Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Diane

Disorder claims the winning hand

With breathless speed life takes us away
And back again to this grieving space
Where time stands still but not quite
Unfolding our own demise and deaths
One wrenching sorrow after another
Seen through the mirror of our likenesses

I thought being oldest was dangerous
When it came to death and dying
Surely I would go first followed in orderly
Succession of eldest to youngest with
Time to laugh and cry and grieve together
Built into the inevitable equation of aging

Yet disorder claims the winning hand
Changing landscapes forever through death
Or in life made more challenging through
Unforeseen clashing of genes and unexpected
Gifts of generations and the heaviness of being
Afflicted with maladies we never expected to visit

On Christmas Eve my youngest sister had a health emergency that will likely change her life, not for the better. I feel as helpless now as I did when Diane (#3) called in the late 1990s to tell us she had ALS.

As a writer, I’ve asked myself this question over and over: What is mine (and not mine) to write about?

I came up with several beginning ideas, including the theme of the poem above. That is, how strange it is to be the oldest, watching any of my younger sisters going through life-threatening health crises. In this case, Diane, who died of ALS in 2006, and now Sister #4 facing unexpected health challenges.

Thanks for visiting today. I’m slowly getting back to blogging regularly. Blessings to each of you and your families with whatever you’re facing today. Especially if it’s something about which you can do nothing but be present, supportive, and aware of what’s going on inside you.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 January 2020
Family photo taken in 1961, Savannah, Georgia

The mind is the last to consent

Or, Semi-poetic thoughts about death and dying

The mind is the last to consent –
Alternative scenarios tease us
Surely this can’t be the end
Wispy threads dangle enticements
We could try this or look into that
Prayers for miracles multiply

Cheerful faces mask sad truth —
The patient is dying, yet anguish
And well-meaning hope sometimes
Impede consent to the obvious
Resulting in further digressions
That produce even more anguish

The end is upon each of us sooner
Not later, with or without goodbyes

To ‘give in’ to death may seem to be
Callous dismissal of those we love
Or loss of hope or lack of faith to
Demand of God great things with
Or without the patient’s consent

Worse, if I’m a medical person perhaps
Giving in means failure to do my job
Even though I may agree that this
Dying person is sick unto death and
We were not created to live forever
In these temporary earth-bound bodies

My hero when it comes to dying is my sister Diane. She chose to go on comfort care after living with ALS for ten years. When she learned she had ALS, she worked with trusted people to identify what she was and was not willing to endure, and where she wanted to die—at home.

Even so, in the end she had to consent to the criteria she herself had itemized. She had to communicate to her doctors and nurses, ‘Enough is enough.’ She also had to trust that those with power of attorney would honor her wishes.

So what does it mean for me to ‘prepare’ for death? At the least, it means living each day well, insofar as I’m able. Especially when it comes to self-care.

I wish that were enough. Unfortunately, given medical structures and practices here in the USA, it isn’t. If I want to avoid getting caught in an endless search for ‘health’ or extension of life, it’s up to me to take the initiative. This includes decisions, paper trails, agreements, and work with family and friends involved with my care and wellbeing.

I can’t do this alone. I’m reading books, and have family and a few friends with whom I can talk. Yet it’s up to me. Even so, there’s no guarantee my wishes and directives will be honored. We don’t always get to choose the time or manner of our deaths.

Blessings to each of you, and thanks so much for listening.


©Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 June 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, Longwood Gardens, 12 June 2019

My mother’s spirit

My mother’s spirit
Came calling last night
I saw her footprints
In this morning’s snow
Precise and measured
She passed quietly
Beneath my window
Step by small-hooved step
Down the driveway
Before crossing over
Into the woods beyond
Our house asleep
And dreaming

I think they were the prints of a red fox–which reminded me of my mother’s bright red coat. She would have loved the brilliant rainbow umbrella, and the fashionable leggings and boots.

The tracks down our driveway this morning told me I’m not alone. Neither are my three sisters, each of us with our own mother-daughter relationship to ponder. Mother Eileen died in mid-February 1999, twenty years ago, seven years before our sister Diane died of ALS in mid-February 2006.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 February 2019
Photo found at

Ghoulish Gallery

Behold my four ghouls
Some greater than others
Designed to affright
disgust or delight

Traditional Irish Jack-‘o-Lantern (above) inhabits
the Museum of Country Life in Ireland

Modern carving of a Cornish Jack-‘o-Lantern
made from a turnip

Modern carving of a North American
Jack-o’-Lantern pumpkin
designed, hand carved and photographed
by my delightfully irrepressible Sister #3, Diane
who died of ALS in February 2006

Happy Halloween, Everybody!

