Dear Al Meggs

You’re so nice playing with me. God bless you and yours forever”

Me: I enjoy it!

“You did it again!! CONGRATS!!”

Me: Thanks, my friend.


What a week this has been. What a month, in fact. In addition to working in hospice and palliative care, my sons have been squeezing the end out of summer and getting ready for back to school. My oldest is starting high school and my youngest is starting middle school. We, as a family, are making a lot of adjustments.

In times of stress, which is frankly daily, I look for distractions.I love what I do and I love raising my family, but I am not ashamed to admit that I get anxious about change. I look at my smart phone more than is recommended by professionals. I enjoy social media and I love to play Words with Friends.

So this week we got really busy. After a summer of taking it easy and allowing unlimited Fortnite time (don’t judge), we had to buckle down and do back to school stuff. School supplies. Hair cuts. Open houses. PAPERWORK. A lot of stuff.

And “work” didn’t quit. I had patients in crisis. Families making hard decisions. Lengthy conversations. It’s rewarding work but undeniably challenging and time consuming.

With all aspects of “life” ramping up, I needed escapes more and more. I noticed I was more addicted to checking my smart phone than even my own tweens.

I try to check social media with a wary eye. I know that the gorgeous family vacation pictures aren’t as perfect as they seem. I’ve learned not to engage in a twitter war about sports or politics ( and this I’ve learned the hard way).  I try to understand that Pinterest is a place of nirvana that we should only visit with curiosity and not use as a standard of expectation.

Words with Friends, however, is a safe place of gaming. People playing scrabble for the sake of distraction and brain engagement. And I love it.

Whew. You sure are giving me a run.”

Me: Makes it fun!

“Yep, thanks to you!”

I have a steady rotation of playmates. My dad, 16yaskin, is my most steady and equal opponent. Shana Miller, a friend from high school, is loyal and worthy. I have a few others here and there and I am compulsive about responding to our games.

“Al Meggs” has been a player with whom I’ve engaged for two years now. I think I was suggested to him as someone “scores like you” and he started a game. I couldn’t resist accepting and we began to spar. In that first game, Al sent a message telling me I had an “intoxicating smile”. I got scared and quit the game.

Al reached out on the message board and apologized for being “forward”. He admitted he was “clumsy with a compliment”, a self admitted “old fool” and just really liked having an opponent.  Initially wary, I restarted the game. Al became a really fun opponent.

Over the last two years, I’ve learned a lot, and not enough, about my friend, Al, over the WWF message board. For starters, Al is better at WWF than I am (but every victory I achieved was cheered by him). Al loved to know that I was a nurse and he called me an angel a lot. Al was vague in describing his life situation, he may have been a retired teacher,  but alluded that he was not close to his family. Al checked on me when storms were near Atlanta, and Al was usually the very first to wish me happy holiday greetings.

If a few games or days passed by, Al would send a message - an innocuous greeting or simple question. He admitted that he loved connecting with people.

To be honest, Anonymous Al, WWF Al, became one of my best friends. In my tumultuous life, Al was a constant. A positive reinforcement. When everything else seemed out of order and unpredictable, I really looked forward to logging on to my games with Al and the intermittent messages that accompanied them.

And now, I can’t find him.

I’m sorry to admit that a week or so went by before I realized that I wasn’t prompted to play with Al. After waiting a few more days, I “nudged” him. I watched his picture square, the one that shows his face with grey hair and mustache, jiggle. I thought sure I’d get a response.

Me: Where are you, Al? I’m worried. (July 20)


WWF: Al Meggs has timed out. (Jul 27)


Me:  Al. Let me hear from you (Aug 1)


It has been six weeks now. I’ve looked back on our messages for any clues and I’ve internet stalked him. For what I know, Al Meggs is gone. I can’t find him online and he has gone dormant on Words With Friends.

I’m crushed.

People often ask me how I could possibly work in hospice care. What I know, and they don’t,  is the ability to impact the end of life experience in a positive way is such an indescribable gift. Every day I am inspired and motivated by the goodness that we can provide to an otherwise awful experience.

Hospice, though difficult, serves people with anticipated loss. It’s the unexpected that can still take my breath away.

With my least favorite expression, “just like that”, Al is gone. He was someone for whom I cared and with whom I interacted daily. Without warning, he is gone and ridiculously, I am so sad. After all, Al Meggs was a stranger, right? His profile picture could be false. The messages could have been an act, but it didn’t feel that way.

