A few years ago, I shared the news that our Golden Retriever, Misty, had been diagnosed with a heart murmur. This past Sunday, I held my beautiful girl in my arms as her heart beat for the last time. I won’t get into a theological debate about whether or not she’s waiting for me in Heaven. That’s one of the many things beyond my comprehension. What I do know is that we could all learn to be better Christians by emulating our canine friends. Here’s how my girl brought the teachings of the Bible to life…
Over the past few weeks, my blog readers have seen Morgan’s senior photos, read my advice to her as she gets ready to head to college, and accompanied us to Greece and Rome. After all of that, Morgan suggested that you all might like to know her a little better. Since she’s heading off in less than two months to begin her journey to her future career, she’d like to share with you what led her to this moment. I hope you finish this feeling like you know her a better and knowing that there is still hope for future generations.
Warning: you may need a tissue or two.
Throughout my whole life, and up until January of 2018, I struggled with what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was terrified to make the wrong choice, knowing that this was probably the most important decision I would ever make. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be connected with medicine. I floated between dentist, surgeon, and even medical malpractice law. My whole life I served others with compassion and love, but it never clicked. Little did I know, that in less than two months, my whole world would flip upside down. I knew exactly what I wanted to be: a nurse.
On November 22, the day before Thanksgiving, my grandfather, who I called Poppy, was admitted into Johns Hopkins Hospital. This would be a shock for the whole family, because he had just gotten back from a week-long vacation in Colorado with my dad and aunt. Less than a week later, it was found out that he had Frontal Lobe Dementia, a rare and terminal form of dementia. We were told that he might have up to six months to live, but it was looking like a lot less. In early December, he was allowed to go home with hospice care. By this time, Poppy had lost all ability to talk and had to be fed through a feeding tube. This change was dramatic because he was always the life of the party and the most talkative person in the family with the most stories.
Poppy was a huge part of raising me. For example, he lived only 15 minutes away from my school, allowing me to see him often, and allowing him to always be present whenever anybody needed him. He came to my house just about everyday, whether it was to help my dad or simply to give to my sisters and me some pastry that he just mastered. So when I heard that someone I thought who was going to live forever was looking at less than six months, I became empty. More than just being upset that I was losing someone so important to me, I felt helpless. For me, there was only one way I could fix this, and it was to do something. So at only 16 years old, I became one of the primary caregivers for my grandfather. This forced me to become really mature really fast. I had to use my independence to be responsible for another person.
Everyday after school, I would drive right to the farmhouse where Poppy lived. I would go straight inside and begin my daily routine: feed him through a feeding tube, give him any pain medicine, try to communicate in any way possible, and just be company for him. After hours of caring for him, I would go home, do my homework, and go to bed fully prepared to do the exact same thing the next day, and everyday, until this journey was over. For the next two months, until the time of his passing, this is exactly what I did. Over Christmas vacation, I stayed with my grandparents around the clock. I was dedicated to making Poppy feel comfortable and showed deep compassion for him. This compassion is something that I will carry with me into my future career.
I learned and used every skill I needed to fully care for my grandfather so that my grandmother, Grancy, could get some sleep at night and not worry about doing everything for herself and Poppy. There were times that I would tell her I knew exactly what I was doing, even if I didn’t, and then I would figure out how to do whatever it was. By the end of my time with my grandfather, I knew that nursing was my calling. Our time together gave me the opportunity to learn skills that I will use everyday as a nurse, such as giving insulin and feeding through a tube. While these skills are material things, I also grew in compassion, sympathy, maturity, and responsibility.
