The art of living in the moment

There’s no doubt our lives are really ugly right now.  This life isn’t what we intended to live.  The last year, apart from Riley’s birth, has been a flood of awful.

Ironically, under all this yuck runs a strong current of truly beautiful moments, experiences, and lessons.  One of these beautiful lessons has been about living in the moment.

On April 11, we met with an admissions specialist for Big Bend Hospice.  This was a big step for us because it felt like giving up.  I assure you that this was an equally difficult and simple decision to make.

Big Bend Hospice has been tremendous at managing Francis’s pain, and wonderful about addressing the needs of the whole family.  Their staff is easy to work with and incredibly comforting to Francis and to me.  At the same time, we also realize that Francis isn’t getting any better now.  We are trying to be intentional about living the best life we can under these circumstances.

Prior to Francis’s (our family’s) admission to hospice, we had reached the limits of Francis’s primary care physician’s expertise in pain management.  This isn’t a criticism, it’s just a fact.  His primary care doctor was amazing at tracking down the right information and unique delivery methods since a traditional medication delivery method is unworkable with the drainage opening in Francis’s stomach.  Most pill form medications and many liquid forms require an extended period of time in your system to work appropriately, and with Francis what goes in immediately comes out.

We also knew that the only option we had for emergency care was the emergency room at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital.  We both feared a trip to TMH with every fiber of our beings.

The solution to both of these concerns was enrolling in hospice, and we haven’t regretted it  since.

Our priority was getting Francis’s pain addressed.  I felt like Francis was slipping away because of the ever-present, intense, and at moments agonizing pain.  I felt I was losing him because his only relief and escape was found in bed and in sleep.  For much of the day we were separated from each other in different rooms of the same house, and when we were in the same room he was so often asleep that I was essentially alone.

Thanks to the experienced hospice medical team, Francis’s pain patch (Fentanyl if you’re wondering) was nearly doubled in strength.  He had also been taking a liquid morphine by mouth that was doubled in dosage for any breakthrough pain – pain that breaks through the constant relief provided by the Fentanyl patch.  We’re now using a morphine delivered by syringe into his PICC line for this type of pain.

Within a day or two of these initial changes, Francis was awake more and able to move about the house and even help with housework.  As an aside, it’s amazing how the mundane everyday tasks like washing dishes and doing laundry are the first things that he does when he feels like being up.  I suppose that’s because it makes him feel productive and, more importantly, normal.

I was ecstatic to have him back, but I was also struggling.

You see, I had gotten a glimpse of what I believe is the worst part of watching Francis go through the progression of his cancer.  I had witnessed a pain so intense to him that it made the strongest man I know break down in tears.  I had heard him begging me to make the pain stop.  I had seen his clinched teeth, balled fists, and writhing body.

Every moment that he seemed to be more normal was a moment I was struggling to enjoy because I was afraid that the normal moment was fleeting.  I feared that I’d soon be whisked back to that horrible place of his agony.

Thanks to the ugliness of the experience with uncontrolled pain, I’ve learned a beautiful lesson – one I hope I never take for granted.

For the first time, I truly understand what it means to live in the moment.  It means that when Francis has a good moment I can’t let my fear rob me of the immediate moment of joy.  Living in the moment has nothing to do with skydiving, whitewater rafting, or rock climbing – all the white-knuckled activities I once mistakenly thought allowed people to live in the moment.

Living in the moment isn’t about SEEKing anything special.  It’s about SEEing the special in anything.

It’s about keeping my mind open to seeing the beauty in the yuck.  I’m not perfect at doing this and I’m really not even that good at it, but I finally get it.  Now that I get it I can do my best to enjoy the here and now for what it is, and keep that fear of what may be lurking in the next moment from stealing the joy of this one.


19 responses

  1. You are so strong! I continue to pray for you ALL daily! GOD BLESS!

  2. Toni Eaton-Boucher | Reply

    I have followed your journey and you are truly a blessing to Francis. I met him when we were in high school and he is one of those you never forget. Francis, thank you…..

  3. Karen Emberlin | Reply

    My prayers are with you and your family during these difficult days. Jeremiah 29:11 has been a real comfort to me the past year. God has a plan for each of us – even if we don’t understand it. Continue to live and cherish each moment!
    Karen Emberlin
    PS – I remember you as a “little” girl at the Murrell reunions – your Mom and my late husband Don were cousins.

  4. Shellie Bressler | Reply

    This is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this message. Your words give me strength and vision to appreciate all the everyday tasks.

    Know that you and Francis are in my thoughts. I am saddened that I am not closer to give you a giant hug in person (and to show off my new Vera Bradley’s bags that I bought out the outlet in Leesburg!)

    i am not an overly devout person, but, I am hoping to help you cover all the bases – tell Francis your Jewish friend is keeping the family in her – can’t hurt, right????

    Lots of love –


    Sent from my iPhone

  5. Diane Scaccetti | Reply

    Dear LeAnne and Francis,

    I have wanted to write this reply since the post on LeAnne’s inner mean girl. LeAnne, you have a magnificent gift with words. When I met you for those few brief moments on Good Friday, your face was so sad; I drove back to Clermont with so many reflections, and you have captured so many of my thoughts in today’s post. I hope that you find time to be gentle with yourself. There are not too many that could go through this “yuck” with your grace.

    Francis, There is not a day that goes by that the two of you do not cross my mind. I cannot adequately express the depth of my sorrow. There is never an acceptable answer to the “why” question, although i continue to ask it. While we have only known each other for a short time, what I see in you is a genuine human being…a whole person with a soul. A gentleman. The impression you have made will remain with me.

