The Christmas Patient

It’s Christmas time and consumerism culture is having its yearly zenith moment.

I’ve been trolling Amazon for gifts – for you, for me, for my peeps … it’s what people with devices do. Google’s Big Brother Algorithm has kicked in so no matter where I am in the interweb, I’m being fed ads for products I really, really need. 

Like this coffee thingy that keeps your beverage at exactly the right temperature for as long necessary.

I know, right!?

This has my name all over it.

I am a delicate, temperature-sensitive snowflake. I can tell you whether the operating room is too cold, too hot, or just right, and I can predict what the patient’s temperature will be 3 hours from now based on their weight, the type and length of surgery, the amount of exposed skin, whether or not the IV fluid is warmed and how much of it I’m giving …

I know I like white wine colder than sommeliers say is appropriate and the soda my husband puts in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator gets the perfect amount of frozen slush. I still need a jacket in summer and the sunspot on my couch is both my dog’s favorite spot and mine.

Budde in sun spot front door
Yes, I know he’s lying by the front door. He can’t get up on the couch anymore. 🙁

Anyway, I know there’s only a 10 – 15-minute window where coffee and tea are in the temperature sweet spot.

I need this coffee thingy.

I deserve it. Aren’t we are supposed to enjoy life and be present in every moment? Won’t this set the stage for stringing together continuous I-am-present-moments?

This thing might help me win life!


Not. So. Fast.

Something stopped me.

The utter frivolousness of it? The bordering on Grotesque Me-ness of it? The outlandish price? ($135.00!?)

Maybe it was the images of other cultures and their teeny tiny coffee cups versus our giant mugs? Or the fact that coffee images for other cultures are always groups of people…

Happy Turkish Coffee People

While ours is a polished, overexposed image of a lone cup and a computer. We don’t even have a person – it’s just beautiful, young, female hands, or perfectly proportioned stretched out fuzzy socked legs.

Lonely computer bed legs coffee

Take your pick.

Either way: coffee in other cultures is a thing shared. In ours, it’s a thing you experience alone, somehow conveying that you’ve left the rat race and have arrived at the ideal life.

I didn’t buy it (double entendre intended.)

But I couldn’t articulate to myself why.  In fact, I remember thinking – well, if I can’t find anything else, I’ll come back to this. So … 

It’s Christmas time and I have this new job.

Some of the people I help take care of are sick. Really sick.

Really, really, really, sick.

Like how-can-there-be-a-reason-for-everything-if-this-suffering-is-part-of-everything-sick?

When you’re taking care of a really sick, obviously suffering patient, you just do what needs to be done which means you can’t spend time contemplating how the universe works, why God only gives you what you can bear, or why you’re the caregiver instead of the patient. You power on, stuff it down and decide yours is not to wonder why.

And then you wonder why anyway.

Another thing about this new job…

I have chunks of time off during the week, which means I’m finally the image of the lone cup and the computer. I’ve arrived, except for the fact that my giant cup of coffee gets cold.

So this morning I’m reheating in the microwave.

OK. Not just re-heating. I’m adding some mushroom coffee powder I bought because I listened to a podcast and the podcast was hocking the powder (and the powder is going to make me smarter and a better writer) and I was new to podcasts then so I didn’t know they exist to hock stuff.

Rather than start over, with just water, the way you are supposed, I thought it would be brilliant to add it to my cold coffee. So as I’m taking the now very brown, very hot potion out of the microwave an image of the coffee thingy flashed thru my mind. 

Then an image of yesterday’s patient flashed.

The contrast between me still in my jammies heating up magic-mushroom-powder-coffee and yesterday’s patient, who is not going to see her kids grow up and will likely continue to suffer unimaginable pain right up until her end was knee-weakening.*

I don’t know why I’m the one in my kitchen typing and other people, people way younger than me, are already teed up for the next stage of our collective journey. 

But I do know this:

We are all on the same journey and there’s bad stuff out there, folks. Lots of bad stuff. The trick is at least fourfold.

  1. Never let yourself think you’re immune.
  2. Never let yourself think you deserve more than anyone else – be thankful now.
  3. Give of yourself to other people.
  4. Drink smaller cups of coffee and focus on that one dose instead worrying about how long you can nurse that one dose.

Things can change in an instant. Next Christmas, tomorrow, today, who knows – me or worse, one of mine could be the patient that inspires an essay.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of others.” ~ Charles Dickens.

Watch this.

~ • ~ • ~

* It was a heart-stopping moment and this essay pretty much wrote itself right then and there.

** If I am spurring you on to see a world larger than yourself, it seems appropriate to offer you something to see. Both Medical Missions Foundation and the Global Fund for Women are honest organizations that are changing the lives of people all over the world. And by people, I mean both the volunteers and the recipients.

**** All the photos in this piece are from Shutterstock except the English springer spaniel looking out the front door, and the sad Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. The sad Charlie Brown Christmas Tree is another story entirely. 🙂


  1. Hi Josie,
    I was so touched by your insight and the clever, engaging way you reminded me that I bare the responsibility to chose happiness and joy. Gratitude is the shortest route to contentment. I feel you are my budda. Thank you for grounding me. Such a delightful Christmas gift. Do you have time for a cup of coffee?

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