasional reward.

I don’t remember a time before the pandemic when I took the time to sit and watch the panorama of life go by.  I have always been on the go, a doer, completing tasks, getting things done, being organized.  I noticed this morning that I unconsciously create little patterns that streamline the smallest tasks – bunching together the steps it will take to put things in the recycle; making sure I stop at the trash on the way – I do this without much thought.

This way of being has actually served me well over the years – and yet, and yet – as I watch the birds and take time to just be, I am grateful for this unexpected pandemic gift – the gift of slowing down, of taking time for nothing more than being present.

When this challenging time ends – and I do believe it will either end or become mitigated in some way so that we will be able to once again be out in the world – my hope is to hold onto this gift, this experience, of being more centered in present time.  In the end present time is what we have – the past is gone; the future is not here – so I will delight in my birds and squirrels and in being here in this world, at this moment in time.  May we all be so blessed.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit!

Leave a comment

Filed under Self Savvy, Uncategorized

The Other Side of the Couch – Don’t Wait

Photo by Todd Trapani on Pexels.com

Twenty years.  Hard to believe it has been twenty years.  The pain has receded; it isn’t daily now as it was in the first several years.  When it returns it is tempered now by sweet memories of better days.  The things we did together, the moments of laughter we shared, the trips we took – these are precious now. 

Twenty years.  Hard to believe it has been twenty years.  The pain has receded, but when it returns it is jagged and still painful and hard to understand.  The pain has not been worked through – it seems instead burned into our memories without healing.

Today, September 11, has two meanings for me. 

First, this day would have been my dad’s 101st birthday.  He was born in 1920, and he died unexpectedly on the 5th of July, 2001.  The first anniversary of his birth occurred on the day that the 9/11 attacks shook our country to the core.  Now, twenty years later, we are remembering as a nation that terrible day.  I, as a single human being, am remembering both the terrorist attack and the loss of a beloved father.

The most important lesson for me out of all this loss is a simple one.  Don’t wait.  Don’t wait to visit loved ones. Don’t wait to say you love them.  Don’t wait to take that trip, to write that story down, to share happy memories.  Our time on this earth is not a given, and we never really know what is ahead.

I didn’t know on July 1, 2001 that the phone call I had with my father would be the last time I heard his voice.  Thousands didn’t know on September 11, 2001 that they were saying good-bye for the last time.

Don’t wait.  It may be the last thing you ever get to say or do.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit!

Leave a comment

Filed under Self Savvy

History Wars

If your history teachers were like mine, they made it sound as if history is unchangeable.  If it’s in the history books, it is the correct and only version of what happened, right? Not so fast.

History is never that simplistic.  History is a written account of what happened. Until the 19th century, only the rich and powerful were literate.  They ensured history covered only what interested them, which was themselves.  As a result, history was primarily an account of kings, dynasties and their wars.  We learned almost nothing about the ordinary people whose work made possible the great lives told in historical accounts.

This traditional approach to history broke down in the 19th century when European and American governments decided that literate workers would make better factory workers.  Mass literacy brought fresh perspectives.  Ordinary people wanted to know about the lives of ordinary people from the past.

By the 1920’s, stories of ordinary people were in vogue, how they lived, worked and died. It’s still a popular subject given the number of Americans researching their family genealogy and getting DNA tests to learn “where we came from”.  But the closer we look, the more we realize how much was airbrushed out of American history books because the facts didn’t fit the preferred narrative of a good and righteous nation.   

Black people were brought here solely for the purpose of being slave labor. They were prohibited from learning to read and write because illiteracy was the easiest method to control them.  (Today, the Taliban has retaken Afghanistan and they will again ban literacy for females.)

Chinese men helped build the cross-continental railway, one of the greatest engineering feats in U.S. history.  Those Chinese laborers could not bring their families because the U.S. government didn’t want them settling permanently in the U.S.  They endured pogroms by anti-immigrant whites who saw the hard-working Chinese as job and wage threats.  (San Francisco’s Chinatown now offers tours of their escape tunnels.)

American Indian tribes were hunted to the point of extinction and forced onto reservations. Once on the rez, they were routinely starved and denied healthcare. Their children were kidnapped and placed in government-sanctioned schools in pursuit of forced assimilation. (Canada recently apologized for their forced assimilation programs.  The U.S. refuses to do so.)

These examples give a flavor of the countless facts of American history that were airbrushed from our history books.  History is often ugly and unpleasant, particularly in hindsight after social and political attitudes change.  Future generations will certainly take issue with things we do now as they uncover our unfortunate facts. 

Acknowledging these unfortunate facts does not diminish our country’s achievements and is not a rejection of our country’s history.  It means that we are mature enough as a nation to accept everything done by our predecessors.

As uncomfortable and unpleasant as it is to acknowledge past moral and legal wrongs, it would be so much worse to pretend they never happened.  We can never move forward until we acknowledge the good and the bad of our past.  Call it a 12-step program for the history wars and teach the kids the ugly stuff along with the glorious stuff in history class.  Ignorance is justice denied.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps small businesses create human resources policies and risk mitigation programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Self Savvy

A Ride Through France

I’ve spent the past three weeks watching the Tour de France.  I know nothing about cycling except that the sport has been riddled with doping scandals.  This year was no different.  During the final week of the tour police raided the hotel rooms and vehicles of one of the teams searching for drugs. They didn’t find any, but it cast a shadow over the race.

I first tuned in to watch the race because I wanted to see the background shots of the French countryside with its castles, chateaus, villages, churches and Roman ruins.  The race began in Brittany, moved east, and then south to Nimes and Carcassonne.  Nimes was built by the ancient Romans and their arena is still used today for concerts.  Carcassonne also dates to the Roman era although the medieval walled city and fortress are why tourists visit today.