    I will continue each day to keep you in prayer. I hope that there will be many more moments between you two….

    With love and hope for God’s continued mercy,


  6. Doug Callaway | Reply

    Hey Francis and LeAnne- Though I’ve been receiving your amazing and excellent blog posts since rejoining FDOT in January, this is the first time I’ve responded to one.

    Today’s entry was both beautiful and bittersweet. It reminded me of some wisdom passed along to my wife and I by our daughter Kristen’s godfather 24 years ago.

    When Kristen was just one year old her godparents Ben & Eunice Rusche, our former Sunday School teachers from Alexandria, VA, came to visit us here in Tallahassee. As we worked hard planning things to do — to be sure they had a good time — Ben encouraged us to slow down, relax and simply enjoy BEING together. After all, he said, we’re human “beings” … not human “doings.”

    I’m the son of a former hospice nurse, so it is truly gratifying to hear how they are helping you and your family at this time. Both of my parents and my sister Christine died within 3 years of each other and all benefited greatly by the wise and loving care hospice provides.

    As my awesome, optimist and very funny sister Chris (I called her a gentile Joan Rivers) intensely battled cancer for the third time over an 11 year period, I visited her in Palm Beach County. The following was on the back cover of a book she was reading shortly before she passed away:

    Cancer is limited … It cannot shatter hope, it cannot corrode faith, it cannot steal eternal life.

    It was my privilege to share this sentiment at her funeral later that same year.

    Thank you for sharing so honestly and transparently what you are learning as you two continue to walk together moment by moment.

    God Bless, -Doug Callaway

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. Beautifully written !!

  7. God bless both of you. You are both so amazing and strong. LeAnne your words are so wonderfully written, what a glorious gift Francis found in you and you in him. May you continue to live in the moment and cherish everything.

    With love,

  8. Amy Ruiz (Castor) | Reply

    Thinking of you with love, LeAnne. May God give you the strength and grace to cherish each moment. You, Francis, and your dear children are in my prayers.

  9. Mary Bo Robinson | Reply

    May you see moments in which to LIVE today, tomorrow and always. LeAnne, sharing this journey of YUCK and beauty is a true gift to me, and I’m sure, to the others following you and Francis.

  10. Lisa Williams | Reply

    Dear LeAnne and Frances, I too have been at a lose of words after hearing of Frances’ illness. I felt compelled to let you know how your courage and strength has truly amazed me. I met Miss Frances and Bo 20 years ago when I interviewed for a wallpaper job. Frances was living upstairs at the house by the library. Well, hundreds and hundreds of rolls of wallpaper later, I was lucky enough to find a friend in Miss Frances. My husband Jeffrey and Frances were buddies in high school and he has great stories of all the guys adventures……whenever we came to DC to see Troy we were able to see Frances. Three years ago by mother was admitted to the hospital and we were told she only had a few days to live, with no symptoms, cancer had spread throughout her body and with her age surgeries were not a option… youngest son Zachary, a Marine, was serving a tour in Afghanistan, Troy made a call to Frances and within 4 hours I got a call from Zachary, who was out in the field, no bases around, wanting to know who in the world I had called….Frances had Senators and Congressmen calling all the Majors and Generals in Dc to try and get my boy home to see his grandmother. Please let Frances know what that meant to our family. You never know how you can touch so many peoples’ heart, please know that your and Frances’ journey is a testament to faith and love. Even though you and I have never met, you both are in my prayers and thoughts everyday. I wish you all the love and peace you heart can hold. Thank you so much for your wonderful words, Lisa

  11. Marilyn Platt | Reply

    LeAnne and Francis, What a joy to know Hospice helped take away the pain and allow you to get out of bed and help with dishes or laundry. You can feel “normal” for a while. Pray for all of you every day.

  12. charlee ferrell | Reply

    LeAnne and Francis, I follow the posts that your mom, Becky, shares. Thank you both for sharing your lives with us, and showing us that love endures all things. Praying for you both and your family.

  13. LeAnne and Francis, I have never met either of you, but found your blog last week. I volunteer at MD Anderson and have had cancer touch many of my family, including my husband. Your realization in this post of what is meant by living in the moment is very profound and so spot on (and a poignant reminder to me and many who have walked life changing journeys). Your strength and resilience are apparent and I will continue to pray for you, Francis and your family to meet each day’s challenges.

  14. Andrea Leigh Piercey | Reply

    I am reading this as my house is having “one of those days”; babies crying, dog barking, dirty clothes, nothing for dinner. My 1 and 3 year olds are both napping right now and I had the first quiet moment of the day. After reading your words you better believe I will face the rest of this day differently. Please hug Francis for me and know we pray for all of you every day. I am so glad to hear his pain is better controlled. Here’s to living in the moment! Thank you so much for sharing.

  15. Meredith ORourke-Calhoun | Reply

    Think of all of you each and every day. Sending you prayers and love. Xxxoo

  16. I started reading your blog thanks to a mutual friend, Ralph Yoder. I was diagnosed with rectal cancer May 7, 2010. Our battle was long and hard but we pulled through it. My prayer for you and Francis is that The Lord give you strength and as you said, the ability to see beauty in everything. Take care and know that there are people out here that are thinking and praying for your family.

  17. I found your blog today and read your entries from start to finish. My husband was also diagnosed with stage iv colon cancer last April. I completely understand your year of “yuck”. Please know that I will be following your blog and keeping you in my prayers. Continue to enjoy those moments of joy and the beauty that you can find in moments throughout the day.

  18. Praying for your family daily. Thanks for all your inspiration and advice!

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