Since that time, I have been very enthusiastic about my future. I am constantly trying to learn new skills that will benefit me, I have started teaching myself the Spanish that I will use with patients, and I am taking classes aimed towards health professions. When I told my uncle that I had decided to be a nurse he said to me, “You’re so smart, just go ahead and be a doctor! It pays more and you are more than capable of doing it.” I just smiled and explained to him that I don’t want to be a doctor. I don’t want to go and give patients their diagnosis and then move on to the next room to do a consultation. I want to be the person that cares for a patient for their whole journey and makes them comfortable along the way. While the time spent with my grandfather in his last few months was long, hard, and emotional, I know that it happened for a reason. I am eternally grateful for Poppy as he helped me figure out where I am meant to be in life, and not a day of my life will go by when I won’t thank him for being such a big influence on me.
I think Morgan’s grandfather would be so proud of her as he would be of all of his grandchildren. It’s going to be hard to let her go, but I think Morgan will be do just fine. I’m so excited to watch her make her dream come true.
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Chincoteague Island Trilogy.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).
Yesterday, I was out running errands while Morgan was at field hockey practice. I just got a new car, and I wanted to organize the storage space in the front seat, so I ran to my favorite home organization store – the Dollar Tree. If you’ve never done home organization shopping at the Dollar Tree, then you are missing out. Every room of my house has the perfect containers, all purchased for a dollar each! Anyway, I was standing in the back of the store, weighing my options and trying to decide what would work best, when an older man stopped nearby to look at something.
“Hmm, sugar free chocolate. I wonder if it’s any good,” he said to himself.
Glancing over, I saw the display of Baker’s Chocolate that had caught his attention. I winced.
“Only for baking,” I told him. “You definitely do not want to eat it. It’s very bitter.”
He looked at the box for a moment, and then I saw understanding dawn.
“I guess the name should have given that away. I’m diabetic, and the words ‘no sugar’ jumped out at me. I sure miss eating chocolate.”
Before I knew it, this man launched into a story about his younger sister who had eaten a whole box of ExLax as a child. It was much more information than I needed to know about this stranger and his family, but I smiled and listened. When he finished his story, I nodded, picked up the plastic containers I’d been eyeing, and began to turn away. But I didn’t get far.
“I have three kids,” this man proceeded to tell me. Before I could say that I, too, have three children, or rather, before I could escape and run down the aisle, he began telling me about his children and his grandchildren. Twenty minutes and several stories later, I smiled, told him I enjoyed talking to him, and wished him a nice day. The entire time he talked, my mind was screaming, “Don’t you get that I have things to do?” But my heart was saying, this man needs to talk.
Perhaps his wife has a medical issue and can’t hold a conversation with him. Perhaps he recently retired and is at loose ends in his life. Perhaps he is just so filled with joy at this stage of his life that he wants the world to know it. Whatever the reason, he chose me to spend close to a half hour regaling with stories. In the end, I paid for my stuff, ran to the grocery store, and still had time to sit in the school parking lot and organize my car. What could have been seen as lost time in my otherwise very busy day, ended up being just a few minutes that I had to spare.
It’s crazy how busy we all are. My days seem to roll by at a constant speed with little time to take a break. If you had told me yesterday morning that I’d spend part of my day listening to a stranger tell me how he feels when his grandson lays his head on his lap and looks up and says, “Grandpa, I love you,” I would have told you no way, I had no time for that. But, as it turned out, I had plenty of time. In fact, I had more than enough time. It’s amazing how sometimes, when we’re open to it, God allows us to make time for little things like listening to a stranger. And that makes me wonder.
If I had been on my phone, if I was one of those people who walks around with earbuds in my ears all day, or if I had simply ignored this man’s comment to himself about the chocolate, the conversation never would have taken place. Would my day have changed? Not at all. But would his? I’ll never know. But God does. He knew that I was meant to be there at that time. He knew that this man needed someone to listen. He knew that my day would turn out just fine if I spared a few minutes for a stranger. He knew that I’d still be thinking about it today. Maybe that man is still thinking about it, too. And maybe it was just what he needed.
What I was writing about one year ago this week: America, Our Ship is Sinking.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now on pre-sale. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is on pre-sale and will be released on December 1, 2017.