In the chaos of my current life, I really enjoyed Al as a constant. That he isn’t and appears to be gone is a slap, a glass of cold water in my face. When everything else is moving at breakneck pace, I long for something that is consistent and unconditional. The sweet relief of reliability. Al was that.

Now he’s gone.

So if any lesson is painful, it must have purpose. I think Al was a teacher and my relationship with him has taught me some things.

  1. Connection is a universal need and an unquestionable privilege.

  2. Let’s push past anonymity. The internet, with all its flaws, can be a beautiful tool to reach the isolated. You’ll never know what you might find!

  3. Reliability is underrated and desperately needed. The world craves more of it.

  4. Sudden loss stings like a bee.

  5. Cheering for your opponent is undeniably endearing.


Al Meggs, I don’t know you and I don’t know what has become of you. I want you to know that your awkward compliments really did flatter me and your consistent check ins were so warmly received. You were a worthy WWF opponent but I’m most grateful that this online game introduced us to each other and made our connection.

I really miss you, Al. I hope that whatever words surround you now bring you to a circle of friends.

B.Y.E.   F.R.I.E.N.D.


Nostalgia and a love letter to Mountain Park Elementary School

The Yard Signs came today.

Yard signs were not a thing when I was growing up in the Northeast, so I am not sure if they are a Southern thing or a new thing. Yard signs, to be clear, are congratulations for students matriculating from one level to the next. Each May, neighborhoods around my community, will have yards with signs congratulating students graduating from elementary school, middle school and high school. While some may view these signs with the ‘participation trophy eye roll’, they are happy indicators of an achievement. A milestone achieved.


Those milestones, however, can be bittersweet for parents and the signs spiked in the yard can serve as the pointed reminder of the passage of time.

When the yard signs for elementary school came out today, many of my friends posted on social media with apologies for the nostalgia they were feeling. One friend, with sons finishing elementary and middle school, like mine, invited people to hide her posts for the next few weeks as she was “in her feelings” and would be sharing a lot of memories.

Friends in your feelings, share away. Each of us know the sting of time passing too quickly and the burn of leaving a safe and loving place. I think it is only through sharing that we can move on.

Sean’s yard sign, indicating his graduation from Mountain Park Elementary School, was the one I spiked in the grass today. Mountain Park has been an integral part of my life for the last ten years and I am in my feels about leaving.

April 9, 2008 was the first time I entered “MPES”. I remember because it was my birthday and Kevin and I were bringing both boys to see the house he was building. Ryan, four years old at the time, had barfed in the car and I needed to stop to get something to clean him up. Schools weren’t locked at that time and I walked in to find kind people happy to give me paper towels and water. Having two boys in car seats that day, the children in the cafeteria seemed huge, mature and capable!   

Approximately twelve months later, Ryan and I were back for kindergarten round up. This child who I felt was fresh out of my womb was practicing getting on a bus and touring a “media center”.  Surely the surreality was unique to me!

When I met his teacher at the “sneak peek” that summer, I really introduced myself with a bang. I can remember, with the embarrassment one feels when recalling a fall where you know you showed your underpants, telling Ms. Nicol, “Ryan is very smart. If he isn’t challenged appropriately, he is likely to be disruptive in the classroom. What can you tell me you will do to keep him challenged and on task?”

Insert universal teacher eye roll. I should have wound up in a red file cabinet labeled “A-hole parents”, but to my knowledge, I wasn’t. If I wound up in any special file, it was one called “first timer - loves her kid”. Ryan thrived in Kindergarten and in every class, every year for his tenure at Mountain Park.

Bringing Sean to Kindergarten was a different experience. I cloaked myself in experience. I knew the drill. I tried to ignore the fact that I was bringing a TOTALLY different kid with unique needs and talents. But that was ok. The faculty and staff didn’t ignore that. The best teachers in the world met Sean where he was, for who he is, identified his ADD and got him help to give him the best chance at success. I didn’t have to do anything but trust them. Which I did. Wholly and completely.

Looking out at the yard sign is so much more, however, than an inventory of Ryan and Sean’s teachers (each of whom were truly extraordinary) while at Mountain Park. It is a remembrance symbol of all the growth and change that has transpired since that first day I walked in needing paper towels.

For example, on that day, I was in my thirties, I was a full time Mom and I was sure of a lot of things. I didn’t have an iPhone (because they didn’t exist), Kevin was a builder and my dog was my beloved, Lillian.  I had no idea about the tearful thrill of spelling bee success (Ryan) and the tearful horror of early spelling bee defeat (Sean). (First timers who love your kids: beware of the spelling bee).

