"No service is too small when given mindfully, with good intention and an open heart."

Cara Raymaker Boulder, CO

WHY I DO THIS: I am fascinated by people and their stories. As I bathe, feed, tuck older folks into bed, a lifetime's worth of wisdom comes out. Some stories are difficult. Many are laced with humor. Though I am the helper, I am being helped in return—sparked into a deeper understanding, warmer compassion, and gentler patience.

DEAR NEIGHBORCARE FRIENDS: LOVE STORIES: A friend driving to an appointment off the peninsula passed a woman hunkered down by the side of the road. Though she was already late, my friend took time to go back to see if the woman needed help and found her crouched over her dog who moments before had been struck by a car and killed.

My friend wrapped her arms around this woman she did not know—this “stranger.” For the moments they were together, she was the woman’s angel—just as hours later, after nightfall, when this same friend and I were driving on a well-traveled, unlit road in a rural neighborhood, we were angels for an old cocker spaniel walking, disoriented, along the center line, and a family living nearby were our angels—rushing from their home to help, sweeping up the shivering dog from us, welcoming him into their modest home, promising to care for him till his owner could be located.

In Vermont, a few weeks earlier, a similar experience: My children had left on a trip to Colorado. I’d spent a few days in their home without them, writing. While I was packing to head back to Maine, my dearly-loved, seventeen-year-old dog Ozzie suffered an episode which I knew, at once, demanded he be put to sleep.

I carried Ozzie outside. Sitting on the front lawn, I soothed him all I could, intending fiercely—though I knew no vet in town and barely anyone else—the absolute best for his last day. There isn’t space enough here to describe the blessings that came to us. Via the heartfulness of one person after another, after another, after another, that day far from home, though riddled with sorrow, provided richness and connection as well—to such a degree, in fact, that my relating its details still feels healing to me and to those who listen.

May I reach/That purest heaven, be to other souls/The cup of strength in some great agony,/Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,/Beget the smiles that have no cruelty—/Be the good presence of a good diffused,/And in diffusion ever more intense./So shall I join the choir invisible/Whose music is the gladness of the world. —George Eliot

NEIGHBORCARE NEWS   Picture this: You are old and alone and abruptly incapacitated. Your family wants to put you in a nursing home. You spend your days figuring how to show them you’re all right on your own. Maybe it takes an hour to do dishes and leave the sink and counters free of crumbs. More time to sweep—maybe from a wheelchair or from a walker. You can’t get down on your hands and knees. You can’t use a vacuum cleaner. Wringing out the dish rag hurts. Reaching hurts. Getting dressed hurts. Your children, no matter how loving, are looking for signs you are giving way. Feeling as you do, how can you keep up? No warrior could be more of a hero than you are. What would it mean for you to have a “tidier” visit—even just once in a while—someone to perk up your house and your spirit. (I broke my ankle a couple of years ago, and oh the joy—in a friend’s home—of having help maintaining my surroundings.)
Do call to say you’ll be glad to help out when you can. 266-7673
My friend M. lies in her bed in a nursing home. I stroke her hair back from her forehead. She moans with pleasure, saying this is all she needs, saying the heat from my hand eases her mind, saying this feels the like beginning of a new world.
Thanks to those who call back right away when asked to help. There’s no shame in not being able to, and a call back means others can be called that much sooner.
Life is very like a railway. One gets into deep cuttings and long dark tunnels where one sees nothing and hears twice as much noise as usual, and one can't read, and one shuts up the window, and waits, and then it all comes clear again. Only in life it sometimes feels as if one had to dig the tunnel as one goes along, all new for oneself. Go straight on, however, and one's sure to come out into a new country, on the other side of the hills, sunny and bright. —Samuel Clough

CARING IN REMEMBERED WAYS  It’s not only what we do for our friends who are ill, it’s how we are with them when we do what we do. Do they seem calmer, more uplifted, following their time with us? Or, do they need us to stay but want us to go? And do we want to go? Sometimes dear ones (who like us are never perfect, but to us have been perfect enough) lose their comfort zones or feel them eroding. During illness, they become ripe with fear—delirious with bad habit. We feel assaulted by these “new” people we’ve committed to, these beloveds with their shrinking kingdoms and unceasing spoken and unspoken needs. Making matters more complex, they may consciously or unconsciously notice our reaction, pulling away in shame or defiance, though on the surface all may look the same. Mercy on all of us, muddling through..