From there the race moved into the Pyrenees Mountains. These mountains are as magnificent as the Rocky Mountains. Not surprisingly, the winners of these group stages grew up in mountainous areas.  One such winner was a young American, Sepp Kuss, from Durango, Colorado. Expect to hear much more of him, by the way.

Expect to hear much more about Tadej Pogacar, the young Slovenian who won the Tour de France with a whopping 5-minute lead over his nearest competitor.  He also snagged three of the four color jerseys: yellow (Tour winner), polk-dot (King of the Mountain), and white (best young rider).  He couldn’t have done any of it without the support of his team.

The Tour de France is simultaneously a group sport and a test of individual stamina.   Riders participate as part of a team and support their lead cyclist.  Pogacar’s teammates helped him stay at the front of the peloton in every stage of the race, away from the wrecks near the back of the pack.  Pogacar’s stamina helped him win two of the four most difficult mountain climbs.

It was fascinating to watch the camaraderie of the riders. Riders in the back of the pack supported each other without regard to team affiliation, sharing food and water and encouraging each other to keep going.  When a spectator caused a massive crash in Stage 3, the riders protested the poor security and narrow roads by staging a slow ride and an hour-long stoppage during the next stage.

The race ended in Paris on Sunday.  It was a fascinating journey through the French countryside.  But what kept me tuning in every day was watching the camaraderie of the riders. We all want to be respected by our peers for our diligence, honesty and hard work.  The Tour de France epitomizes that.  

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps small businesses create human resources policies and risk mitigation programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Self Savvy

The Other Side of the Couch – No Words

Clouds and Sorrow

As I begin this piece tonight I find myself faced with putting into words what cannot be, can never be, put into words, because words can only carry us so far into experience.  Tonight I am faced with an attempt to put into words the enormity of the events of these last days, weeks, months, even years that have piled on, each one unique unto itself and yet combining into what is now greater, harder, more challenging than all its parts. And yet I am going to try, because the trying perhaps is in itself a healing process.

It began slowly – he said after we were all together that Christmas of 2018, somewhat offhandedly, oh by the way, I am having a CT scan when I get back to Berkeley– maybe have fatty liver.  Not too much alarm there – then in January the startling news of a tumor in the liver, size of a softball.  Surgery to come.  Removal of two-thirds of his liver in March, 2019.  Reports – it is not primary liver cancer, it is bile-duct cancer.  What?  Very rare.  OF course.  Not well understood.

The fight began.  He, a scientist and geneticist, participated fully in his treatment, sought information, found clinical trials.  A trial he entered gave him, remarkably, almost 21 months of additional, high-quality life.  In spite of COVID he thrived, creating family connections and friend connections across the globe, hosting as he always did, connecting others.

November, 2020 – she called, having experience shortness of breath – went to the ER for removal of a liquid surrounding the lungs.  In the process of this, a CT scan revealed an abdominal mass.  When surgically removed and reviewed – ovarian cancer of a rare and slow-growing type (which meant not responsive to chemo).  In January of 2021 she entered a clinical trial.  She did very well.

Suddenly things began to change.  For him, the clinical trial stopped working.  The cancer invaded the biliary tree in the liver, and all attempts to help bile leave the liver were unavailing.  Although another trial showed promise, the fight to get there was lost.  He left us on May 2, 2021, having survived 21 months post-diagnosis of a type of cancer that rarely if ever allows for more than months of life.

And while all this was happening, she was doing well.  A dancer, a lover of nature, she thrived on this beautiful island.  From January 2021 to June 2021 she was upbeat, feeling good, feeling positive, enjoying life in paradise, her name for her home on Maui.

Suddenly things began to change.  A sensation of pressure in her legs – unclear origin.  Suddenly problems with digestion.  Next discomfort in abdomen – visit to ER revealing fluid gathered in the abdomen, which when drained showed signs of advanced cancer.  Further hospitalization showed the cancer suddenly invading all major organs.

She went home to her beloved partner and entered hospice care on June 30.  We arrived – her sisters, her niece, her brother-in-law – on July 3.  She knew us.  She thanked us for coming.

She left us on July 4, 2021.

A brother.  A sister.  Both younger than I – ages 70 and 67.  Both lost to rare cancers that overwhelmed the best efforts and best care each could have.  There is no one to blame.  Everyone loved them and fought hard for them, but the cancers were relentless in their proliferation.  They both died surrounded by those who loved them.

And now, those who loved them are faced with the daily task of getting up each day and living lives from which their daily presence is gone.  Those who loved them have to pick up the pieces of life, to face the bureaucracy of death, the death certificates, the computer passwords, the search for things like safe deposit box keys, the bank accounts.

Those who loved them have to distribute their earthly possessions, decide what to keep, what to give, what to do with the remains of a life.

And yet most of all, those who loved them are faced with walking through each day with the reality of their absence.  Many things are said about death – but for me the truth is that death is absence and loss of the precious connection between human souls.  I carry them with me in my heart, but I want to hear them, and talk with them, and remember with them, and that will never be again.

So today I mourn the loss of my brother Glenn Hammonds and my sister Lindsay Hammonds – two bright stars who blazed through this world too quickly and left it too soon.  I am only at the beginning of the journey of grief. Today I can only feel the loss.  Perhaps happy memories will help, but not yet.

Friends, hold each other close.  Don’t wait to be together.  These COVID months have stopped us in so many ways – but for COVID I would have spent months with each of them instead of having to wait for vaccination to make it safe to go. I am grateful I was able to be with both of them before they died. Don’t wait.  Life is not a given, and we are given now, but nothing else is sure.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit!

2 Comments

Filed under Self Savvy