Today, I’m LATE into my forties. I work full time and I don’t know shit. I have two smart phones and a different house. Kevin’s building business and my beloved Lillian have died. But we have new things. Different things. Good things. Especially Bella.

But it isn’t just me that has evolved in these last ten years. When Ryan entered Kindergarten, Obama was president, we were carrying Blackberries and Oprah was still on TV. Epic events have occurred.

December 14, 2012. In Newton, CT at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 20 children and six staff members were fatally shot by Adam Lanza. At the time, Ryan was a third grader and Sean was in Kindergarten. I remember the news breaking while I was at work at Piedmont Hospital. I thought about those babies at Sandy Hook who got on the bus that morning with Christmas presents and expectations for a fun day. I thought about those staff members who went to work every day with love in their hearts for the students but never having ANY idea how that might be tested. I thought about how Sandy Hook could easily be Mountain Park or Roswell North or any other vulnerable place of innocence in the United States. I thought about the children who were on the airplanes that flew into the Twin Towers. My heart broke in an irreparable way. Evil exists in this world and it is indiscriminate. Seeing the families in Newtown and their pain has never left me, even six years later. Because I would be willing to bet a lot of those Moms and Dads were in a file labeled: “First timers - love their kid”.

January 27, 2016. Snowmageddon. I remember being at work that day and telling my boss that I thought we needed to send our staff home because the roads were getting bad. My boss, my friend, now admits she “poo-pooed” my concern. Canceling a patient visit after observing the worsening road conditions, I headed straight to Mountain Park to collect Ryan and Sean ( 5th and 2nd grade). It was a harrowing 1.7 mile drive home but we made it together and sat in front of a fire before sundown. Many parents in the city weren’t as fortunate, however. Hundreds of parents were stranded on highways and side roads unable to go anywhere and get to their children. A nightmare. Mountain Park, however, handled it with its typical love and calm. A few staff members and our wonderful principal stayed at the school - OVERNIGHT- until each student was picked up and safe.

As a community, we’ve had to endure loss and grief. In Ryan and Sean’s years at Mountain Park, we’ve lost too many students. Sweet Creed Campbell died in Kindergarten and is remembered in a beautiful mural outside the Media Center. Finn Dana died suddenly in fourth grade and has his own reading corner in the Media Center. Another tragedy when Tristan Shupbach, fifth grader, died before his performance as Captain Hook in 2017. Other schoolmates have battled cancer, lost parents and siblings and one has to ask why? I can only say that for both of my sons, their exposure to grief and loss, which are inevitable life lessons, has been handled at Mountain Park with the highest level of empathy and healing. For that I am infinitely grateful.

Many times, when I speak to patients and families about hospice care, which is the next step in their journey, I can be admittedly impatient when they resist what I think they need. I know there is good in the next step. I know there’s nothing left for them in the level where they are. I can be quick to put them in an “A-hole” folder and not one more appropriately labeled, “First timers”.

Mountain Park and my sons’ elementary school experience has been more special and life changing than I can possibly explain. I am beyond blessed by every single educator that encountered my sons and changed them for the better. I say that without hesitation. I have SINCERE gratitude for the Mountain Park leadership/ administration that fosters this environment and I thank you all for raising me.

Mountain Park Elementary School has been my special and safe place for the past ten years. Unfortunately, my stay there is coming to a close. Age and time wait for none of us. I’m no longer a “first timer” but I’m still in a folder of “loves my kids”.


Tonight, I am offering thanks to which I can’t put words for everyone at Mountain Park. But I am also extending kindness and empathy for everyone who feels scared to leave a place that has provided care. There’s no yard sign that can make that feel a whole lot easier.



And to be clear, May 24 is Sean’s “graduation” from Mountain Park. To my other Moms “in the feels”, come find me in the fetal position at the back of the playground. To my other deeply loved friends facing their own ‘next place’, I’ll come find you.


Roll Back the Stone

I’ve often wondered how preachers, ministers, priests or rabbis inspire themselves to write and preach something unique each year at the same holiday that holds the same message. It must be enormously difficult and probably why they are specially ordained to perform their task.

I’m not a preacher or theologian of any kind, but Easter compels me to write and share. Its message makes it my favorite holiday. I, too, have the same question about how to deliver a unique and yet meaningful message to my flock, my HOPEspotters.