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. —from Thoughts on Solitude/Thomas Merton”

FROM THE KITCHEN  a scrumptious, nutritious ten-minute supper: Amy’s canned low-sodium veggie chili (the best for this purpose), sliced sautéed chicken sausage (optional), lightly steamed kale and chopped onion. Combine all. Add chopped tomato, crumbled reduced-fat sheep’s milk feta. No need for rice. For crunch, sprinkle on crispy Chinese noodles from a can.

HONORING THE VOICELESS   When you lose someone you’ve loved dearly, remember the pet who’s loved that person, too; this is the pet your beloved loved, who deserves tenderness, no matter the grief all around. Or maybe your pet has lost a love—a cat friend beloved, or a dog or a horse; there is no limit here, no good that comes from measuring another being’s sorrow to our own.
We have only to believe. And the more threatening an irreducible reality appears, the more firmly and desperately must we believe. Then, little by little, we shall see the universal horror unbend, and then smile upon us, and then take us in its more than human arms. —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

DIETARY TIP:  Stevia extract is a super-sweet, low-calorie dietary supplement that helps regulate blood sugar and supports the pancreas. The herb, stevia rebaudiana, has been used for centuries by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay. It is a wonderful aid to weight loss and weight management because it contains no calories. In addition, research indicates that it significantly increases glucose tolerance and inhibits glucose absorption. People who ingest stevia daily often report a decrease in their desire for sweets and fatty foods. It may also help speed recovery from minor illnesses. Other traditional uses of stevia are: lowers elevated blood pressure (hypertension), digestive aid that also reduces gas and stomach acidity, and for obesity. The herb acts as general tonic which increases energy levels and mental acuity. Stevia also inhibits the growth of some bacteria and infectious organisms, including those that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Many individuals using stevia have reported a lower incidence of colds and flu. Many who have used stevia as a mouthwash have experienced a significant decrease in gum disease. When topically applied, it softens the skin and smoothes out wrinkles while healing various skin blemishes, acne, seborrhea, dermatitis, and eczema. When used on cuts and wounds, it promotes rapid healing without scarring. (from online resource) I use stevia every day.

FROM THE NOT-A-DOCTOR   A dear friend emailed me this story which, regretfully, I was forced to edit for length: An elderly couple on a group tour to Tuscany took along a vial of pure tea tree essential oil, which my friend recommended they sniff every half hour or so. As my friend told these two, essential oils inhaled this way go right to work on the mucus membranes in the nose, protecting them from the viruses, bacteria, and fungus recycling on airplanes.
(NOTE: For those who have asthma or inhalant allergies or allergies to 'melaleuca' tree, tea tree oil may be too strong. In its place, lavender oil can be used for its antiseptic properties, or lemon essential oil, which is antibacterial. Eucalyptus which, like tea tree, has a stronger scent, is antiviral. Mix your own blend, if that suits.) The two elder travelers were the only ones who did not come down with colds or illness on the trip. I can vouch that the oils will make it through security if kept with other liquids and gels in the one-quart plastic bag airlines require. Or, as my friend suggests, sprinkle a few drops of the oil(s) of your choice on a tissue and put it in a small Ziploc freezer bag to sniff from at your plane seat.


A NEIGHBORCARE “MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK” POTLUCK took place in Lorraine Huckel and Rob Bauer’s home in Blue Hill on Friday, December 7th. Several of us shared fine food and talk and addressed NEIGHBORCARE newsletters. We’ll continue to move the potluck to various peninsula locations.

Not necessarily the same people will be gathering each time.

Never forget that life can only be nobly inspired and rightly lived if you take it bravely and gallantly, as a splendid adventure in which you are setting out into an unknown country, to meet many a joy, to find many a comrade, to win and lose many a battle. —Annie Besant

Blessings all around you—this winter and in every season,
maggie davis, for NEIGHBORCARE

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maggie davis
PO Box 370, Blue Hill, ME 04614-0370

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