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 30 October 2017
Halloween witch image found at
Images of Cornish and Irish Jack-‘o-Lanterns found at Wickipedia
Photo of Jack-‘o-Lantern pumpkin taken by Diane Renich Kelley
Daily Prompt: Ghoulish

A tough old hen

tough old hens

The sun is shining! I’m alive and getting clear about what to do and what not to do to help my one and only heart. Here’s a quick update just for you!

First, the good news. Read the rest of this entry »

Faculty Wife | Part 5 – Photos

1969 Oct Elouise and Diane on crutches

Fall 1969-spring 1970. I loved having Diane around during my first year as a Faculty Wife. She was a senior at the Bible College. Diane quickly became part of our social life, along with some of her zany, like-minded friends. D took this photo at the rental house just after we arrived in fall 1969.

Diane had been in Japan during the summer with a team of students doing short-term missionary service. Her bum knee (injured months earlier while playing basketball with one arm) flared up, and she returned on crutches. Now we’re trying to find a spot on the ground that’s flat enough to keep her steady while we eat lunch outdoors.

Perhaps you noticed how much things have changed at the Bible College. Both of us have real knees that actually show. No more covered knobby knees! Or skirts below the knees.

Over the Christmas break in 1969, we moved into our new house and enjoyed a rare snowstorm! See below. That’s our son in his winter gear, intended for Boston winters. Which, of course, this is not. The snow was probably gone within a few days.

1970 Winter in Columbia SC yard3

Early in spring 1970, Diane asked if we would host her 21st birthday party in mid-April. Of course we would! Given her creative streak, she wanted something memorable. No silly games. Just challenging and fun activities. Most of these women had either participated with Diane in one of her crazy dormitory practical jokes, or had been a target. They didn’t like dull.

So for the main activity we came up with a giant finger-painting session. It would have to be on the floor. On butcher paper that D and I taped together and cut into a large circle. Something to treasure forever! We mixed up ample fingerpaints, and I baked goodies galore plus a birthday cake (no pictures, sadly).

Here are two photos of the main art event.

1970 the big fingerpaint project with Diane Renich and friends 2

1970 the big fingerpaint project with Diane Renich and friends
I think Diane is in the lower right-hand corner of the first photo. About 12 women came.

In the background of the second photo you’ll see our son, now about 1 ½ years old, looking on with longing and apprehension. Yes, he’s been told this is for the women, not for him! How cruel can it get? See his thumb in his mouth? He’s definitely fighting the urge to jump in.

I can’t remember how it happened. One minute he was holding back. Then the women took pity on him. Someone took his shirt off, and the next minute he was all over that work of art and the women were just loving it! As was he.

So was I, and then I wasn’t. It was fine as long as he stayed on the edge and dabbled. But crawling onto the great work of art was the last straw! D saved the day. He grabbed Son  before he got to the middle, and took him straight to the bathtub. I grabbed the camera and followed. Don’t ask me how it got on his back. I don’t want to remember.

1970 the big fingerpaint project Scott's aftermath

Then there were super happy visits to Diane’s dorm room. Diane took this photo during one of his babysitting visits to her dorm room. He’s sitting at the foot of her bed.

1970 A happy rocker Scott

Our son doesn’t really get it that there’s an intruder coming soon. But first I need to backtrack a tiny bit.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 10 August 2015
Photo credit: Elouise (son in bathtub), and DAFraser (all others), 1969 and 1970

Hide & Seek: The game of life | Dear Diane

Houston, 1998.  Diane is slipping away from her ‘normal’ non-ALS earthly life.  Here’s some of what I experience when I visit in January and April. Read the rest of this entry »

Starving for Sisterly Conversation | Part 3 of 3

January 9, 1996, 9:00pm, Philadelphia
The phone rings.  Hi.  It’s Diane.  I’m not well – no easy way to tell you – not post-polio, but ALS – I’m going to need help, a lot of help.  I hang up and go downstairs, weeping as I tell my family the news.

January 30, 1996, late afternoon, Houston
I walk off the plane and see Diane standing in front of a pillar.  Small floral print on navy dress, empire waist and smocked bodice – ivory stockings – very pretty – gold chains – hair highlights in blond – stoop-shouldered and slow. Read the rest of this entry »

frozen in memory

frozen in memory
erupting without warning
dear earth gasps for air

* * * * *

sounds of

no words
no breath
no time Read the rest of this entry »

Starving for Sisterly Conversation | Part 2 of 3

The last line of the dream names my hunger:  “She seems lonely for someone to talk with about real life.”  Other parts of the dream identify behaviors I might want to leave behind, and a few unexpected personal capacities and resources.  This post focuses on my hunger, and describes how things begin falling apart. Read the rest of this entry »

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