Last year on Holy Saturday, I posted a blog about the sanctity of this day. In Holy Week, Holy Saturday is, for me, the unsung hero. Maundy Thursday celebrates the Last Supper. Good Friday is the clear message of John 3:16:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Yup. Pretty Huge.

Then we leap to Easter Sunday. The Resurrection. If you’re like me, you can still get chill bumps hearing the trumpets blare during, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” and I’d be willing to bet you are silently singing “All-le-lu-ia!”

But Holy Saturday isn’t celebrated. I believe, that is a shame. Because, as I’ve said before, Holy Saturday, is where most of us live, a lot of the time.

As a hospice nurse evaluator, my primary job is to meet with patients and families who’ve been given a terminal diagnosis and talk to them about the option of hospice. It’s like I walk in on Good Friday and try so very hard to explain Easter Sunday. Yes, there will still be a death, but there can be hope and purpose and continuous expression of love.

But just like the disciples, Easter Sunday is almost impossible to see on Good Friday.

Holy Saturday, I’ve come to believe, should be the national holiday celebrating the gift of showing up. Because Holy Saturday for the disciples was the day their faith was most supremely tested. The Messiah was in a tomb, behind a stone. All of their hope and belief lay with him in that tomb. How could they survive that day, especially given the brutality of Good Friday?

Too much. Too hard. Too sad.

And yet, they stayed together. They circled the wagons as we say now. They showed up for each other on that day for all the feelings they felt. Undoubtedly, they grieved.

I have a family member I love dearly. Very recently, one of his closest friends suffered an inconceivable loss. His youngest brother, after years of battling depression, commit suicide. My beloved, very private, family member acted in what can only be described as Holy Saturday godliness. He knew there was nothing to say. His actions were simple and pure: he went to his friend’s house. He helped his wife take care of their young babies. He washed the dinner dishes. He drank beers on the deck with his buddy and listened without judgment. There was sadness and hurt and laughs and confessions. There was Holy Saturday.

The courage to show up on Holy Saturday is what made the disciples godly as it does those among us who are willing to do so. Are you the friend who appears after the cancer diagnosis before the established treatment plan? Are you the person who listens to the heartbreak without offering solution but only pure empathy? Can you look hideous inconceivable, totally unfair loss and fear and stay present? Well, then you are a patron saint of Holy Saturday.

But unlike last year, where I tried to highlight the sanctity of Holy Saturday, this year I have a call to action. Showing up and being present is purposeful and holy action, never to be minimized.

Yet, when possible, roll back the stone.

I’ve said before, I don’t consider myself seriously religious and I am admittedly lackadaisical in practice. But I was raised in an amazing church community with exposure to and love from some of the very best clergy and for this I am eternally grateful.

With this background and faith I go into every patient and family conversation understanding I am walking in to their Good Friday. Regardless of their religious belief, in my head, I know that when I show up they are walking to Calvary. Hopeless. My challenge is to meet them there and be present with them through the uncertainty and fear of Holy Saturday. I refuse to lose that sensitivity, no matter how long I do this.

What I haven’t figured out is how to post on LInkedIN as a skill - what I’ve realized is my actual job. I, with my entire team behind me, have to roll back the stone. I have to/ I GET to demonstrate that there is HOPE beyond their Good Friday:  there is love and there is community.

And to be clear, even the Easter holiday can’t turn me into a Polly-Anna. There are some cases I encounter, professionally and personally, that are so grievously sad, that the thought of rolling back the stone seems flippant and likely impossible.

For example, a boy died in our elementary school this year in a freak accident. He was 11. How do you move that stone? A 35 year old Mom, with a freak cancer,died in our hospice program, leaving behind two elementary school kids. For them, that tomb must seem sealed.

And yet, albeit impossibly, it isn’t. The wings of HOPE have been consistently, demonstrably strong and wide.

The stone gets rolled back. In the Bible. In your home. In your heart. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. We’ve all, from time to time, even been part of helping it to roll back.

If I were a preacher, or a scientist trying to prove a hypothesis, my experience based message is this: yes, we all live in Holy Saturday, the in between of hope lost and hope restored. Especially at the most dramatic parts of our lives. BUT. What I’ve found is this: last year I preached the sanctity of Holy Saturday. This year, I extol its purpose.

What I mean is, perhaps Easter Sunday couldn’t happen without Holy Saturday because perhaps only when we genuinely. show up TOGETHER do we have the power to roll back the stone- or at least begin to try.

Hopespotters, on this my favorite day- Happy Easter. May all the stones in your heart be rolled back by the true disciples in your life.