Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Have you ever been in a public place with your loved one wanting to talk private feelings and thoughts, and feel that everyone is listening?

Before I share with you a series of auspicious events, I have to start by saying that Jan and I are iconoclasts at heart (translation: we live beyond the realm of public opinion, we try to live our lives not ruled by what other say or think but by our deepest beliefs). As a matter of fact, Jan is one of the few persons I know to “above all, is true to herself [and to God]” regardless of whether people agree with her choices and ideas. And this quality wraps very much our relationship.

I arrived this morning when Jan was eating her breakfast by herself! (notice the bold words, these are the happy events). Ruth, the sitter, was sitting close but not helping. Jan with the spoon properly placed in her hand, was making sweeping movements from the food tray to her mouth, slow and precise. Her hair was untied, shinny and clean. From the right side, she looked like any other morning at home, when she is getting ready to go to work. She greeted me with a nod. A few minutes latter she closed her eyes. I asked her if she wanted to read her mail: greeting cards, bills, fundraising brochures, junk mail. She read the card from her friend Donna. She saw the kitten on the cover and smiled. Her eyes scanned from left to right the words inside. She stopped at the name for a few seconds, then placed the card on the tray and asked Ruth for something. We could not make what she wanted, so she pushed the food table away, stood up and took two steps to get to the bed. The right leg looked a bit weak, but with the left foot she did the rest of the work. She turned around at the edge of the bed and sat down, then lay on her back, fixed the pillow cover and made herself comfortable. She did all these actions, by herself, in a matter of factly way. Ruth then offered a blanket.

I pulled a chair and began talking to her. I remembered reading that it is best not to stand on the side of the bed, so she does not become agitated. We were at eye level. She was awake but with her eyes closed. I told her I would love to know what was in her mind. She opened her eyes and began talking complete sentences in her guttural voice, part of which were not audible because of the noise made by the nurse and the neighbour in the next bed. I told her they were too noisy and rolled my eyes. She smiled. I asked her to continue, I asked her if she knew that I love her, looking at her in the eyes. While she continued talking, some pain showed on her face as if she was aware of her current situation (Notice that the content of the conversation is private), we kept the conversation going for 15 or 20 minutes. My back was towards the door. Suddenly she stopped; she was looking towards the door. I turned around and saw standing at the door the Social Worker, the physiotherapist, the sitter and the speech and language therapist. Someone had gone to tell them that Jan was talking!

Unbeknownst to me they were listening to my part of my conversation with Jan, obviously delighted. They encouraged Jan to go on. This was really an improvement from yesterday. Jan became overwhelmed, too many people, too much stimulation, too many emotions. Some left happy to have witnessed her progress. I pushed aside my feelings of having been intruded upon in a private conversation with my wife, reframed, and joined in the celebration of these little steps to start a climb of the giant mountains ahead.

The speech therapist stayed to do some further cognitive tests. Asked Jan if she knew where she was, Jan answered: No. Asked Jan if she knew who I was, Jan replied with a yes and then said some other words, but the speech was becoming garbled. Jan went to sleep with a smile holding my hand. The therapist encouraged us to start a Speech Journal where we can record what she does, so the therapist can obtain more data on Jan’s progress.

Even in her recovery, Jan continues to challenge (this is a word she likes) the statistics and averages. An iconoclast at the core, she will go through this road in her own way, only pausing to ask The Lord for grace.



sharon said...

Fede, Thank you for sharing Jan's progress with us. I appreciate your openness & honesty. I glad to her the two of you are engaging in conversations (though garbled) & Jan is trying to express what is on her mind as clearly as she can. One of the things I am inspired about Jan is how clearly, articulate & honest Jan communicates.

I agree too, my experience of Jan is she lives her life so that she is true to herself & God. I am so inspired by her & have learned so much her over the years.

I know that once she sets her mind & heart on a challenge she will accomplish it.

I pray so much throughout the day for Jan. (& often think about her) I trust God is guiding her with her steps & words in his own way in his own time.

I look forward to helping Jan in her garden with flowers etc. She is so creative & talented. I know how much pride she takes with her garden.

I look forward to seeing her soon.


Martha said...

Dear Jan,
It was so awesome to watch you eat a meal tonight, even if the thickened cranberry juice was disgusting (I know how it tastes because they made us taste it during my speech and language training so we could have a better understanding of what we were feeding our patients with swallowing difficulties).

I thank God for the chance to hear your voice again!!!!! I know it's hard right now to get more than a few words out at a time and to be understood. So I give thanks for every word that you utter and pray for patience and understanding as we repair communication breakdowns and build communication ramps.

I give thanks for music and for the way it touches our souls. I give thanks for family and community who are vessels of God's love. May you continue to be wrapped in God's loving arms.

Love in Christ,

Joy said...

Dear Jan,

It was so wonderful to see you tonight! You greeted me with a big smile and an out stretched arm. We hugged and you said some words but I didn't understand. Then, you looked at the bandage on my face. 'Yeah...' I muttered ' I tripped and smashed my face.' You smiled tenderly, then, I saw in your eyes the Jan I always knew.

I asked if you would like Marianna and I to sing for you. You nodded with another smile and held Marianna's hand.

We sang a few of your favorite songs softly. You closed your eyes and said 'nice!' As we sang, we could almost hear you singing harmonies with us. That brought tears to our eyes.

When we kissed you goodbye and told you we'll return for another visit soon, you smiled and said 'OK!'

Marianna and I went to the Chapel to pray and gave thanks to God for your amazing recovery. We danced 'Angels before me' for you Jan, and asked God to continue His healing for you.

As we turned to leave, Marianna said ' What a treat tonight!' Yeah! It was a real treat to have been with you, Jan! I remembered Linda's sermon on this 1st Sunday of Lent... she talked about how we are bread, to be taken, broken, blessed and given to one another.

Jan, do you know that in your brokenness, you have blessed us all immensely? Thank you.

Much love,

Joy and Marianna

Ret said...

WOW! That's great!
I wrote you a story but my stupid computer ate it. Just as well, becuase it's become outdated since you've made such remarkable progress. Still, I do have a wonderful little gift for you that I think you'll enjoy! See you on Friday! :)