More on Free Flow doing its work

Sample page from Free Flow by Heather Maxwell

Opening Free Flow at random, I turned to the page above. At first it felt like a good joke. The structure for our day was already set. We were to take a taxi to my mother-in-law’s assisted living home and pack up all her things. Then move them to a skilled nursing facility via another taxi. Then, already physically and emotionally exhausted, go visit her in the hospital and have challenging conversations with doctors about interventions we do and do not want for her.

At first glance, it doesn’t appear like a day with space for nurturing the garden in my heart, nor a day oriented toward my soul singing or my liver smiling. But as I travelled through the day holding these ideas in my heart, I was blessed to experience so many powerful, beautiful small moments where my soul did indeed sing and my liver did indeed smile.

We got to meet my mother-in-law’s caregivers. We had the opportunity to see how loving they are and how much they care about her. And we were able to share our gratitude for the love and kindness they extend to her daily.

There were touching moments as we sorted through and packed her things – stumbling across a small 3-ringed binder, lovingly covered in worn cloth ages ago, filled with yellowed typed pages of poetry that my wife remembers being around already when she was very young; opening the case for the violin she has had since she was seven, and kept to this day although the strings and tuning pegs and finger board have long since disappeared.

And it was beautiful to sit with her in the hospital – seeing her face light up when we entered the room; holding her hand, fingers stained with nicotine and arms covered with bruises from needle pokes, communicating love and compassion in ways that can only happen through touch; seeing the smile on her face as she slowly and thoughtfully paged through Free Flow.

Exhausted at the end of the day, we had dinner at a small Italian restaurant a block away from where we are staying. Here too, our souls sang and our liver smiled. The tables were full so they sat us at the bar, where we had a full view of the kitchen. It was soothing to hear the clanking of the pots and pans, and to watch the orchestrated dance of the chefs and waitresses moving about gracefully.

The next day, yesterday, was a day of mixed blessings. Her mom was discharged from the hospital. We moved her to the nursing home where she will have hospice care. We ordered in pizza last night at the nursing home, and it was priceless seeing her enjoy a simple piece of mushroom pizza and a ginger ale. She has been institutionalized so long, God only knows the last time she got to do that and it was hard knowing it most likely will be her last.