Of Palms, Cancer, and Orchids

This is a post full of odds & ends, things that have been happening in my life.  Yesterday was Palm Sunday, one of my favorites, where we all process in the aisles and wave our palm fronds, celebrating Jesus as conqueror, celebrating the beginning of Easter Week.

Celebrating in the full knowledge that things are about to go from good to bad to worse.

***

And speaking of worse…. I went back to Jo2G last week, my first time back on that unit since my patient coded. It was a good night but not an easy night. For one thing, my assignment kept changing – my transfer never came, my post-op went to another unit, and instead, on a surgery unit, I got 2 patients with cancer.

One was a lady who had been on hospice for end-stage pancreatic cancer. She had come for a second opinion and had looked so pale and weak that the doctors had immediately decided to admit her. She is now in renal failure and probably will not leave the hospital. I held her mother and spoke kindly to her husband and did everything I could to relieve her pain.

My other patient, meanwhile, had metastatic prostate cancer and was admitted for severe pain from a bone metastasis. He is a fighter – still a full code, on his umpteenth treatment regimen, running his office supply business from the hospital bed as his girlfriend looks on adoringly. Once we got his pain under control, he was as happy as a clam. He will go out swinging.

This floor always challenges me, makes me think about serious things, like death and dying and mortality, and how we squeeze out the joy from each precious moment we have here on earth. I prayed for both of my patients after I left, that they will find meaning and joy in their remaining time. A prayer I could ask for all of us, because we are all terminal. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12).

Note: As usual all patient details have been so dramatically changed that they are pretty much fictional

***

That was deep and hopefully not too heavy, although I meant every word. Now on to my latest book list – Books with Matte Covers. These are all real books, not library books, that I have been given or borrowed or otherwise obtained through more or less legitimate means.

Nothing Daunted, by Dorothy Wickenden – I love books that allow me to time travel. This one lets me time travel with two delightful society girls that take on a rural Colorado school (think Christy in Colorado) with not one but two romantic twists. It’s very good (thanks Mom!)

She, by H. Rider Haggard – How have I missed this book all my life? It influenced Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and no doubt J. K. Rowling… and it certainly reminds me of Heart of Darkness. A great book from the 19th century, this follows two adventurers to the dark shores of Africa where on a quest to solve an ancient mystery, they find a mysterious white witch, Ayesha. (Thanks, Clementses!)

Born To Run by Christopher McDougall – The tale of Mexico’s running natives, the Tarahumara, a crazy gringo who hangs around them, and a couple long-distance races. This book almost makes me want to run, and run without good tennis shoes, because bad tennis shoes are the key to no-injury running… but not quite. I’d rather just read about it.  (Thanks, Hills!)

The Rivers Ran East, by Leonard Clark – the early 20th century tale of an adventurer who sets out to find the 7 Cities of El Dorado. Joined by a gruff Peruvian, and then by feisty American… does he find them?! You’ll have to read it to find out! (Thanks, Mic!)

The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean – The author dives into the story of an obsessive (Aspbergers-y?) fellow who faced criminal charges after working with some Seminoles to steal orchids from a Florida swamp and turns the story of a rather unlikeable fellow into a deep exploration of ethnicity, flower-culture (not horticulture but the culture of the people who do it), and of course orchids. Have I mentioned that if I get a tattoo, it will be of an orchid? (Clementses!)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – the story of two magical young people caught up in a fantastic circus with everything a circus should have. Have you read this? If not, go read it. Now. (Clementses!)

Periodic Tales by Hugh Aldersey-Williams – A nonfiction book about the period table that discusses many of the main elements and the author’s unorthodox chemistry experiments to obtain said elements. If you like rocks or chemicals, you should read this. (The Clementses rock!)

***
So – Easter Week is upon us. Peace to all of you as we approach the end of this holy season of Lent!

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Pom Pom Sunday

Today is the Sunday before Easter. Palm Sunday, or Pom Pom Sunday as some in our church call it, is the beginning of Easter Week. 
 
If Easter Week were a psych patient, s/he would be a rapid cycler. Palm Sunday: yay he king is coming! Maundy Thursday: A big dinner and an arrest. Good Friday: tears and despair and earthquakes.  Sunday: yay Jesus is risen! There is a lot of emotion and drama in this brief week.
 
I really enjoyed our service this morning, even though the music pastor had travel difficulties and was unable to make it to a Sunday with a great deal of music. Everyone rose to the occasion – the guest organist, the assistant director, the choir member who had played the piano part once before but did great. We in the bell choir processed in, ringing our bells, and everyone else did a parade with the palm branches.
 
I enjoyed the interruption in the routine – memorizing our music! Processing through the aisles! Waving palm branches! Palm Sunday is a rebellious holiday. 
 
It was rebellious then, too. A king who is actually a carpenter, riding on an unbroken donkey rather than a white horse. A shepherd king leading his people with a  staff, not a sword. 
Riding in like a conqueror when he was actually intending to submit, to die for his people.  
 
And the people celebrating him weren’t officials or soldiers or music directors. No one was throwing confetti. No. Instead, common people were laying their coats in the streets. They were celebrating their king.
 
Their king and ours.